Food Timeline> Colonial America & 17th/18th century France Have questions? Ask!
Colonial & early American fare
- Foods by colony
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner?---"typical" meals & dining times
- Baking:home ovens & professional bakeries
- Commercial Foods 1740-1820/Olive R. Jones, Society for Historical Archaeology
- Colonial American beverages (hot & cold)
- Food preservation & cold storage
- California mission foodways
- Candy---colonial & early America
- Children's table manners
- Colonial college dining [Princeton & Brown]
- Colonial school lunch [recreating]
- Colonial cookbooks---authentic sources
- Colonial day menus---planning your meal
- Colonial wedding celebrations---with cake notes
- Thanksgiving bills of fare
- Colonial Christmas menus
- New Year's collations
- ice cream parlors
- Military rations I, II & III (compare with British I & II & III)
- Salem, 1690---foodways notes & sources
- Slave ships & subsistence
- Taverns & coffee houses
- Bill of fare, July 4, 1776?
- The Truth About Spices, Lobsters, and Flaming Ladies, Sandy Oliver
What did the colonists eat? The answer depended upon where they came from and where they landed. The Spaniards settling in St. Augustine ate differently from the English people in Jamestown, the Dutch in New York and the French in South Carolina. Settlers brought their recipes, cooking methods and some supplies with them. They also used local foods introduced by the Native Americans. Some European recipes adapted well to these new ingredients. Meal times were different, too.
Massachusetts (Plimoth colony)
New York (New Netherlands)
What did "average" New England colonists eat during a typical day?
"Most New Englanders had a simple diet, their soil and climates allowing limited varieties of fruits and vegetables. In 1728 the Boston News Letter estimates the food needs of a middle-class 'genteel' family. Breakfast was bread an milk. Dinner consisted of pudding, followed by bread, meat, roots, pickles, vinegar, salt and cheese. Supper was the same as breakfast. Each famly also needed raisins, currants, suet, flour, eggs, cranberries, apples, and, where there were children, food for 'intermeal eatings.' Small beer was the beverage, and molasses for brewing and flavoring was needed. Butter, spices, sugar, and sweetmeats were luxuries, as were coffee, tea, chocolate, and alcoholic beverages other than beer."
---A History of Food and Drink in America, Richard J. Hooker [Bobbs-Merrill Company:Indianapolis IN] 1981(p. 67)
"English settlers in teh seventeenth century ate three meals a day, as they had in England...For most people, breakfast consisted of bread, cornmeal mush and milk, or bread and milk together, and tea. Even the gentry might eat modestly in the morning, although they could afford meat or fish...Dinner, as elsewhere in the colonies, was a midday, through the wealthy were like to do as their peers in England did, and have it midafternoon...new England's gentry had a great variety of food on te table...An everyday meal might feature only one or two meats with a pudding, tarts, and vegetables...The different betweeen the more prosperous households and more modest ones might be in the quality and quantity of the meat served...Supper was a smaller meal, often similar to breakfast: bread, cheese, mush or hasty pudding, or warmed-over meat from the noon meal. Supper among the gentry was also a sociable meal, and might have warm food, meat or shellfish, such as oysters, in season."
---Food in Colonial and Federal America, Sandra L. Oliver [Greenwood Press:Westport CT] 2005(p. 157)
[NOTE: These books provide excellent descriptions of "average" meals by heritage (Germans, Dutch, Swedes), location (town vs country) and region. The scope and variety of these meals merits further examination.]
Basic overview of representative colonial meals:
"Breakfast. The Colonial American breakfast was far from the juice, eggs and bacon of today. The stoic early settlers rose early and went straight to the chores that demanded their attention. In frontier outposts and on farms, families drank cider or beer and gulped down a bowl of porridge that had been cooking slowly all night over the embers...In the towns, the usual mug of alcoholic beverage consumed upon rising was followed by cornmeal mush and molasses with more cider or beer. By the nineteenth century, breakfast was served as late a 9 or 10 o'clock. Here might be found coffee, tea or chocolate, wafers, muffins, toasts, and a butter dish and knife...The southern poor ate cold turkey washed down with ever-present cider. The size of breakfasts grew in direct proportion to growth of wealth. Breads, cold meats and, especially in the Northeast, fruit pies and pasties joined the breakfast menus. Families in the Middle Colonies added special items such as scrapple (cornmeal and headcheese) and dutch sweetcakes wich were fried in deep fat. It was among the Southern planters that breakfast became a leisurely and delightful meal, though it was not served until early chores were attended to and orders for the day given...Breads were eaten at all times of the day but particularly at breakfast."
