Could but her sacred name, unknown so long,
Rise, like her labors, to the son of song,
To her, to them, I’d consecrate my lays,
And blow her pudding with the breath of praise.
If ’twas Oella, whom I sang before,
I here ascribe her one great virtue more.
Not through the rich Peruvian realms alone
The fame of Sol’s sweet daughter should be known,
But o’er the world’s wide climes should live secure,
Far as his rays extend, as long as they endure…
The poem is here.
In spite of the all-male camp theater club at Harvard [my mom once took me to see a Hellenic/Olympian production there called Keep Your Pantheon] that took their name from this New England dish, Joel Barlow‘s mock epic remains one of my favorite American poems.
Barlow traces the elemental dish back to Peru by way of Europe – but he never knew how beloved the hasty pudding [maize-meal porridge] is in Africa. I lived in East Africa for 7 years growing up and I know that Kenya and many other nations survive on this stuff. My son loves it because it is like play-dough – it can be modeled into shapes and then eaten. In Africa it is usually consumed with a stew of some kind but poor people will subsist on it by itself. It can also be made less thick and sweetened for breakfast, like cream of wheat.
In Kenya it is called Ugali. In Uganda and other parts of E. Africa they call it Posho [rations]
In Malawi and Zimbabwe it is known as Shima. My South African friend cooked some up for us years ago and called it “Mealie Paps“.
About the poem: you have to be in the right frame of mind to read it. It is quite long.
Some will find it hard to stare at a screen for all those stanzas. I prefer to read it in print, but regardless of in what form you consume The Hasty Pudding, you will be richly rewarded and sated when you finish. The first canto has the greatest opening and says a lot about how Americans thought of themselves in the days after our independence from Britain:
Ye Alps audacious, through the heavens that rise,
To cramp the day and hide me from the skies;
Ye Gallic flags, that o’er their heights unfurled,
Bear death to kings, and freedom to the world,
I sing not you.
And with that you are in for a ride…If you like it, go back and read the preface.
I didn’t include it on the poem page since people might never make it through!