Samp soup—a recipe from Count Rumford

Count_RumfordFound in a pamphlet of c 1796, entitled On Food, and particularly of Feeding the Poor by the pioneer of cheaply produced dishes , Benjamin, Count Rumford, is a recipe that is not likely to catch on among modern foodies, though those who like experimenting with trendy cereals such as Quinoa, might find it intriguing. To me it sounds like a superior thickened gruel, but others might disagree.

Receipt for a very cheap Soup

‘Take of water eight gallons, and mixing with it 5lbs of barley-meal, boil it to the consistency of a thick jelly.—Season it with salt, pepper, vinegar, sweet herbs, and four red herrings, pounded in a mortar.—-Instead of bread, add to it 5lb. of Indian Corn made into Samp, and stirring it together with a ladle, serve it up immediately in portions of 20 ounces.

Samp, which is here recommended, is a dish said to have been invented by the savages of north America, who have no Corn mills.—It is Indian Corn deprived of its external coat by soaking it ten or twelve hours in a lixivium of water and wood-ashes. This coat, or husk, being separated from the kernel, rises to the surface of the water, while the grain , which is specifically heavier than water , remains at the bottom of the vessel; which grain, thus deprived of its hard coat of armour, is boiled, or rather simmered for a great length of time, two days, for instance, in a kettle of water placed near the fire.—When  sufficiently cooked, the kernels will be found to be swelled to a great size and burst open, and this Food, which is uncommonly sweet and nourishing , may be used a great variety of ways; but the best way of using it is to mix it with milk, and with soups, and broths, as a substitute for bread. It is even better than bread for these purposes, for besides being quite as palatable as the very best bread, as it is less liable than bread to grow too soft when mixed with these liquids, without being disagreeably hard, it requires more mastication and consequently tends more to increase and prolong the pleasure of eating.

The soup, which may be prepared with the quantities of ingredients mentioned in the foregoing Receipt will be sufficient for 64 portions, and the cost of these ingredients will be...

[Rumford calculates this at 20 ¾ pence with the five pounds of Barley Meal (then at a high price) costing 7 ½ pence and the five pounds of Indian Corn 6 ¼ pence, the four Red Herrings at 4 pence , the vinegar 1 pence, the salt 1 pence and the pepper and sweet herbs  at 2 pence. Divide by 64 ‘…the number of portions of Soup, gives something less than one third of a penny for the cost of each portion—But at the medium price of Barley in Great Britain, and of Indian Corn as it may be afforded .here, I am persuaded that this Soup may be provided at one farthing the portion of 20 ounces.’]

Surprisingly, Samp is not recognized by the American spellchecker and its Wikipedia entry is very short, though informative on the ancient origins of this maize-based foodstuff. It strikes me that by boiling Indian Corn for a lengthy time until it expands one would end up with something like soggy popcorn minus the outer husk. And popcorn used as a breakfast cereal does indeed go very well with milk.

Incidentally, the red herrings are a tasty addition, though today we would go sparingly with the vinegar, which was a condiment beloved by Georgian cooks. [R.M.Healey]

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