---A Cooking Legacy, Virginia T. Elverson and Mary Ann McLanahan [Walker & Company:New York] 1975 (p. 14)
"Dinner. Early afternoon was the appointed hour for dinner in Colonial America. Throughout the seventeenth century and well into the eighteenth century it was served in the "hall" or "common room." ..While dinner among the affluent merchants in the North took place shortly after noon, the Southern planters enjoyed their dinner as late as bubbling stews were carried into the fields to feed the slaves and laborers...In the early settlements, poor families ate from trenchers filled from a common stew pot, with a bowl of coars salt the only table adornment. The earliest trenchers in America, as in the Middle Ages, were probably made from slabs of stale bread which were either eaten with the meal or thrown after use to the domestic animals. The stews often included pork, sweet corn and cabbage, or other vegetables and roots which were available...A typical comfortably fixed family in the late 1700s probably served two courses for dinner. The first course included several meats plus meat puddings and/or deep meat pies containing fruits and spices, pancakes and fritters, and the ever-present side dishes of sauces, pickles and catsups...Soups seem to have been served before of in conjunction with the first course. Desserts appeared with the second course. An assortment of fresh, cooked, or dried fruits, custards, tarts and sweetmeats was usually available. "Sallats," (salads) though more popular at supper, sometimes were served at dinner and occasionally provided decoration in the center of the table...Cakes were of many varieties: pound, gingerbread, spice and cheese."
---A Cooking Legacy (p. 24-28)
"Supper. What is there to say about a meal that probably did not even exist for many settlers during the eary days of the Colonies and later seemed more like a bedtime snack made up of leftovers?...In the eighteenth century supper was a brief meal and, especially in the South, light and late. It generally consisted of leftovers from dinner, or of gruel (a mixture made from boiling water with oats, "Indian," (corn meal) or some other meal). One Massachusetts diary of 1797 describes roast potatoes, prepared with salt but no butter. Ale, cider, or some variety of beer was always served. In the richer merchant society and in Southern plantation life, eggs and egg dishes were special delicacies and were prepared as side dishes at either dinner or supper...Supper took on added importance as the nineteeth century wore on. This heretofore casual meal became more important as dinner was served earlier in the day."
---A Cooking Legacy (p. 79-81)
[NOTE: This book as far more information than can be paraphrased. Ask your librarian to help you find a copy.]
We also recommend Hung, Strung, & Potted: A History of Eating Habits in Colonial America, Sally Smith Booth.
How did the colonial American housewife bake her bread & cakes?
"The home brick oven--whether adjacent to the hearth in the kitchen or a separate structure outside--was designed and used exclusively for bread, cake, and pastry. If the niceties of regulating several fires on the hearth at one time challenged the skill of the cook, even more difficult was the proper regulation of the oven. One built a fire directly in it for the purpose of heating the walls, which had to hold enough heat long enough to complete that particular baking load. Since the oven had no flue, the fire smothered if the door was closed, therefore, the door was left partly open to supply oxygen for the fire and to allow the smoke to escape. The open door also allowed the cook to watch the fire. For even heat she stirred it periodically and pushed it about to different spots on the oven floor. When the fuel had burned to ashy coals, she raked them out and then tested the heat with her hand. If the oven was too hot, she allowed it to cool to the proper temperature; if it was not hot enough, she had to repeat the heating procedure with another fire. Using an oven peel to protect her hands, she put in the bread, which had been kneaded earlier and set to rise so as to be ready to bake when the oven was ready, and closed the door, not to open it again until she judged the bread done. small loaves could be baked directly on the bricks without scorching the bottom crusts. Large loaves or a very hot oven floor dictated the use of bread pans, as did cakes and pies of all sorts."
