Menus for 18C & 19C American New Year's gatherings from Foodtimeline here
1774 John Adams recorded in his diary on several occasions enjoying the turtle on the dinner table, while visiting Philadelphia for the First Continental Congress. 1774 Septr. 11. "Dined at Mr. Willings, who is a Judge of the Supream Court here, with the Gentlemen from Virginia, Maryland and New York. A most splendid Feast again—Turtle and every Thing else."
Sea Turtles were available in both the Atlantic & Pacific
In 1768, John Hancock was buying sea turtles to serve at his table.
Recipes for preparing sea turtle. 1774 edition of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy. The recipe 1st appeared in the 1751 edition of this book.
Colonial & Early American cookbooks do not contain suggested complete menus or "bills of fare" for New Year's celebrations. What we know about these gatherings is gleaned from primary sources such as journals, letters, household accounts, & newspaper articles.
1797 Newspaper Advertisement of Mr Julien of Boston
"The custom of paying New Year's calls originated in New York, where the Dutch held open house on New Year's Day & served cherry bounce, olykoeks [doughnuts] steeped in rum, cookies, & honey cakes. From New York the custom spread throughout the country. On the first New Year's after his inauguration, George Washington opened his house to the public, & he continued to receive visitors on New Year's Day throughout the seven years he lived in Phildadelphia. On January 1, 1791, a senator from Pennsylvania hoted in his diary: "Made the President the compliments of the season; had a hearty shake of the hand. I was asked to partake of punch & cakes, but declined...Eventually, it became de rigeur [common social practice] for those who intended to receive company to list in newspapers the hours they would be "at home." It was a disastrous practice: parties of young men took to dashing from house to house for a glass of punch, dropping in at as many of the homes listed in the papers as they could. Strangers wandered in off the streets, newspapers under their arms, for a free drink & a bit of a meal. The custom of having an open house on the first day of the year survived the assaults of the newspaper readers. The traditional cookies & cakes continued to be served, along with hot toddies, punches, eggnogs, tea, coffee, & chocolate. But public announcements of at-home hours were dropped at the end of the nineteenth century, & houses were open only to invited friends."
---American Heritage Cookbook & Illustrated History of American Eating & Drinking, American Heritage:New York] 1964 (p. 392)
"New Year's Day Collation at Mount Clare: Crab Imperial, Oyster loaves, Boned Turkey Breast with Forcemeat & Oyster Sauce, Fried Chicken, Maryland Ham, Fruits in White Wine Jelly, Beaten Biscuits, Sally Lunn, Apricot Fool, Minced Pies, Pound Cake, Light Fruit Cake, Maryland Rocks, Little Sugar Cakes, Coconut Jumbles, Peach Cordial, Syllabub, Egg Nog, Sangaree."
---The Thirteen Colonies Cookbook, Mary Donovan et al [Montclair Historical Society:Montclair NJ] 1976 (p. 176)
"New Year's Eve was especially noisy, with the firing of guns to bring in the New Year. Ordinances in both the Netherlands & New Netherland eventually prohibited such behavior. The special treat for New Year's Day in the Netherlands was nieuwjaarskoeken (thick crisp waters), which originated in the eastern part of the country & adjoining parts of Germany. These wafers were made in a special wafer iron. The oblong or round long-handleed irons, made by blacksmiths, created imprints of a religious or secular nature on the wafers. Wafer irons were often given as a wedding gift, even in this country. Enormous quantities of wafers were prepared on New Year's Day. The were consumed by family, servants, & guests distributed to children, who went from house to house singing New Year songs, while collecting their share of treats along the way. There is ample evidence in diaries & letters that Dutch Americans continued the custom of visiting each other on New Year's Day. In New Netherland...the nieuwjaarskoeken were molded in wooden cake-boards, instead of wafer irons...The American New Year's cake is a combination of two Dutch pastries brought here by the early settlers, the nieuwjaarskoeken described above & spiced, chewy, honey cakes formed in a wooden mold or cake-board. It was in the late eighteenth century that this homemade pastry prepared in heirloom wafer irons by the Dutch, changed to a mostly store-bought product purchased by the population at large."
