Friday, November 13, 2009

Succotash (without suffering) & Kateri Tekakwitha

Some of us remember sad, insipid, overcooked succotashes from our childhood. But succotash is worth cultivating: it is not just interesting in its history—it can taste very good!
The word “succotash” comes from the Narragansett word msikwatash, meaning “ear of corn.” The Narragansett Indians were one of the tribes of the Algonquin nation who lived mostly in New England. Succotash refers to a dish based on corn and lima beans, sometimes flavored with pieces of meat or fish. Succotash is said to have been eaten at the first Thanksgiving dinner.

Succotash recipe: serves 6 as a side dish

½ pound bacon
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups cooked corn (fresh or frozen); drained
1 ½ cups cooked lima beans (fresh or frozen), drained
Optional: ¼ teaspoon nutmeg OR paprika
Salt & freshly ground pepper
½ cup parsley

Cook the bacon. Drain it. Crumble or chop it, and set it aside.
Sauté the onion in the bacon fat until lightly browned. Discard all but 1-2 Tablespoons of the fat.
Add the cooked corn and beans to the pan, and sauté them briefly with the onions
Optional: stir in the nutmeg OR paprika
Add salt & pepper to taste
Stir in the crumbled bacon
Sprinkle with parsley
Serve immediately

Substitute ¼ cup olive oil or butter for the bacon fat.
Substitute cooked pork (or other) sausage—crumbled or sliced—for the bacon
For the bacon you can also substitute ½ pound venison (or other meat) jerky, cut into fairly large pieces; add them when sautéing the corn and beans..
Other historically authentic meats can also be substituted for the bacon, such as cooked bear meat (bear meat is available on-line, in most states) or cooked rabbit (available from some butchers, and on-line).
Or small pieces of cooked fish can be substituted for the bacon, such as trout or salmon.
Note: If you eliminate the bacon and other meat or fish, this makes a nice vegan dish.

But why associate succotash with Kateri Tekakwitha, that saintly young Indian woman?

(For those of you who don’t know her, details of her life are readily available on the internet, for example:

You can see two pictures of her here. One is the earliest known painting of Kateri, the other a more recent image.

Kateri’s mother was an Algonquin; her father a Mohawk. She is pretty certain to have eaten succotash: variations on this dish were probably fundamental to the Northeastern Native American diet, since corn and lima beans were native to the regions where they lived.

The succotash recipe I provide above I think Kateri might have liked—though I can’t say for sure that she would ever have tasted one quite this delicious.

(Our thanks to Jessica for taking the beautiful photograph of the dish!)

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