---Colonial Virginia Cookery: Procedures, Equipment, and Ingredients in Colonial Cooking, Jane Carson [Colonial Williamsburg Foundation:Williamsburg VA] 1985 (p. 71)
"Baking in the beehive oven has traditionally been an all-day task. Once one has done it, it is easily understood why colonial cooks only did one major baking each week. On baking day the family meal would most likely be a simple stew or cold meats and pies. The cook rose before dawn to set her dough and start the fire in the oven, and it would be nightfall before the products of her efforts would be finished and ready to grace the cupboard shelves. The procedure was time consuming but not complicated. The oven floor was, or should have been, swept clean with the long-handled hearth broom kept for this purpose. A small fire was started on the oven floor using the same principles used in starting a fire on the hearth. As the fire took hold, larger and larger pieces of wood were added to the oven. The oven door was closed between each addition of wood. After the largest logs were added to the oven, the door was closed and the fire allowed to burn to ashes. This process took anywhere from three to five hours, depending on the type of wood being used, the construction of the oven, and the efficiency of its draft system.
"When the fire had burned to ashes, the iron peel or a fire-shovel was used to remove any of the larger pieces of charred wood,. The hearth broom was dipped in water to keep it from catching fire, and the rest of the ashes were swept out of the oven. In a beehive oven with a built-n ash chute, the ashes could be pushed right down onto the hearth. There were many methods used by colonial cooks to test the readiness of the oven for baking. They might hold their arms just inside the oven opening and see how high they could count--less than five, too hot--more than fifteen, not hot enough. Sometimes the cook tossed cornmeal onto the oven floor. If it turned black immediately, the oven was too hot; if it turned a nice, even brown, then the oven was ready. Having determined that the oven was ready for baking, the items to be baked were placed into the various parts of the oven, dense breads in the middle, and light breads or cakes toward the front. This permitted easy removal when their cooking time was done done. The door was sealed and the food left to bake in the heat retained in these brick ovens.
"One essential piece of equipment for handling baked goods was the peel, a long-handled, shovel-like tool that permitted the cook safely to put breads and baked dishes into the heated oven and remove them once baked. Peels were either made of wood (similar to those used today by pizza bakers) or of sheet iron. When bread was to be baked without a pan, rightr on the oven floor, the dough was placed on the flat wide face of the peel and, with a twisting motion of the wrist by the cook, was turned off the peel onto the oven floor." ---Pleasures of Colonial Cooking, prepared by the Miller-Cory House Museum [New Jersey Historical Society:Newark NJ] 1982 (p. 14-16)
About bread & cake pans.
Researching colonial-era commercial bakeries?
Colonial era commercial bakeries
Accurate, historic information on the the Colonial American commercial bakery trade is indeed difficult to source. Those of us today visiting living history museums are treated to a "romanticized" version of this particular trade. Sparkling clean shops in the village center offering a wide variety smartly displayed fresh-baked cookies, cakes, pies & breads were not necessarily the early American norm. Historians observe:
"The..characteristics of colonial baking--public and private production, low socioeconomic status and product value, and an immigrant industry---make the profession a difficult topic for historians to study in a systematic and comparative way."
---Revolutionary Economies, Thomas W. Cuddy [AltaMira Press:Lanham MD] 2008 (p.33)
Which means? If you're doing a report on Colonial American bakers, you have quite a challanging assignment! Let's begin with notes on 18th century English bakeries. Our earliest commercial bakers borrowed heavily from these traditions. People cook what (& how) they know.
