Wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his epic poem The Song of Hiawatha.
Longfellow spent his early years in what today is called the Wadsworth- Longfellow House in Portland, ME. The house, now under the aegis of the Maine Historical Society, was built by Henry’s grandfather, Revolutionary War General Peleg Wadsworth, and modified by Henry’s parents. Per our hoot of a docent, the colonial and federal furniture and works of art are original; the wallpapers, fabrics and varnished sailcloth flooring has been “interpreted” to look as it did in Henry’s time (although some carpets look suspiciously contemporary.)
When published in 1885, Hiawatha received a “scathing” review in The New York Times. However, it became hugely popular and also widely parodied. Among the take-offs:
Whence this song of Pocahontas
With its flavor of tobacco,
And the stinkweed Old Mundungus
With the ocho of the Breakdown
With its sack of Bourbonwhisky…. and so on. Henry probably laughed all the way to the bank.
Factoid: In 1861, Longfellow’s first wife, Fanny, set herself on fire while dealing with sealing wax. Henry, badly burned while trying to save Fanny, acquired facial scars that made shaving difficult. Accordingly, he grew the beard we associate with him.
Earlier in Maine, a friend with a bent for genealogy had identified a cousin on my mother’s side who lives in Kennebunkport. Almost as fast as you can say Eastern White Pine, (the Maine state tree), she and I went to meet him and his delightful wife. We enjoyed their company and walked the magnificent beach steps from their door –a long swathe with sand like talcum powder, not at all like many rocky Maine beaches. Then we went north to Boothbay Harbor, site of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, 270+ acres of sheer delight. There are hiking trails through woods and along the seashore, sculpture sprinkled throughout, excellent learning aids, an area devoted to fairy gardens, (I made one but the average eight year old would do a better job); a meditation garden and a garden devoted to the five senses. The entire place is a spectacular treat for all ages.
4 1/2 cups milk
2/3 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup dark molasses (which you buy in a bottle)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.
Scald 3 1/2 cups of milk in top of double boiler over direct heat. Remove milk from heat.
Mix cornmeal with remaining 1 cup of milk, and stir this mixture into the scalding milk, stirring constantly. Place the milk mixture into the top of the double boiler and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
Stir butter, molasses, salt, sugar and cinnamon into the mixture. Pour into the prepared baking dish.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
This makes a great dessert especially served with vanilla ice cream and accompanied by the rhythm of your tom-tom.