Who made the first baked beans?
These are profound and unanswerable questions. The origins of many regional dishes are lost in the murky mists of the past. Even if I had a time machine I probably wouldn't find clear answers - most dishes have just evolved into their present form.
Most people know the first two desserts but I don't think many people have eaten Joe Froggers, a molasses style cookie that originated in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
However, Joe is famous not just for running a tavern that attracted the riffraff, but because of the cookie that bears his name: Joe Froggers. Joe's last name was not Frogger, but his tavern was located next to a frog pond. Another story says that the cookies got their name because when Lucretia poured the batter in her frying pan they formed a vaguely froglike shape. Perhaps the cookies should really be called Lucretia Froggers?
The Joe Froggers people make now are probably a little different than the original recipe. For one thing, in the 1700s they were the size of salad plates. That's a big cookie! Sailors and fishermen would buy them by the barrel for long sea voyages because they kept well. I like the idea of sailing around with a barrel full of cookies. Like Gingerbread Hill, it sounds charming but I'm sure the reality was something else entirely.
Besides their size and strange name, Joe Froggers are distinguished from other molasses cookies and gingersnaps by one key ingredient: rum. It's mixed right into the batter with the butter and sugar, and adds a nice bite to the cookie. It's only fitting for a cookie developed in a raucous seaside tavern. Dark rum is best. Luckily some our family gave us a bottle of Cruzan black strap rum at Christmas. It's probably the darkest rum out there. I felt like a pirate making these cookies!
I got the information about Joe Brown from this article in Marblehead Magazine. The actual cookies I made from a recipe in Yankee Magazine's Lost and Vintage Recipes, which is actually on sale at news stands right now. It has some interesting recipes beyond the Joe Froggers and is worth picking up.