About 18th century English bakeshops
"...the baker's day was a very long one, his work exacting. Although his bread was probably worth ten times--in terms of flavour and the enjoyement it provided--today's equivalent, his profits were small. 'There was no place quite so welcome on a cold say as the bakehouse; it was always warm and cosy in there. Local people often stopped during a shower to take refuge in the stables which opened right on to the main road; but if it was really cold weather, many of those who would claim any sort of acquaintance with Fater, turned off the road and went into the bakehouse to enjoy the warmth and have a chat before continuing their journey. The bakehouse was a low, square building with a window looking straight out on to the river. The oven stood nearly opposite the door of the bakehouse A stout iron door closed its mouth and inside was a deep and low cavern paved with flat stones. It was heated chiefly with faggots of furze cut on the downs and kept in stack on the spare ground between the mill and the river. The next best fuel to gorse and thorn, plenty of which could be obtained when the big hedges in the meadows were being cut. Most of this fuel could be bought very chaply, as it was useless for general household purposes...When faggots had burnt themselves out, the door of the oven was ooened and any embers that remained were raked out by means of a long-handled tool, curved at the end into a half circle. These embers were thrown into a recess at floor level below and slightly to one side of the oven. Sufficently heat remained in them to stew things slowly and frequesntly an iron pot filled with small potatoes stood over them. A second implement was used to clear out the small embers still remaining in the oven and to cool the floor slightly. This consisted of a long pole to which was attached a short length of chain and a piece of sacking. The sacking was spilled in water and then pushed and turned about over the floor of the oven until every glowing cinder had been "douted" and swept out. The oven was now ready to receive the batch of loaves. The dough had been made and put to rise first thing in the morning. On three sides of the bakehouse were long wooden bins raised on short legs from the floor. One of these contained cake tins and other sundries, another contained flour, and the third was used as a receptable for the dough whilst it was rising. When removed from the bin, the dough was placed on the lid of the next bin and kneaded by an action of the ...As the kneading proceeded, lumps of dough were torn off and flung upon the scales, and it was surprising how frequesntly an experienced man could remove exactly the amount to make a loaf. This lump was again torn apart, the largest portion remaining under the left hand. After further kneading, the smaller right hand portion was put on top of the larger left hand lump and a final dig given with the knuckles to produce the depression always found in the centre of the top of a cottage loaf. Loaves were made in two sizes...loaved baked in tins came into fashion considerably later. The loaves were introduced into the oven by means of long-handled wooden spades known as peels, and were removed by the same means. The peels and rakes, when not in use, rested on an iron framework suspended from the roof of the bakehouse."
---English Bread & Yeast Cookery, Elizabeth David, American Edition with notes by Karen Hess [Penguin:New York] 1980 (p. 181-2)
"While the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw an expanding baking industry in terms of numbers, there was still little progress in technique. Methods and equipment were still essentially the same as those which had been in use since the Middle Ages. Baking remained an art and was still far from being a science. Fear of competiton led the trade guilds to resist the introduction of new methods. But the more enterprising bakers began to branched out; bakehouses were enlarged to serve a number of shops. Capital, some of it provided by the increaslingly prosperous millers, began to flow into the trade. The country baker's work was hard and his hours long...Work in a country bakery usually started at 5 a.m., or earlier with the firing of the oven. The next job was to make up the dough to add to the sponge which had been left overnight to ferment. The dough was allowed to rest or about half-an-hour and during this time, rusk biscuits were made and there was a break for tea. When it was ready the dough was scaled off, moulded and left to prove. The ashes were raked out of the oven and the baking chamber cleaned with a scuffle soaked in water. If the oven was too hot it could be cooled by an extra damping of the scuffle. A batch of loaves were set on the sole of the oven...and left to bake for an hour. While the bread baked one man fed, watered and cleaned the horses...When the first batch of bread was ready, it was drawn from the oven on long peels and left to cool. The oven was stoked up again with three or four faggots and then made ready to take further batches of bread or, on certain days of the week, biscuits, buns and doughcakes. By now the loaves had been loaded into carts or vans and sent out on the rounds. Meanwhile work went on in the bakehouse. When the day's baking had finished, preparations were made for the evening work. There was flour to be brought from the loft and put in the trough...The yeast was dissolved in warm water...A slack dough was made with a portion of the flour in teh trough, and this dough, called the sponge or ferment, was left overnight. Then, early the next morning, it all started again. The rewards for the village baker were never generous, although he was often able to supplement his income by keeping a few pigs and hens..."
