Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Searching for Thanksgiving recipes 18C America - Earliest Cookbook Author - Amelia Simmons

Amelia Simmons. American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life. By Amelia Simmons, an American orphan. Hartford: Printed for Simeon Butler, Northampton, 1798.


A woman preparing fish, 1775, Pehr Hillström (1733-1816)

Biography of Amelia Simmons

American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons, was the first known cookbook written by an American, published in Hartford, Connecticut in 1796. Until then, the cookbooks printed and used in the Thirteen Colonies were British. Very little is known of Amelia Simmons, the author of the first American cookbook. She seems to have appeared for the publication of American Cookery and then disappeared back into obscurity.

There may be a faint clue to her identity in the title page reference to herself as an "American Orphan," followed by a discussion of the trials of orphanhood in the preface. She may have been unmarried, had little education, and was quite possibly illiterate. She writes of "those females who have parents, or brothers, or riches," and how female orphans may be "reduced to the necessity of going into families in the line of domestics," from which one may infer that she was employed as a cook.

Her lack of education evidently led to some intrigue and a loss of control over the book's content: two different versions of the first edition appeared in 1796, the second of which is supplemented by what food historian Mary Tolford Wilson describes as "a sheet of obviously dissimilar paper" on which is printed an "Advertisement." It states:

"The author of American Cookery, not having an education sufficient to prepare the work for the press, the person that was employed by her, and entrusted with the receipts, to prepare them for publication, (with a design to impose on her, and injure the sale of the book) did omit several articles very essential in some of the receipts, and placed others in their stead, which were highly injurious to them, without her consent-which was unknown to her, till after publication.

"She then lists the corrections to the specific recipes. In Rice Pudding No. 2, for example, just 1/2 pound of butter and eight eggs should be used, not 1 pound butter and 14 eggs as originally stated. (Note: If you check her Rice Pudding No. 2 recipe in this 1798 edition, as well as the other recipes she cites as erroneous, you will find the errors remain uncorrected. Unfortunately for the users of her books as well as for Amelia Simmons's reputation, her attempts at rectification never completely caught up with the printings of her original recipes," writes Wilson in her introduction to the 1958 facsimile of the 1796 first edition, which does contain the list of errata and corrections.)




To make matters worse, when the second edition of American Cookery was published (not in 1800, as commonly noted, but in 1796, as per the findings of bibliographer Eleanor Lowenstein), Simmons claimed to have been shocked to find material in the first edition that she did not write, and had not authorized.

Nearly the whole of seventeen pages in the first edition, was filled with rules, and direction, how to make choice of meats, fowls, fish, and vegetables: this is a matter, with which, the Authoress does not pretend to be acquainted, much less to give directions to others; nor does she consider any way connected, with that branch which she has undertaken which is, simply to point out the most eligible methods of preparing those various articles for the tables when procured. This was done by the transcriber, without her knowledge or consent; and may with propriety be considered as an affront upon the good sense of all classes of citizens.

She goes on to say that her audience, whether city or country folk, know the difference between good and bad market produce, and do not need a guide for such matters. This sentiment may seem puzzling to a modern audience which will find the first seventeen pages of American Cookery (included in this 1798 first edition, of course) to be an informative, useful guide similar to passages found in modern cookbooks as well as cookbooks from the nineteenth century. It apparently, however, was not the work of Simmons.

Although she may not have been an authority at judging market meats, fish and produce, her book certainly establishes Simmons as a skillful cook: as food historian Karen Hess points out, she often calls for a variety of herbs in her cooking, as well as wine, and sets down "extraordinarily fine roasting techniques, English techniques that were admired even by the French." Since English culinary tradition formed the basis of early American cooking, this naturally follows; colonists brought over family recipes (and the well-to-do would ship bound cooking books) from England, and had no opportunity to purchase an American-published cookbook until 1742, when a Williamsburg printer, William Parks, published an American edition of the British cookbook, The Compleat Housewife. Though Smith excluded recipes with ingredients unavailable in America, the chosen recipes continued the same English tradition of cooking.