---Matters of Taste: Food & Drink in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art & Life, Donna R. Barnes & Peter G. Rose [Syracuse University Press:Syracuse NY] 2002 (p. 24-5)
1832 Frances Anne Kemble, a well-known British actress & author who came to the States accompanied by her father in 1832, was apparently none too fond of holiday turtles & oysters. She mentions specifically the terrapin, a local substitute for the green sea turtle. Francis wrote in her diary in December 1832: “Came home, and supped. I had eaten nothing since four o’clock, and was famished; for I do not like stewed oysters and terrapins, which are the refreshments invariably handed round at an American evening party.”
"In New York City, where it is the custom for ladies to remain at home to recieve the calls of their gentlemen friends, there is not time nor occasion for dinners; should it be desirable, it would be similar to that for Christmas, or instead--a cold roasted turkey, (bone it if you can) cold boiled ham or tongue, a large glass salad-bowl of pickled oysters, or an oyster pie with dressed celery or a chicken salad, with jelly puffs & tarts & small mince pies, blancmange, de russe & jellies & ice cream & fancy cakes, with syrup water & orgeat or lemonade for temperance, or wines & punch. The manner of celebrating New Year's day by calls, is a peculiarity of our own, & having so few which are 'native here,' many of our wisest & best, have wished that this might in no wise be slighted. Many a feud-divided family have been united, & misunderstanding friends been brought together, under the all-pervading hospitality & genial influence which distinguishes the day."
---The American System of Cookery, Mrs. T. J. Crowen [T.J. Crowen:New York] 1847 (p. 405)
St. Nicholas Restaurant, Cincinnati, Ohio
"New Year's Dinners.--Raw oysters; mock tutle soup; boiled turkey with oyster sauce; roast haunch of venison; currant jelly; devilied crabs; potato souffle, baked turnips, stuffed cabbage, beets, lima beans, dried corn, & canned pease; biscuit, French rolls, rye & Indian bread; chicken salad, cold sliced ham; celery, cold slaw garnished with fried oysters, pickled walnuts, variety pickles; sweet pickled cucumbers, peaches, & plums, spiced currants & gooseberries canned pears or strawberries; English plum pudding; chess pie, potato pie, mince pie; orange souffle, pyramid pound cake, black cake, Phil Sheridan cake; Bohemian cream; oranges, raisins, figs, nuts; tea, coffeee, chocolate.
New Year's Table.--When receiving calls on New Years' Day, the table should be handsomely arranged & decorated, & provided with rather substantial dishes, such as would suit the taste of gentlemen. Too great profusion, especially of cakes, confectonery, & ices, is out of taste. Selections may be made from the following: Escaloped oysters; cold tongue, turkey, chicken, & ham, pressed meats, boned turkey, jellied chicken; salads, cold slaw garnished with fried oysters; bottled pickles, French or Spanish pickles; jellies; charlotte-russe, ice-creams, ices; two large handsome cakes for decoration of table, & one or two baskets of miced cake, fruit, layer, & sponge cake predonimating; fruits; nuts; coffee, chocolate with whipped cream, lemonade."
---Buckeye Cookery & Practical Housekeeping, revised & enlarged [Buckeye Publishing Co.:Minneapolis MN] 1880 (p. 351)
"A general & cordial reception of gentlemen guests upon the first day of the year, by the ladies of almost every household, also by clergymen, & by gentlemen upon the first New-Year's Day after marriage, is a Knickerbocker custom which prevailed in New York, with scarce any innovations, until within the last ten years. It was once a day when all gentlemen offered congratulations to each of their lady acquaintences, & even employes of a gentleman were permitted to pay their respects, & to eat & drink with the ladies of the household. Hospitalities were then lavishly offered & as lavishly received. This custom began when the city was small, but it has now quite outgrown those possibilities which the original usages of the day could compass without difficulty. Beside, there came a time when this excessive social freedom was proportionate to our over-large liberties, therefore, our hospitalities were narrowed down to a lady's own circle of acquaintences. Even this boundary in many instances widened to so extended a circumference that not a few of our kindliest & most hospitable of ladies have been compelled either to close their doors upon this day of hand-shaking, eating, & drinking, or else to issue cards of welcome to as many of their gentlemen acquaintences as they can entertain in a single day. Not many ladies in New York are, however, placed upon such heights of popularity as to make this limitation a genuine necessity, & others may choose to receive congratulations upon New-Year's-Day only from relatives & intimate friends...ladies who recieve in a general way whoever choose to call upon them are now almost certain that the old-time crowds which thronged all open doors a decade ago will no longer intrude upon those from who they are uncertain even of a recognition...to be considered a man of to-day, he must be well-bred & unobtrusive, even during this gala season... Those who entertain elaborately upon New-Year's-Day sometimes send out cards of invitation...They are handsomely engraved... Many gentlemen, even among those who take wine ordinarily, refuse it upon this day, because they do not like to accept it at the hand of one lady & refuse it from that of another. Again, many ladies, from whose daily tables the glitter of wine-glasses is never absent, do not supply this drink to their guests upon this day, because it is dangerous for their acquaintences to partake of varied vintages, the more specially while passing in & out of over-heated drawing rooms. Delicacies, coffee, chocolate, tea, & bouillon, are supplied in their places, whether the wines be withheld by kindly considerateness, or through conscientious scruples."