---The Story of Bread, Ronald Sheppard & Edward Newton [Charles T. Branford:Boston MA] 1957 (p. 33-35)
About commercial baking in the American colonies
"Baking was a part of the European heritage brought by the colonists to North America. But unlike their old homeland, the New World was a sparsely settled pioneer area which offered very few opportunities for commercial baking. It was not until the emergence of city and town that professional bakers...became firmly established in America. As towns grew in size and number and as frontier moved westward, commercial bakeries multiplied accordingly. But as in Europe, the techniques of baking underwent no significant change...Within a few decades of the founding of Jamestown, Plymouth, and New York, several commercial bakeries sprang up in the colonies, as early as 1640 in Plymouth and 1645 in New York. Other early settlements...were supporting professional bakers by the end of the century. At that time, their number was small...Indeed, in 1776 New York bakeries numbered only twelve compared to seven for the year 1700. The colonial baking trade differed little from its European prototype. Among the several similarities were local bread laws regulating the size, price and quality of bakers' bread. In 1640...the Massachusetts Bay authorities formulated an assize of bread. It was ordered 'that no bread shall be made finer than to affoard at 12 ounces the two penny white loafe...' Compliance was assured by a regulation requiring each loaf to carry the trademark of its maker."
--- Baking in America: Economic Development, William G. Panschar, Volume 1 [Northwestern University Press:Evanston IL] 1956 (p. 25-27)
The first commercial bakeshops
"The bake houses and other workshops were located in marginal urban spaces, like waterfront warehouses. Additionally, they were usually near other workshops like grain mills and breweries that utilized the same basic raw materials as the bakers...They were often considered a nuisance by the public...An early American bakery would have been an open building, perhaps divided into two rooms. The walls would have been lined with kneading trough, kneading boards, and other implements...Brick ovens were usually at waist height, built on a supporting architectural arch that fed up into the chimney...The actual oven itself would also be arched."
---Revolutionary Economies (p. 30)
Colonial American bakeries employed the same methods, technologies and practices as their Old World counterparts. One difference? Heating fuel. Bakers, like other trades, learned their skill through apprenticeship. Young boys working as apprentices (or sons of the owners) worked long, hard hours. If they completed their learning, they became master bakers. These new master bakers often bought their own shops and, in turn, trained a new generation of apprentices.
"Like the bread trade in Europe, colonial baking was still the difficult century-old handicraft operation. The baker worked from sunrise to sunset, mixing and fashioning the dough, firing the huge brick ovens, and baking by it searing heat. Quality was a test of his skill and his experience alone. In general most bakers lived up to both, turning out a remarkably good loaf of bread... The baker sold his wares in a shop in front of his bakeroom. The earliest colonial bakers...were custom bakers, baking only to order. As the colonial period drew to a close, an increasing number of bakers began to produce for the market rather than on order. The colonial housewife was no less a baker than the craftsmen of the bakeshops. Indeed, it was generally accepted that the homemade loaf was superior to anything that the baker could turn out. Although on a smaller scale, the housewife's equipment and methods were not unlike those of the commercial baker."
---Baking in America (p. 28)
"Baking was hot and hard work in colonial Chesapeake town, especially in the summer. The baker's workday started very early in the morning, and the bakers had to be willing to endure the hardships of the trade...Bakers occupied an interesting social and economic position in relation to urban cultural development. Baking was a journeyman trade, learned through apprenticeships but relatively undistinguished in terms of skill...Baking was never highly profitable. It could only flourish as a business in urban areas with a resident consumer base as well as ships to supply. The bakers themselves often straddled socioceonomic lines, being working craftsmen, selling to wealthier constituency...In addition to the hard work, there were social stigmas with baking also. Bakers were accustomed to criticisms...with the two most important being that bakeries were dangerous fire hazards and that bakers engaged in price-fixing. Poorer people always thought the baker cheated them, and any rise in prices or lack of bread was always blamed on the bakers and millers and seldom on the condition or cost of the grain crops ."
---Revolutionary Economies, Thomas W. Cuddy [AltaMira Press:Lanham MD] 2008 (p.29, 31)
What was baked?