When, in 1772, Susannah Carter published The Frugal Housewife in Boston, she made no concession for American ingredients or habits. Although Simmons "borrowed" heavily from Carter, copying word for word her entire section on creams and syllabubs, she incorporated common early American foods - cornmeal, pumpkins, and molasses -- into these English traditions. Most notably, she was the first cookbook author to use the leavening agent pearl ash, which is derived from leaching large amounts of wood ash, and was common in early America because of the proliferation of timber operations.

Where was Amelia Simmons' home? Some say Hartford, since the book was first published there. In late Colonial times, however, the Albany area was a center for the production of potash, i.e., the unrefined source of the pearl ash used in Simmon's recipes. Hess, seeing this as a clue, suggests Simmons may be from the Albany area or somewhere in the Hudson River Valley. Though American Cookery was initially published in Hartford, the second edition was published in Albany in the same year. Several later places of publication centered around the Hudson River Valley, namely one in Albany in 1804, Troy in 1808, Poughkepsie in 1815 and New York in 1822.

Though other copies hailed from other locales, this cluster of publishers may suggest a meaningful connection with the author. Hess also points out that American Cookery uses a number of Dutch words common to the Hudson River area at that time. These words are slaw, from sla, meaning salad, and cookey, from koekje, meaning cookie (the British would use the phrase "small cake.")

Finally, there is the question of whether Simmons made money from this book. Though it is impossible to say, she may have been a shrewd, business-minded author who founded a marketing strategy with the words of her title: "Adapted to this Country, and All Grades of Life." Not only was this the first cookbook to incorporate popular and plentiful American foods into a traditional cookbook, but it was affordable to many. It sold for two shillings and threepence (the equivalent of about $1.75 today), and contained just 47 octavo pages printed on durable rag paper.

The first edition was published "For the Author." which probably meant that Simmons paid the printing costs and kept the sales profits and the publication rights. The book did sell well, for Simmons writes in the 1796 second edition preface that "the call has been so great, and the sales [of American Cookery] so rapid that [the author] finds herself not only encouraged but under a necessity of publishing a second edition." 

The second edition was widely reprinted but some were possibly unauthorized, because Amelia Simmons' name did not always appear on the title page. Then there were the outright piracies of the work, like the 1805 book, New American Cookery . . . By an American Lady, published in New York, which tacked on some original material, and the 1819 book, Domestic Cookery by Harriet Whiting, which was published in Boston and was devoid of any new material, not even the corrections Simmons called for back in 1796. It is fair to say that Simmons probably made some money, and was probably cheated of some money too. Her book remains an historical marker in American cookery, just as her life story remains a question mark in American biography.

From The Historic American Cookbook Project: Feeding America

Sources

Hopley, Claire. "American Cookery," American History. 31, no. 2 (May 1, 1996):16 - 19, 65 - 66.

Ridley, Glynis. "The First American Cookbook," Eighteenth-Century Life. 23, no. 2 (1999): 114 - 123.

Simmons, Amelia. American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life. By Amelia Simmons, an American orphan. Hartford: Printed for Simeon Butler, Northampton, 1798.

----------. American Cookery . . .Hartford: Hudson & Goodwin, 1796. Facsimile, with introduction by Mary Tolford Wilson, New York: Oxford University Press, 1958.

----------. American Cookery . . . Albany: Charles R. and George Webster, 1796, second edition. Facsimile, with introduction by Karen Hess, Bedford, Massachusetts: Applewood Books, 1996.

von Biel, Victoria. "Profiles in Cooking: Amelia Simmons," Bon Appetit. 43, no. 10 (October 1, 1998): 73, 76 - 77.

Searching for Thanksgiving recipes 18C America - 1798 America's Earliest Cookbook

American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life. By Amelia Simmons. Hartford: Printed for Simeon Butler, Northampton, (1798)

John Atkinson, (British, active 1770–1775) Young Woman preparing vegetables

The importance of this work cannot be overestimated. Its initial publication (Hartford, 1796) was, in its own way, a second Declaration of American Independence. It was not the first cookbook printed in America but was the first written by an American for Americans. All earlier American cookery imprints were reprints from the British repertoire. Simmons' book attempted to recognize and use American products, specifically corn, cranberries, turkey, squash and potatoes, all uniquely indigenous to the New World.

