Chef Sherry Pocknett, the first Indigenous woman to win a James Beard Foundation Award (she took home the 2023 title for Best Chef: Northeast), doesn’t celebrate just one “Thanksgiving.” Instead, she celebrates every harvest as a moment to pause, reflect and give thanks. During autumn, Pocknett said, “We’re giving thanks to cranberries because cranberries are back.” In the summer, Pocknett gives thanks to things like blueberries and strawberries. “Thanksgiving for me is giving thanks to a harvest… all these different things that come back yearly and they’re still coming.”
Pocknett is a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, which has had roots in modern-day Massachusetts and Rhode Island for more than 12,000 years. She owns the restaurant Sly Fox Den Too in Charlestown, Rhode Island. There, she serves food that highlights the indigenous cuisine of the Northeast – dishes like nausamp, a porridge-like dish made of dried corn; Indian pudding, a dessert made of molasses and cornmeal blended together; and blueberry slump, Pocknett’s personal favourite.
Blueberry slump is an indigenous dessert that has long been made by the different tribes of New England. Although some recipes call for the dumplings to be made with corn flour (cornmeal in the UK), Pocknett makes hers with wheat (all-purpose) flour because that’s how she grew up eating it.
“From Wampanoag to Shinnecock to Narragansett to Piqua, we all make blueberry slump, but mine is the best,” she boasted. “As soon as I make it, the whole pot is gone. I can’t keep enough of it,” Pocknett said, referring to herself as “the best badass slump maker”.
In the summer, Pocknett likes to use wild blueberries from Maine, but when blueberries are out of season, she opts for frozen ones. “You can get them most anywhere,” Pocknett said, adding, “wild though – it’s got to be a wild blueberry.” For Pocknett, wild blueberries imbue the dessert with an old-school flavour and a special sweetness.
“We have [slump] at our restaurant, and a lot of people don’t know what it is,” she said, going on to explain that she serves the slump warm, topped with vanilla ice cream. “When you take that first bite, you’re going to fall in love,” Pocknett said. “It melts in your mouth. And the burst of flavour during blueberry season is unbelievable.”