"The traditional white loaf was not the only bread made in colonial homes. One long-time favorite, especially in the North, was a brown bread, and Indian bread commonly referred to as 'rye and Injun.' Corn pone and johnny cake were also popular items. In the South there was a strong preference for hot breads, hot biscuits, and corn breads. Hard breads, known first as pilot or ships' bread and later as hardtack, appeared in the colonial period...Unlike ordinary bread, it could be kept for a prolonged period without growing stale...The development of ships' bread baking was closely associated with the flourishing export trade in grain and flour which began in the middle of the 17th century...The trade became so marked during the next fifty to seventy-five years that the middle colonies were commonly referred to as the 'bread Colonies.'...The forerunner of the modern biscuit and cracker industry, the baking of ships' bread was a distinct and separate segment of the baking trade."
---Baking in America (p. 29-30)
How much did they charge?
"As in Europe, the price of bread was usually kept constant and the weight of each loaf varied with the price of grain...New Haven in 1650 directed that when wheat was six and one-half shillings a bushel, the one-penny white loaf should weigh six ounces...Unfortunately for the bakers, these town regulations were not offset, as they were in Europe, by a guild monopoly ...Throughout the colonial period the baking trade continued to be regulated, although the bread laws became less severe both in scope and impact as the 18th century drew to a close..."
---Baking in America (p. 27)
Colonal food preservation & cold storage
How did people in colonial times keep food cold? Excellent question! As we know, folks in 17th-18th century Canada/North America did not have ready access to the power-generated refrigerators we know today. Wealthy people sometimes had underground cellars packed with ice and straw, offering "natural" cooling space. Most folks in your target period still relied on ancient preservation methods which were not temperature-dependent. In sum? Drying, dehydrating, canning & salting.
How were the foods we normally refrigerate today stored in colonial times? Depends upon the item:
- Beans ...salted, pickled & dried
- Beverages ...stored in cellars or in the coolest part of the house (beer, ale, wine, cider)
- Butter ...coated with salt (a preservative) and soaked/desalted before using.
- Ice cream ...not stored; consumed immediately!
- Meat & fish ...salted (bacon), canned (corned beef), potted (pate), or dried (pemmican)
- Milk ...converted into cheese & coated with thick waxy protection
ABOUT FOOD PRESERVATION
Food historians generally agree that food preservation, like cooking, was probably "accidentally discovered" by prehistoric peoples. Early methods varied according to region. In the arctic regions meat was frozen, in the arid, southern parts of the Mediterranean, meat and fruits were dried. In places where there were large sodium deposits...it was salted. Smoking (often in combination with salting) was an effective way to preserve meat against the elements in the northern climes. Pickling (preserving in brine) and canning were regularly employed in pre-industrial times. The discovery of pasteurization (Louis Pasteur) ushered in the modern era of food preservation. 20th century methods include freezing, freeze drying, vacuum packing, dehydrating and chemical additives.
FOOD PRESERVATION IN COLONIAL/EARLY AMERICA
Colonial Americans employed a variety of effective food preservation techniques, many of them dating back to ancient times. Salting, smoking and potting were most often used for meats; pickling, drying, and cold (basement/root cellar) storage for eggs, vegetables, and fruits. Straw was recognized as a good insulator and was frequently used to protect delicate foods from extreme temperatures.
"With refrigeration and [commercial] canning yet unknown, the colonial housewife depended upon other expedients to keep her food supplies edible. Meat, the most important element in the Virginia diet, posed special problems because it spoiled quickly in the warm climate. The practice of preserving it with salt was so universal that guests in private homes and public taverns found salted meat on the menu at nearly every meal. One of Rochambeau's officers, for example, observed that Virginians ate a great deal of it because "the summer heat here restricts them to this dies, for fresh-killed meat must be consumed within twenty-four hours or else it will spoil." Hogs, which furnished "the principal food" of the inhabitants, were never slaughtered in summer, and pork was seldom eaten fresh. "The people here have a special way of curing them that consists of salting and smoking them" he explained, "almost as we do in France; however, ours cannot touch theirs for flavor and quality."