Although native Americans had been using corn for many millenia and European and African Americans from earliest pilgrim days, this book offers the first printed recipes using cornmeal - three for A Nice Indian Pudding and one each for Johnny Cake or Hoe Cake and Indian Slapjacks. Simmons also suggested using corncobs to smoke bacon and the pairing of cranberry sauce with turkey.

Perhaps the single most important innovation in American Cookery was the use of pearlash as a chemical leavening for dough, an American practice which has influenced worldwide baking methods. Prior to the late 1700s, the preferred lightness in baked goods was attained by beating air along with the eggs, or adding yeast or various spirits to produce a leavening. But by the first publication of American Cookery, Americans were adding pearlash (a refined form of potash, an impure potassium carbonate obtained from wood ashes, and a common household staple in the early American kitchen) to their doughs to produce carbon dioxide quickly. This was the forerunner of modern baking powders which were soon to revolutionize both home and commercial baking, here and elsewhere.

This book was quite popular and was printed, reprinted and pirated for 30 years after its first appearance. There are at least three 18th-century printings including the first and this one both published in Hartford, Connecticut and a Second Edition (so labelled) in Albany in 1796. There are at least 10 editions or variants between 1804 and 1831, published in several cities in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. Some have Simmons' name; some not. See Lucy Emerson's New-England Cookery, 1808, for an example of a pirated edition. All editions are rare.

The information contained in this book also appears in a book which is essentially a pirated editon of Amelia Simmons' American Cookery (1798). The New-England cookery, or the art of dressing all kinds of flesh, fish, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plumb to the plain cake. Particularly adapted to this part of our country.
By Lucy Emerson. Montpelier, VT: Printed for Josiah Parks, 1808.

From The Historic American Cookbook Project: Feeding America

Searching for Thanksgiving recipes 18C America - The Frugal Housewife available in America 1772

Pehr Hilleström (Swedish artist, 1732-1816) A Maid Taking Soup from a Cauldron

A cookbook available in the early American republic was
Susannah Carter's
The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook;...Also The Making of English Wines. New York: G. & R. Waite, no. 64, Maiden-Lane. 1803

Little is known of Susannah Carter, the author of The Frugal Housewife, which was first published as early as 1765 in London and Dublin, and was first reprinted in America in 1772. The 1772 edition was re-printed in America by Benjamin Edes and John Gil, well-known Boston printers, journalists, and booksellers, famous for publishing the works of many Revolutionary writers, and for their role in instigating the Boston Tea Party.

The Frugal Housewife made no mention of colonial cooking or common American ingredients. It wasn't until 1803 that "an appendix containing several new receipts adapted to the American mode of cooking" was added. This probably was not the work of Susannah Carter, but the result of an editing job by the American publisher in order to attract American readers. the identical appendix appeared 2 years later in the first American edition of The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse (Alexandria, 1805), a cookbook very popular in its native England.

The Frugal Housewife was one of several English cookbooks that sold well in America. It strongly influenced the aforementioned Amelia Simmons' American Cookery (1796), the first cookbook authored by an American, and containing not just English fare, but dishes based on American ingredients and common to the early country. Much of Simmons' work is original, but much is copied, verbatim or near verbatim, from The Frugal Housewife - a customary and acceptable practice at the time. Susannah Carter's book eventually saw six American editions; many of her British recipes became American standards via Amelia Simmons, even as the success of American Cookery inspired the Americanization of The Frugal Housewife.

This is the 1803 appendix.

AN APPENDIX, CONTAINING SEVERAL NEW RECEPTS ADAPTED TO THE AMERICAN MODE OF COOKING.

To make a baked Indian Pudding.
ONE quart of boiled milk to five spoonfuls of Indian Meal, one gill of molasses, and salt to your taste; putting it in the oven to bake when it is cold.

An Indian Pudding boiled.
One quart of milk, and three half-pints of Indian meal, and a gill of molasses, then put it in a cloth, and let it boil seven, or eight hours. The water boiling when it is put in. Water may be used instead of milk in case you have none.

To make Mush.
Boil a pot of water, according to the quantity you wish to make, and then stir in the meal till it becomes quite thick, stirring it all the time to keep out the lumps, season with salt, and eat it it with milk or molasses.

