Saturday, September 24, 2011

John Quincy Adams Johnny Cake

Although John Quincy Adams spent much of his youth traveling with his father overseas, he never expressed much interest in any of Europe’s many fine cuisines, but family members said that he was "excessively fond” of fruit and could often be seen plucking fresh pears, plums and cherries from local orchard trees when they blossomed each spring.

Like his mother and father, John also retained a childhood taste for the simple foods his New England youth, like Boston Baked Beans, Seafood Chowder and Indian Pudding. He may have also enjoyed Baptist Cakes. Back in those days, these little bits of deep-fried bread dough were popular throughout New England, but their name changed from state to state. Connecticut residents reportedly called them "Holy Pokes" but they were known as "Huff Puffs" along Maine’s rocky coast!

Johnny Cake was another popular nineteenth century treat. Some historians say that the name derives from Journey Cake, a "small, hard biscuit that was easily carried in a pocket on a long trip." Johnny Cake was often served at clambakes. Even more popular at breakfast or as a dessert, they were usually served with butter and molasses or maple syrup.

If you'd like to whip up a batch of Johnny Cake today, here's a simple and simply delicious recipe to try from

1 cup white cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
Bacon drippings

In a medium bowl, place cornmeal and salt. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water to a rapid boil; remove from heat. With the saucepan in one hand, let the boiling water dribble onto the cornmeal while stirring constantly with the other hand. Then stir the milk into the mixture (it will be fairly thick, but not runny).

Generously grease a large, heavy frying pan (I like to use my cast-iron frying pan) with the bacon drippings and heat. When pan is hot, drop the batter by spoonfuls. Flatten the batter with a spatula to a thickness of approximately 1/4 inch. Fry until golden brown, turn, and brown on the other side (adding more bacon drippings as needed). Serve hot with butter, maple syrup, or applesauce.

FAST FACT: At the age of ten, John Quincy embarked on "an incredible European adventure" that prepared him for his later political career. In 1777, John Adams was sent as a convoy to Europe and John Quincy went with him. Sailing from Boston, father and son spent the next seven years living in Paris, the Netherlands, St. Petersburg, and England. After returning to the United States, John Quincy enrolled at Harvard and completed his studies in two years!