---Colonial Virginia Cookery, Jane Carson, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation [Williamsburg VA] 1985 (p. 113)
ABOUT COLD STORAGE
"Most homes needed a cool place to store root vegetables, fruits, pickles, dairy products, and barrels of salted meat, cider, beer, or wine, and, in cold seasons, fresh meat for short periods of time. House cellars or smaller underground spaces served these needs. Archaeological digs on sites of slave dwellings have uncovered pits in cabin floors that are interpreted as food storage places. Some households stored food for a short time in a spring or well, in containers set into the cold water or in the cooled air near it. Only the very wealthy built and maintained icehouses or dedicated large sections of cellars to wine storage. Households engaged in dairying and making cheese and butter needed ample cool storage for milk and cream. If only enough for family use was required, a room on the north side of a house or in a cellar or small springhouse might suffice, but larger operations might need a separate building equipped with many shelves to hold milk pans."
---Food in Colonial and Federal America, Sanra L. Oliver [Greenwood Press:CT] 2005 (p. 96)
About ice ice & ice houses
Mary Randolph's Virginia Housewife [1825 edition] contained these drawings and notes for constructing a referigerator: (link is at the bottom of the page).
Susannah Carter's Frugal Housewife offers instructions for potting & collaring
Mary Randolph's Virginia Housewife  offers instructions for curing bacon
How did Colonial housewives store their beans?
Our primary sources indicate there were three primary methods for storing (aka preserving) beans in Colonial America: dry salting, pickling & drying. Notes below:
"To keep French Beans all the Year. Take young beans, gathered on a dry day, have a large stone jar ready, lay a layer of salt at the bottom, then a layer of beans, then salt and then beans, and so on till the jar is full; cover them with salt, and tie a coarse cloth over them, and a board on that, and then a weight to keep it close from all air; set them in a dry cellar, and when you use them, take some out and cover them close again; wash those you take out very clean, and let them lie in soft water twenty-four hours, shifting the water often; when you boil them do not put any salt in the water."
---Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter 
"Lima, or Sugar Beans... These beans are easily preserved for winter use, and will be nearly as good as fresh ones. Gather them on a dry day, when full grown, but quite young: have a clean and dry keg, sprinkle some salt in the bottom, put in a layer of pods, containing the beans, then a little salt--do this till the keg is full; lay a board on with a weight, to press them down; cover the keg very close, and keep it in a dry, cool place--they should be put up as late in the season, as they can be with convenience. When used, the pods must be washed, and laid in fresh water all night; shell them next day, and keep them in water till you are going to boil them; when tender, serve them up with melted butter in a boat. French beans (snaps) may be preserved in the same manner."
---The Virginia Housewife: Or, Methodical Cook, Mrs. Mary Randolph [1824, 1838]
"To Pickle Kidney Beans. Take the beans & string them very well, then lay them in elegar with a good handfull of salt & let they ly covered over in ellegar [malt vinegar] or vinnegar 10 dayes. then tak them out & set a kettle of water on the fire & make it scallding hot. then put in the beans, covering them close with a clean course cloth & when you disserne them to be greene & tender, take them up & when they be cold, pickle them in white wine vinnegar & salt, laying a clean course ragg upon the pickle which will keepe them from caneing. & wash the clothe when it canes, and salt & water; & if you carefully take you the cloth all the canes will stick to it."
---Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery, circa 1749-1799, transcribed by Karen Hess [Columbia University Press:New York] 1981 (p. 166) [NOTE: Food historian Karen Hess added these notes: "All of the many pickle recipes in our manuscript represent ancient ways of preserving vegetables againt time of need as well as brightening winter menus, which could bet monotonous after a few months. Some of the nutrients must have leached into the picle, but I belive that the liquor was used in cooking as a seasoning." (p. 166).]
"To Keep Green Beans for Winter. Boil salt and water to make a strong pickle; string the beans, and put them in a tight wooden firkin; sprinkle them with salt as they go in; when the pickle is cold, pour it on, and put on a weight to keep the beans under; they will keep in the cellar till the next spring. They should soak several hours in cold water before they are boiled."
"Lima Beans...Dried lima beans should be soaked over night, and boiled two hours or longer, if they are not soft."
--- Domestic Cookery
[NOTE: we do not find instructions for drying lima (or any other) beans in our early American cookbooks. This quote might explain why: "The bags of dried peas, beans, and fruit sometimes entered in Virvinia inventories suggest a limited use of the Indian method of drying them in the sun. Like jerked meat...dried fruits and legumes were more common in the upcountry than in the humid Tidewarter [Virginia Shore/Chesapeake Bay area]."---Colonial Virginia Cookery, Jane Carson [Colonial Williamsburg Foundation:Williamsburg VA] 1985 (p. 120)
Recommended reading: Pickled, Potted, Canned/Sue Shepard
How were Colonial American children expected to act at the dinner table?
