Town House

The Dutch Larder,
page 3 of 13

We had for supper a roasted haunch of venison which he had bought of the Indians for three guilders and a half of sea-want, that is fifteen stivers of Dutch money (fifteen cents), and which weighed thirty pounds. The meat was exceedingly tender and good and also quite fat. It had a slight aromatic flavor. We were also served with wild turkey, which was also fat and of a good flavor, and a wild goose, but that was rather dry. We saw here lying in a heap a whole hill of watermelons which were as large as pumpkins.”

De Vries tells of an abundant supply of game in the colony; deer (as fat as any Holland deer can be); great wild turkeys, beautiful birds of golden bronze (one that he shot weighed thirty pounds); partridges and pigeons (in such great flocks that the sky was darkened). Domine Megapolensis says the plentiful wild turkeys and deer came to the hogpens of the Albany colonists to feed; fat Dutch swine and graceful red deer must have seemed strange trough companions. A stag was sold readily by an Indian for a jack-knife. In 1695 Rev. Mr. Miller said a quarter of venison could be bought “at your door” for ninepence. Wild swan came in plenty, “so that the bays and shores where they resort appear as if they were dressed in white drapery.” Down the river swam hundreds of gray and white-headed geese nearly as stately as the swan; Van der Donck knew a gunner (and gives his name, Henry de Backer) who killed eleven gray geese with one shot from his gun. Gray ducks and pelicans were plentiful and cheap. Gone forever from the waters of New York are the beautiful gray ducks, white swan, gray geese, and pelican; anent these can we sigh for the good old times. The Earl of Strafford’s letters and despatches, telling of the “Commodities of the Island called Maniti ore Long Ile wch is in the Continent of Virgenea,” confirms all these reports and even tells of “fayre Turkees far greater than here, five hundred in a flocke,” which must have proved a noble sight.

The river was full of fish, and the bay; their plenty inspired the first poet of New Netherland to rhyming enumeration; among them were sturgeon — despised of Christians; and terrapin — not despised. “Some persons,” wrote Van der Donck in 1656, “prepare delicious dishes from the water terrapin, which is luscious food.”


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