Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mary Ann Cuffee

Caption on back of photograph reads: "Aunt Mary Ann, as she was known to her people, was an excellent type of Shinnecock Indian. Her home was visited by many people and she cooked for many years at a hotel in nearby Watermill, L.I. Her dishes and recipes were quite famous and several of them are still prepared in the homes of her descendants today. On the table next to her is a Shinnecock mortar and stone pestle. This was made out of a hollowed pepperide log and was once a standard kitchen item in every Shinnecock home, as well as, among other Eastern tribes. Corn kernels were pounded into meal and herbs and nuts of many types were once crushed by the women in the ever faithful mortar. Mortar and pestle are no longer used by present day Shinnecocks, but may still be seen in use among the Indians of Mashpee and Gay Head, Massachusetts, Narragansetts in Rhode Island, Senecas of New York, Powhatans of Virginia and Nanticokes of Delaware, in food preparation."
Jesse Halsey in essay on  Dr. Morris Fishbein notes:
"Aunt Mary Ann [Mary Ann Cuffee mother to Mary Emma Bunn], the old Indian who did my grandmother’s cooking on the great days of the New England year, like Thanksgiving, town meeting, Fourth of July, and butchering day—old Mary Ann and her daughter after her, who still comes with us in the summer, had no end of superstitions, an admixture of Indian tradition and negroe superstition."

"My father paid no attention to the phases of the moon in the planting operations of the spring. The disappearance of the frost and the condition of the weather were the sole determining factors. Not so with Mary Ann and the Indians. Planting must be done in the dark of the moon, whether it was corn or potatoes. This is an almost universal superstition, not only among Indians, but other primitive peoples. Or should it be called a tradition? That is, has it any basis in fact?"

See also: Clam Chowder

Photo credit: The East Hampton Library, Long Island Collection.

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