What's cookin'? How about Joe Frogger cookies?
While developing content for our new special exhibit, "From Sea To Shining Sea: Whalers of the African Diaspora," museum staff came across a recipe for for an oversized ginger cookie dating back to colonial times -- the Joe Frogger Cookie.
The cookie's creation is attributed to Lucretia Young, who was born in 1772 to two formerly enslaved people in Marblehead, Massachusetts, a seaport. She married Joseph Brown, the son of an African American mother and Wampanoag Nation father, and who had been born into slavery to Rhode Island sheriff slaveowner Beriah Brown II. Little is known of Joe's early years, but he enlisted as a soldier in the Revolutionary war to take the place of his enslaver's son, who Joe said "left the company to go privateering." Beriah promised his liberty if he would serve out his son's time. Joe completed his enlistment in 10 months and 20 days, serving with 60 other men, and left the war a free man.
During a time when unemployed freed Black people had to leave Marblehead, Lucretia and Joe operated a successful and busy tavern serving sailors. The building still stands today.
There, Lucretia mixed sea water, rum, molasses, and spices to create a large, gingerbread-like cookie which sailors bought by the barrel - The Joe Frogger. While the exact origin of the name is unclear, as legend has it, she named the cookie after her husband and the nearby pond's wide, flat lily pads. Because the cookies lacked milk or eggs, the rum-preserved cookies had a long shelf life suitable for sea voyages, and were popular with fishermen and sailors.
Joe and Lucretia were free people and property owners in a time when most African Americans were enslaved, yet its star ingredients— rum and molasses—are inextricably tied to the brutality of slavery.
Find out more about Joe and Lucretia's life, including archival materials, from a post by the Marblehead Museum.
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Written by staff, volunteers, and trustees of the Museum!