Buck-Wheat Cakes.
Take milk-warm water, a little salt, a table spoonful of yeast, and then stir in your buck-wheat till it becomes of the thickness of batter; and then let it enjoy a moderate warmth for one night to raise it, bake the same on a griddle, greasing it first to prevent them from sticking.

To make Pumpkin Pie.
Take the Pumpkin and peel the rind off, then stew it till it is quite soft, and put thereto one pint of pumpkin, one pint of milk, one glass of malaga wine, one glass of rosewater, if you like it, seven eggs, half a pound of fresh butter, one small nutmeg, and sugar and salt to your taste.

Dough Nuts.
To one pound of flour, put one quarter of a pound of butter, one quarter of a pound of sugar, and two spoonfuls of yeast; mix them all together in warm milk or water, of the thickness of bread, let it raise, and make them in what form you please, boil your fat (consisting of hog's lard), and put them in.

To make Sausages.
Take your pork, fat and lean together, and mince it fine, then season it with ground pepper, salt, and sage pounded, then have the offals well cleaned, and fill them with the above; they are then fit for use. When you put them in your pan remember to prick them to prevent them from bursting.

To make Blood Puddings.
Take your Indian meal (according to the quantity you wish to make), and scald it with boiled milk or water, then stir in your blood, straining it first, mince the hog's lard and put it in the pudding, then season it with treacle and pounded penny-royal to your taste, put it in a bag and let it boil six or seven hours.

To make Cranberry Tarts.
To one pound of flour three quarters of a pound of butter, then stew your Cranberry's to a jelly, putting good brown sugar in to sweeten them, strain the cranberry's, and then put them in your patty-pans for baking in a moderate oven for half an hour.

To pickle Peppers.
Take your peppers and cut a slit in the side of them, put them in cold salt and water for twelve hours, then take them out and put them in fresh salt and water, and hang them over the fire in a brass kettle, letting the water be as hot as you can bear your band in, let them remain over the fire till they turn yellow, when they turn yellow, shift the water, and put them in more salt and water of the same warmth; then cover them with cabbage leaves till they turn green, when they are done, drain the salt and water off, then boil your vinegar, and pour it over them: they will be fit for use in three days.

To pickle Beets.
Put into a gallon of cold vinegar as many beets as the vinegar will hold, and put thereto half an ounce of whole pepper, half an ounce of all spice, a little ginger, if you like it, and one head of garlic.

Note. Boil the beets in clear water, with their dirt on as they are taken out of the earth, then take them out and peal them, and when the vinegar is cold put them in, and in two days they will be fit for use. The spice must be boiled in the vinegar.

To make Peach Sweetmeats.
To one pound of Peaches put half a pound of good brown sugar, with half a pint of water to dissolve it, first clarifying it with an egg; then boil the peaches and sugar together, skimming the egg off, which will rise on the top, till it is of the thickness of a jelly. If you wish to do them whole, do not peel them, but put them into boiling water, and give them a boil, then take them out and wipe them dry.-- Pears are done the same way.

Quince Sweetmeats.
To one pound of quinces put three quarters of a pound of good brown sugar: the quinces boiled. With respect to the rest follow the above receipt.

Green Gage Sweetmeats.
Make a syrup just as you do for quinces; only allowing one pound of sugar, to one pound of gages.-- Plumbs and damsons are made the same way.

A Receipt to make Maple Sugar.
Make an incision in a number of maple trees, at the same time, about the middle of February, and receive the juice of them in wooden or earthen vessels. Strain this juice (after it is drawn from the sediment) and boil it in a wide mouthed kettle. Place the kettle directly over the fire, in such a manner that the flame shall not play upon its sides. Skim the liquor when it is boiling. When it is reduced to a thick syrup and cooled, strain it again, and let it settle for two or three days, in which time it will be fit for granulating. This operation is performed by filling the kettle half full of syrup, and boiling it a second
time. To prevent its boiling over, add to it a piece of fresh butter or fat of the size of a walnut. You may easily determine when it is sufficiently boiled to granulate, by cooling a little of it. It must then be put into bags or baskets, through which the water, will drain. This sugar, if refined by the usual process, may be made into as good single or double refined loaves, as were ever made from the sugar obtained from the juice of the West India cane.

