soup, maples and other points of confusion

asdfg raises a good point:

Red corn soup. Does it taste different from yellow, white, or blue corn soup? I wouldn’t expect anyone except Elizabeth to distinguish between corn colors, since she’s travelled more widely than the rest and so might have encountered more corn varieties.

Although it might be possible that at high elevations in New York there might have been more than one variety of corn that grew there then, I would expect only one variety because I don’t think corn hybridization hadn’t started yet. If that assumption is so, then they wouldn’t really have known there was any other type of corn. Just corn soup. Just like in engineering the first widget is called a widget, then later variations lead to widget1, widget2, etc.

Ah well. You asked. And I could be wrong. ((asdfg asks good questions — sometimes hard, sometimes challenging, but always good))

Now, the truth is in this case that she might be right. It’s a good ten years ago since I did the research on the daily foods of the Iroquois, and I’m not sure I could reconstruct it without going back and reading dozens of articles and books. ((And the end result may well be that I got this wrong, anyway.)) Every once in a while a reader points out something like this, some point that I can’t disagree with. It makes sense, really, if you look at it the way she presents it. I am curious about where I got the term and why I thought it was solid, but I don’t have time at this point to go searching. Someday I will, though. And if you’re still there and I’m still here, I’ll let you know.

Every once in a while I get an email or comment from a reader who is disappointed in my research. Very rarely does it happen that I have to disagree completely, but it does happen. For example, the reader who wrote a few weeks ago to say how disappointed she was that I hadn’t done better research on the trees of the Adirondack forest, because if I had I would have found out that maples were not native to the area, were in fact invasive, and could not have been present in the time period I write about.

She was very sure of her facts, but I was also very sure she was mistaken. I went to consult my sources and also various university botanical websites and indeed, there are about fifteen varieties of maples native to the Adirondacks, including the sugar maple. There’s a lot of evidence that the various Native American tribes who lived in the northeast woodlands knew of, and took advantage of, the sap of the sugar maple.

After some thought I wrote a short paragraph in reply and included some links to reliable websites in making my case. I haven’t heard back from her, but I don’t know why that is. Maybe she has more evidence I don’t know about, or maybe she just didn’t think it worth her time.

In any case, I am always interested to hear from readers who have noticed something that slipped past me, or who have expertise in an area where I did not do sufficient research. Live and learn.


2 Replies to “soup, maples and other points of confusion”

  1. Thanks for considering the alternative.

    With respect to invasive species, there’s a lot of talking going on, but when I ask for a definition I get mishmash and circular reasoning. Some of the speakers have heard from others who have heard from others, and somewhere along the line an incorrect statement is taken as gospel, like the sugar maples. The subject seems to bring out emotional responses.

    I’ve been told by an expert who heard it from experts that we have only one native grass in the US – buffalo. All the rest are imported. Even when I asked about the balds in the Blue Ridge where only fescue grows, the answer stayed the same. I wonder what the balds were before the fescue invaded.

    Off topic, the Preview at last shows all the words I’ve typed. Well, piffle. Not this paragraph.

  2. I want to mention that I have no idea if this is happened in New York around 1800, but when I worked at a living history museum centered in 1836, they had green corn soup- which was made of corn we consider ready to eat off the cob today. Yellow corn only achieved its name after it had ripened to the dry on the cob stage. Could this be the difference between red-corn soup and corn soup- the variation in ripeness rather than just the corn’s color?

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