---Social Etiquette in New York, Abby Buchanan Longstreet, facsimile 1886 new & enlarged edition [Eastern National: Fort Washington PA] 2002 (p. 187-196)
"When refreshments are provided for callers on this day, the tastes of gentlemen only are to be consulted, & it is understood that they prefer rather substantial dishes. Handsome decorations for the table are desirable. Hot coffee is a prime requisite. Sandwiches, salads, pickles, jellies, & three or four kinds of cold meats may be provided. Escaloped oysters are relishable. Two or three ornamented cakes for decoration, & one or two baskets of mixed cake, will be needed, & such fresh fruits as can be obtained, including bananas, oranges, & white grapes. Wine is no longer found upon the New Year's table in this latitude."
---Kansas Home Cook-Book consisting of recipes contributed by ladies of Leavenworth & other cities & towns, compiled by Mrs. C.H. Cushing & Mrs. B. Gray, facsimile 1886 edition [Creative Cookbooks:Monterey CA] 2001 (p. 39)
"Dinner: Mock Turtle Soup, Panned Guinea Fowls, Broiled Bacon, Potato Puff, Stewed Tomatoes, Corn, Mayonnaise of Celery, Wafers, Cheese, Marlborough Pudding Coffee."
---"New Menus For January," Mrs. S.T. Rorer, Table Talk (magazine), January 1890 (p. 4)
"Menu for New Year's Day.
Breakfast. Milk porridge, Hominy & meat croquettes, Apple johnnycake, Apricot & fig sauce, Coffee.
Dinner. Clear soup, Bread sticks, Stuffed whitefish-creamed oyster sauce, Roast venison, Currant jelly sauce, Ringed potatoes, Onion ormoloe, Walnut & watercress salad, French dressing, Cheese 'fingers,' Celery, Timbales with preserved strawberries, Hot clear sauce, Ice pudding, Glace chestnuts, Pralines, Raisins or dates (creamed), Coffee.
Late Luncheon; Sliced venison with mustard, Bread ad butter, Sponge cake, Oranges, Tea."
--The Daily News Cook Book [Chicago Daily News Co.:Chicago IL] 1896 (p. 5)
[NOTE: According to this book, Onion ormoloe is Onion Pie. Recipe appears on pps. 144-145.]
"Good resolutions & good cooking will go a great way toward lessening the miseries of this of this nation of dyspeptics. New Year's Day is a good time to make the good resolution & eat the good dinner, provided the financial standing of the dinner is equal to it or his credit is good. For one day in the year the quick lunch establishment ought to be left tight closed. If we can't enjoy a good dinner on New Year's Day, then our lot is indeed a sad one...
Oysters on Half Shell, Crean of Tapioca, Pontange Patties, Celery, Olives, Radishes, Smelts Sauteed in Brown Butter, Cucumber Salad, Lamb Chops in Papers, New Spinach, Potato Rissoles, Roast Turkey Stuffed with Chestnuts, Romaine Salad, Mince Pie, Brown Bread, Ice Cream, Coffee.
Mock Turtle Soup, Boiled Striped Bass, Hollandaise Sauce, Cucumbers, Saddle of Venison, Port Wine Sauce, Currant Jelly, Braised Celery, Sweetbreads, Mushroom Sauce, Roast Turkey Stuffed, Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Potaotes, Boiled Onions, Turnips, Beets, Squash, Pumpkin Pie, Mince Pie,, Plum Pudding, Cake, Sage cheeses, Coffee."
---"Good Resolutions & Dinner," Washington Post, December 25, 1898 (p. 16)