To make Maple Molasses.
This may be done three ways.
1. From the thick syrup, obtained by boiling after it is strained for granulation.
2. From the drainings of the sugar after it is granulated.
3. From the last runnings of the tree [which will not granulate] reduced by evaporation to the consistence of molasses.

To make Maple Beer.
To every four gallons of water when boiling, add one quart of maple molasses. When the liquor is cooled to blood heat, put in as much yeast as is necessary to ferment it. Malt or bran may be added to this beer, when agreeable. If a table spoonful of the essence of spruce be added to the above quantities of water and molasses, it makes a most delicious and wholesome drink.

Receipt to make the famous Thieves Vinegar.
Take of wormwood, thyme, rosemary, lavender, sage, rue and mint, each a handful; pour on them a quart of the best wine vinegar, set them eight days in moderate hot ashes, shake them now and then thoroughly, then squeeze the juice out of the contents through a clean cloth; to which add two ounces of camphire. The use thereof is to rinse the mouth, and wash there with under the arm pits, neck and shoulders, temples, palms of the hands, and feet, morning and evening; and to smell frequently thereat, has its salutary effects. N. B. The above receipt did prove an efficacious remedy against the plague in London, when it raged there in the year 1665.

Method of destroying the putrid Smell which Meat acquires during hot Weather.
Put the meat intended for making soup, into a saucepan full of water, scum it when it boils, and then throw into the saucepan a burning pit coal, very compact and destitute of smoke, leave it there for two minutes, and it will have contracted all the smell of the meat and the soup.

If you wish to roast a piece of meat on the spit, you must put it into water until it boils, and after having scummed it, throw a burning pit coal into the boiling water as before; at the end of two minutes, take out the meat, and having wiped it well in order to dry it, put it upon the spit.

To make Spruce Beer out of the Essence.
For a cask of eighteen gallons take seven ounces of the Essence of Spruce, and fourteen pounds of molasses; mix them with a few gallons of hot water; put it into the cask; then fill the cask with cold water, stir it well, make it about lukewarm; then add about two parts of a pint of good yeast or the grounds of porter; let it stand about four or five days to work, then bung it up tight, and let it stand two or three days, and it will be fit for immediate use after it has been bottled.

To make Spruce Beer out of Shed Spruce.
To one quart of Shed Spruce, two gallons of cold water, and so on in proportion to the quantity you wish to make, then add one pint of molasses to every two gallons, let it boil four or five hours and stand till it is luke-warm, then put one pint of yeast to ten gallons, let it work, then put it into your cask, and bung it up tight, and in two days it will be fit for use.

To make an Eel Pie.
Skin your eels and parboil them, then season them with pepper and salt, and put them into your paste, with half a dozen raw oysters, one quarter of a pound of butter, and water.

To make a Pork Pie.
Take fresh pork and cut it into thin slices, season it with pepper and salt, and put it into your paste.

To make a raise Pork Pie.
Take six ounces of butter to one pound of flour, and so on in proportion, boil the butter in a sufficient quantity of water to mix with the flour hot, let the paste be stiff and form it in a round shape with your hands; then put in your pork, seasoned to your taste with pepper and salt, and then bake it for about an hour.

To make a Bath Pudding.
Take one pint of new milk, six eggs beat well in the milk, four table spoonfuls of fine flour, three table spoonfuls of yeast, three spoonfuls of rose-water, and three spoonfuls of Malaga wine; grate into it a small nutmeg, sweetened with fine soft sugar to your taste; mix them all well together, and let them stand
one hour before they are to be baked: bake them in eight small patty-pans, and one large one for the middle of the dish; butter the patty-pans; put them in a fierce oven, and in fifteen minutes they will be done.

To make a pot Pie.
Make a crust and put it round the sides of your pot, then cut your meat in small pieces, of whatever kind the pot-pie is to be made of, and season it with pepper and salt, then put it in the pot and fill it with water, close it with paste on the top; it will take three hours doing.

To make Short Gingerbread.
One pound of superfine flour, to half a pound of good fresh butter, and so on in proportion to the quantity you wish to make, beat your butter till it froths, half an ounce of ginger, a few carraway seeds, and one pound of sugar, roll it out thin and bake it.
Common gingerbread is made the same way, only molasses instead of sugar.

