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Making a Historic ‘Pomkin’ Pie From a 1796 Recipe

Max Miller, the culinary historian from Tasting History, took a delightful dive into the fascinating origins of the word “pumpkin.” It’s like a linguistic journey through time! Initially, the French gave it a fancy touch with “pompom,” stemming from medieval French roots. Then the English got their hands on it, transforming it into “pompion” or “pumpion,” versatile words that could encompass various squashes or, on occasion, even melons.

The linguistic evolution didn’t stop there. The addition of the letter K turned it into “pompkin,” with the -kin suffix suggesting a similarity between things. It’s like a linguistic relay race, passing the word from one culture to another. Max Miller’s narrative acted as a precursor to his culinary exploration of a recipe for “pompkin” pie from the historic American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, a cookbook that saw the light in 1796, marking one of the earliest instances of American culinary documentation.

Simmons’s recipes are a delightful time capsule, showcasing the charming differences from our modern pumpkin pie. To start with, she christens it “pompkin,” a reminder that spelling wasn’t as standardized back then. The variety in spelling was like a culinary adventure of its own. Another significant departure from the contemporary pie is Simmons’s choice of sweetener—molasses instead of the ubiquitous sugar. Brace yourself for a less saccharine experience, a sweet journey into the flavors of yesteryear.

 

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