February 19, 2012

The Devil Is In My Pudding!

I apologize for another post about Indian pudding, but I have realized that I was lucky last week - the Devil didn't interfere with my pudding! This apparently was a problem our New England ancestors had to deal with.

For example, here is an article from the March 19, 1722 issue of the the New-England Courant.

We are at present amus'd with a very odd Story from Martha's Vineyard, which however is affirm'd for a Truth by some Persons lately come from thence, viz. That at a certain House in Edgar Town, a Plain Indian Pudding, being put into the Pot and boil'd the usual Time, it came out of a Blood-red Colour, to the great Surprise of the whole Family. The Cause of this great Alteration in the Pudding is not yet known, tho' it has been Matter of great Speculation in the Neighborhood.
Things must have been pretty quiet in Edgartown if a red Indian pudding was considered newsworthy. But why did the pudding turn red? This next story, from the May 25, 1767 issue of the Boston Evening-Post, provides a possible (and Satanic) explanation for unusual puddings.

They write from Plymouth, that an extraordinary Event has lately happen'd in the Neighborhood, in which, some say, the Devil and the Man of the House are very much to blame. The Man, it seems would now and then in a Frolick call upon the Devil to come down the Chimney; and some little Time after the last Invitation, the good Wife's Pudding turn'd black in the boiling, which she attributed to the Devil's descending the Chimney, and getting into the Pot, upon her Husband's repeated Wishes for him. Great Numbers of Peoples have been to view the Pudding, and to enquire into the Circumstances; and most of them agree, that the sudden Change must be produc'd by a Preternatural Power. But some good Housewives of a Chymical Turn assign a Natural Cause for it. However, 'tis thought, it will have this good Effect upon the Man, that he will no more be so free with the Devil in his Cups, lest his Satanick Majesty should again unluckily tumble in the Pot.

These news articles provide three insights into pre-industrial New England life:

1. People lived in a world where supernatural entities played a very active role.

2. No one had TV or the Internet, so strange baking mishaps provided a lot of entertainment.

3. Indian pudding was newsworthy. 

Next week, I'll write about something other than Indian pudding. I promise!

Note: I found these newspaper quotes in Richard Dorson's Jonathan Draws the Long Bow (1946).


Wicked Yankee said...

Although I don't really care for Indian pudding, I love this story. New England colonists really were obsessed with Satan. Great story.

Peter Muise said...

Yes, I guess the Devil was intimately involved with the minute details of their lives - even dessert.