To make Whafles.
One pound of sugar, one pound of flour, one pound of butter, half an ounce of cinnamon, one glass of rose water; make it in balls as big as a nutmeg, and put them in your whafle iron to bake.

To make Crullers.
One pound of flour to half a pound of good brown-sugar, and half a pound of butter, let your hog's lard be boiling, then make them into what form you please, and put them in to fry.

From The Historic American Cookbook Project: Feeding America

Cooking in 18C America - Thanksgiving Dinners

Still Life with Apples and Walnuts 1772 by  Luis Egidio Meléndez (1716–1780)

PROCLAMATION by the United States in Congress assembly: October 31, 1780
Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, amidst the vicissitudes and calamities of war, to bestow blessings on the people of these states, which call for their devout and thankful acknowledgments, more especially in the late remarkable interposition of his watchful providence, in rescuing the person of our Commander in Chief and the army from imminent dangers, at the moment when treason was ripened for execution; in prospering the labors of the husbandmen, and causing the earth to yield its increase in plentiful harvests; and, above all, in continuing to us the enjoyment of the gospel of peace;

It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart Thursday, the seventh day of December next, to be observed as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer; that all the people may assemble on that day to celebrate the praises of our Divine Benefactor; to confess our unworthiness of the least of his favors, and to offer our fervent supplications to the God of all grace; that it may please him to pardon our heinous transgressions and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws that it may please him still to afford us the blessing of health; to comfort and relieve our brethren who are any wise afflicted or distressed; to smile upon our husbandry and trade and establish the work of our hands; to direct our public councils, and lead our forces, by land and sea, to victory; to take our illustrious ally under his special protection, and favor our joint councils and exertions for the establishment of speedy and permanent peace; to cherish all schools and seminaries of education, build up his churches in their most holy faith and to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth.
Done in Congress, the last day of October, 1780, and in the fifth year of the independence of the United States of America.


Kitchen Still Life Attributed to Martin Dichtl (1639-1710)

[1779]
"This menu for a New England Thanksgiving dinner is taken from a letter written in 1779 by Juliana Smith to her 'Dear Cousing Betsey.'

Haunch of Venison Roast Chine of Pork
Roast Turkey Pigeon Pasties Roast Goose
Onions in Cream Cauliflower Squash
Potatoes Raw Celery
Mincemeat Pie Pumpkin Pie Apple Pie
Indian Pudding Plum Pudding
Cider


 Kitchen Still Life Peter Jakob Horemans ( 1700–1776 )

While it would be difficult to set forth a single 'traditional' Thanksgiving menu, the preparations related by Juliana Smith that went into this dinner were certainly typical of early New England Thanksgivings. 'This year it was Uncle Simeon's turn to have the dinner at his house, but of course we all helped them as they help us when it is their turn, & there is always enough for us all to do. All the baking of pies & cakes was done at our house & we had the big oven heated & filled twice each day for three days before it was all done & everything was GOOD, though we did have to do without some things that ought to be used. Neither Love nor (paper) Money could buy Raisins, but our good red cherries dried without the pits, did almost as well & happily Uncle Simeon still had some spices in store. The tables were set in the Dining Hall and even that big room had no space to spare when we were all seated.' Apparently roast beef was part of the tradition menu for this family, but 'of course we could have no Roast Beef. None of us have tasted Beef this three years back as it must all go to the Army, & too little they get, poor fellows. But, Nayquittymaw's Hunters were able to get us a fine red Deer, so that we had a good haunch of Venisson on each Table.' There was an abundance of vegetables on the table...Cider was served instead of wine, wiht the explanation that Uncle Simeon was saving his cask 'for the sick.' Juliana added that 'The Pumpkin Pies, Apple Tarts & big Indian Puddings lacked for nothing save Appetite by the time we had got round to them...We did not rise from the Table until it was quite dark, & then when the dishes had been cleared away we all got round the fire as close as we could, & cracked nuts, & sang songs & told stories."
---American Heritage Cookbook and Illustrated History of American Eating & Drinking, Menus and Recipes, Helen McCully recipe editor [American Heritage Publishing Co.:New York] 1964 (p.416-417) 


