Colonial Cookery in North America

Food: A Cultural Culinary History—Episode 25

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With today’s podcast, we’re back in somewhat familiar territory – America! We’re going to contrast the culinary fashions of colonial Virginia which were modeled on the English gentry, with the mercantile, Puritan ethic of New England; We’ll go on to investigate the varied foodways of the Dutch settlers, the Germans, the Quakers, and even the Quebecois; We’ll conclude our culinary tour with a discussion of one of the most unique cuisines that America has produced—that of Louisiana.

Images for this Episode:

Culinary Activities for this Episode:

• A Nice Indian Pudding


Although English cookbooks had been printed in the colonies in the 18th century, the first truly American cookbook, using native ingredients, was Amelia Simmons’s American Cookery, published in Hartford in 1796. She offers three different versions of the following recipe, which by this time was very popular in New England but today is a real rarity. It is worth reviving, and each version is quite different. The last technique is by far the best and offers a simple but deep and utterly delicious flavor. As she suggests, any kind of vessel will work, as long as it is sealed tight and can be boiled. Boiling puddings in a buttered cloth tied tightly with string were also common, but they are now completely extinct in the United States. It was the original way of making “peas porridge” as well. Do account for expansion of the cornmeal, whatever vessel you use.

No. 1. 3 pints scalded milk, 7 spoons fine Indian meal, stir well together while hot, let stand till cooled; add 7 eggs, half pound of raisins, 4 ounces butter, spice and sugar, bake one and half hour.

No. 2. 3 pints scalded milk to one pint meal salted cook, add 2 eggs, 4 ounces butter, sugar or molasses and spice q. s. it will require two and half hours baking.

No. 3. Salt a pint meal, wet with one quart milk, sweeten and put into a strong cloth, brass or bell metal vessel, stone or earthen pot, secure from wet and boil 12 hours.

Suggested Reading:

Carney, Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas.

Eden, The Early American Table: Food and Society in the New World.

Haber, From Hardtack to Homefries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals.

Levenstein, Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet.

Oliver, Food in Colonial and Federal America.

Randolph, The Virginia Housewife, or Methodical Cook: A Facsimile of an Authentic Early American Cookbook.

Simmons, American Cookery.

Images courtesy of:

• Map of Colonial North America: By Cg-realms; adapted from a scan from the National Atlas of the United States. This vector image was created with Inkscape. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Craig House: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Colonial Kitchen: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Map of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607: By National Park Service: base map *Maps_template-fr.svg: Eric Gaba (Sting – fr:Sting) *derivative work: bamse (talk)*User:Morgan Riley: coloration, clean-up, legend, and arrangement [Public domain, CC BY 2.5 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
• Eliza Smith, The Complete Housewife: By Eliza Smith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery: By Scan: Contributor. Original: W.Wangford c.1777 [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
1670 Virginia tobacco slaves: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Hominy grits: Thinkstock
• Virginia Peanuts: Shutterstock
• Pocahontas: After Simon van de Passe [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Succotash: Thinkstock
• Cornbread: Thinkstock
• Hush Puppies: Shutterstock
• Pearl Ash: By No machine-readable author provided. Walkerma assumed (based on copyright claims). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Brunswick Stew: Thinkstock
• Cured Ham: Thinkstock
• Hoppin” John: Thinkstock
• Pilau: Thinkstock
ketjap manis: By Meutia Chaerani (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commo Baobab: Shutterstock
• Oysters: Shutterstock
• Green Sea Turtle: Brocken Inaglory [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
• Rum: Shutterstock
• Sour Mash Whisky: Thinkstock
• Apple Jack: By Antonio Cavallo (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth: Jennie Augusta Brownscombe [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• John Winthrop: Attributed to Anthony van Dyck [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Johnnycake: By Douglas Perkins (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
• Codfish: Thinkstock
• Lobsters: Thinkstock
• Indian Pudding: Thinkstock
• William Penn: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Bretzeln: By Arnaud 25 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
• Scrapple: By Stu Spivack (Made by author) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
• Cast Iron cook stove: Thinkstock
• Dutch Oven: Thinkstock
• Map of Philadelphia, 1796: By John Hills. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Tourtière: By Dominic Genest (Photo maison) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Sketch of Canal Street 1857: By Drawing by Mr. Kilburn, from a photo by James Andrews [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Jambalaya: Thinkstock
• etouffee: Shutterstock