Pantry Still Life by candlelight 1630 - Georg Flegel (1566-1638) 

[1788]
"The pioneering American surgeon Mason Finch Cogswell, born in 1691 in Canterbury, Connecticut, described a typical eighteenth century Thanksgiving meal in his 1788 journal...On Thanksgiving day...he attended church in the morning, ate a dinner afterward consisting of turkey, pork, pumpkins, and apple pies...Cogswell spent time with his fater, then sang gonts and ate apples and nuts in the kitchen with his stepsisters before going to bed."
---Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie," Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver and Pilmoth Plantation [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2005 [(p. 30-31)


Stiil Life with Rabbit Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744–1818)

Cooking in 18C America - Revolutionary War Thanksgiving Dinner 1777

17-year-old Private Joseph Plumb Martin (1760-1850) recounted this memorable Thanksgiving meal in Pennsylvania with wry humor, and mentioned it several more times in his 1828 memoir.

"While we lay here there was a Continental thanksgiving ordered by Congress; and as the army had all the cause in the world to be particularly thankful, if not for being well off, at least it was no worse, we were ordered to participate in it. We had nothing to eat for two or three days previous, except what the trees of the fields and forests afforded us. But now we must have what Congress said - a sumptuous thanksgiving to close the year of high living, we had now nearly seen brought to a close. Well - to add something extraordinary to our present stock of provisions, our country, ever mindful of its suffering army, opened her sympathizing heart so wide, upon this occasion, as to give us something to make the world stare. And what do you think it was, reader? - Guess. - You cannot guess, be you as much of a Yankee as you will.  I will tell you: it gave each and every man half a gill [1/4 cup] of rice, and a table spoon full of vinegar!! 

"After we had made sure of this extraordinary superabundant donation, we were ordered out to attend a meeting and hear a sermon... I remember the text... “And the soldiers said unto him, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, ‘Do violence to no man, nor accuse anyone falsely.’” The preacher ought to have added the remainder of the sentence to have made it complete, “And be content with your wages." But that would not do, it would be too apropos; however, he heard it as soon as the service was over, it was shouted from a hundred tongues.

"As we returned to our camp, we passed by our Commissary’s quarters, all his stores, consisting of a barrel about two thirds full of books of fresh beef, stood directly in our way, but there was a sentinel guarding even that; however, one of my messmates purloined a piece of it, four or five pounds perhaps. I was exceeding glad to see him take it, I thought it might help to eke out our thanksgiving supper; but, alas! how soon my expectations were blasted!—The sentinel saw him have it as soon as I did and obliged him to return it to the barrel again. So I had nothing else to do but to go home and make out my supper as usual, upon a leg of nothing and no turnips.

"The army was now [December 1777] not only starved but naked; the greater part were not only shirtless and barefoot, but destitute of all other clothing, especially blankets... But hunger, nakedness and sore shins were not the only difficulties we had at that time to encounter; --- we had hard duty to perform and little or no strength to perform it with.... we marched for the Valley Forge in order to take up our winter-quarters.  We were now in a truly forlorn condition, -- no clothing, no provisions and as disheartened as need be... a few days before Christmas."

A Narrative of some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier; interspersed with anecdotes of incidents that occurred within his own observation.  Hallowell, Me: 1830.  by Joseph Plumb Martin

The Life of Joseph Plumb Martin (1760-1850)
Joseph Plumb Martin (1760-1850) & Lucy Clewley Martin (1776 - 1857)

Born in Becket Massachusetts, at age 7, he was left in the care of his maternal grandparents in Connecticut. In June of 1776, he signed a short–term enlistment of 6 months. He returned to his grandparents’ farm that December, when his enlistment was up. After a winter at home he re-enlisted in April 1777. He served as a private in the 8th Connecticut Regiment, an element of General James Varnum's Brigade. In 1778, he was reassigned to the Light Infantry, & then in 1780, he was again reassigned to the Corps of Sappers & Miners & attained the rank of Corporal. Martin served until the close of the war & was present at Cornwallis’ surrender, capping his career at the rank of Sergeant. After his release from the army, he spent a year as a teacher in New York state before moving to Maine, where land was being offered to encourage settlement. In 1794, he married Lucy Clewley with whom he had five children. By 1818 Martin was destitute; his total property was assessed at fifty-two dollars. He applied for a veteran’s pension & was granted $96 a year. Martin also served for 25 years as town clerk of Prospect, Maine. He wrote several poems & songs, & about 1828 he wrote his memoirs entitled ‘A narrative of some of the adventures, dangers & sufferings of a revolutionary soldier; interspersed with anecdotes of incidents that occurred within his own observation.’  His journal is now considered one of the finest primary sources for study of the Continental Army soldier. Martin died peacefully at home at age 89.

Thanks to Pat Reber for finding this narrative & sharing it on her blog, Researching Food History - Cooking and Dining.

Claude Monet's Turkeys & His Cook

Claude Monet (1840-1926) Turkeys 1876

Claude Monet (1840-1926) The Cook Monsieur Paul 1882

Okay, okay, I know Monet lived in France & that they do not celebrate the United State's Thanksgiving holiday; but Thanksgiving & the French are both on my mind. Actually in France, the turkeys are still being fattened up on farms for the French Christmas dinners. You could buy one there now in November, but it probably still would be fairly skinny.

Claude Monet (1840-1926) Self-Portrait in a Beret 1886

Evolution of Thanksgiving as a national American holiday & FDR's mistake

Franklin Delano Roosevelt portrait from an exhibit at the Blackhawk Museum in California. Don't know the painter for this, but it certainly looks like FDR at one of his fireside chats.

On November 26, 1941, Franklin D Roosevelt established the modern Thanksgiving holiday. On this day President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill officially establishing the 4th Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

The tradition of celebrating the holiday on Thursday dates back to the early history of the Plymouth & Massachusetts Bay colonies, when traditional English & European post-harvest holidays were celebrated on the weekday regularly set aside as "Lecture Day," a midweek church meeting where topical sermons were presented. And so the traditional feast days became integrally connected to religion in the British American colonies.

A famous Thanksgiving observance occurred in the autumn of 1621, when Plymouth governor William Bradford invited local Indians, who had taught them how to survive on their new land, to join the Pilgrims in a 3-day festival held in gratitude for the bounty of the season. The women cooked, the men sat down & joined one another to eat the feast.

Thanksgiving became an annual custom throughout New England in the 17th century; & in 1777, the Continental Congress declared the first national American Thanksgiving following the Patriot victory over the British at Saratoga. Now, the traditional fall feasting became connected to the colonies' fight for independence.

In 1789, President George Washington became the first president to proclaim a Thanksgiving holiday, when, at the request of Congress, he proclaimed November 26, a Tuesday, as a day of national thanksgiving for the U.S. Constitution. Thanksgiving now embodied both religious & democratic concepts.

However, it was not until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to fall on the last Thursday of November, that the modern holiday was celebrated nationally. With a few deviations, Lincoln's precedent was followed annually by every subsequent president--until 1939.

In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt departed from tradition by declaring November 23, the next to last Thursday that year, as Thanksgiving Day. Considerable political controversy surrounded this deviation, & some Americans refused to honor Roosevelt's declaration. For the next 2 years, Roosevelt repeated the unpopular proclamation, but on November 26, 1941, he admitted his mistake & signed a bill into law officially making the 4th Thursday in November the national holiday of Thanksgiving Day.

Madonnas attributed to Neroccio De' Landi 1447-1500

Attributed to Neroccio De' Landi (1447-1500) -Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist and Mary Magdelene

Attributed to Neroccio De' Landi (1447-1500) Madonna and Child with Saints Jerome and Mary Magdalene, c 1490


Attributed to Neroccio De' Landi (1447-1500) Madonna and Child Saint Jerome and Mary Magdalene


Attributed to Neroccio De' Landi (1447-1500) Madonna and Child

Attributed to Neroccio De' Landi (1447-1500) Madonna and Child


Attributed to Neroccio De' Landi (1447-1500) -Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist and St Catherine of Alexandria


Attributed to Neroccio De' Landi (1447-1500) Virgin and Child


Attributed to Neroccio De' Landi (1447-1500) Virgin and Child with St. Bernardino and St Catherine of Siena


Attributed to Neroccio De' Landi (1447-1500) Madonna and Child

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.