The rules were very different from today. Colonial families were not child-centric. What is interesting? Is the concept of the "children's table." This practice likely descends from wealthier English families who engaged nannies. Today some American families still practice the "children's table" for major holiday meals. Then, as today, this practical seating solution was a relief to young and old alike.
"Among early printed English books are many containing rules of courtesy and behavior...Among these are: The Babees Book; The Lytill Children's Lytil Boke; The Boke of Nurture, 1577; The boke of Curtasye, 1460; The Schole of Vertue, 1557. From those days till the present, similar books have been written and printed, and form a history of domestic manners. It certainly conveys an idea of the demeanor of children in colonial days to read what was enjoined upon them in a little book of etiquette which was apparently widely circulated, and doubtless carefully read. Instructions as to behavior at the table run thus:--'Never sit down at the table till asked, and after the blessing. Ask for nothing; tarry till it be offered thee. Speak not. Bite not thy bread but break it. Take salt only with a clean knife. Dip not the meat in the same. Hold not thy knife upright but sloping, and lay it down at right hand of plate with blade on plate. Look not earnestly at any other that is eating. When moderately satisfied leave the table. Sing not, hum not, wriggle not. Spit no where in the room but in the corner...'...It is evident that the...child was prone to eat as did Dr. Samuel Johnson, hotly, avidly, with strange loud eager champings; he enjoined to more moderation:--'Eat not too fast nor the Greedy Behavior. Eat not vastly but moderately. Make not a noise with thy Tongue, Mouth, Lips, or Breath in Thy Eating and Drinking. Smell not of thy Meat; nor put it to Thy Nose; turn it not the other side upward on Thy Plate.' In many households in the new world children could not be seated at the table, even after the blessing had been asked. They stood through the entire meal. Sometimes they had a standing place and a plate or trencher; at other boards they stood behind the grown folk and took whatever food was handed to them. This must have been in families of low social transition and meagre house furnishings. In many homes they sat or stood at a side-table, and trencher in hand, ran over to the great table for their supplies. A certain formality existed at the table of more fashionable folk. Children were given a few drops of wine in which to drink the health of their elders. In one family the formula was, 'Health to papa and mama, health to brothers and sisters, health to all my friends.' In another, the father's health only was named. Sometimes in the presence of grandparents at the table was the only occasion when children joined in health-drinking."
---Child Life in Colonial Days, Alice Morse Earle [Macmillan Company:New York] 1956 (p. 214-217)
Colonial era cookbooks
Food historians generally agree Amelia Simmons American Cookery, published in Hartford CT, 1796 is the first "American" coobook. Why? It was the first cookbook to include indigenous ingredients, most notably corn meal. The first cookbook printed in the American Colonies was E. Smith's The Compleat Housewife published by William Parks, Williamsburg VA, 1742. Like most of the other cookbooks used in colonial America it was a reprint of a European cooking texts. colonists used cookbooks published in their native countries. English cooks would have had books written by Hannah Glasse, John Farley, John Murrell, and E. Smith. If you want authentic texts start here:
- 1615, New Booke of Cookerie, John Murrell
- 1798, American Cookery, Amelia Simmons (Hartford, CT)
- 1803, Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter (New York, NY)
- 1807, A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Eliza Rundell (Boston, MA)
- 1808, New England Cookery, Lucy Emerson (Montpelier, VT)
Need to plan a Colonial Meal?
There are three kinds of colonial/early American fare: the real thing (hearth cookery, original/fresh ingredients), modernized recipes adapted for today's kitchens (grocery store ingredients cooked in your kitchen), and contemporary interpretations served in fine 18th century-style eating establishments (Philadelphia's City Tavern, Colonial Williamsburg, et al.).
Preparing a colonial meal is a very doable project. Where to begin? Think about:
Your guests...what do they expect?
...If you are a wedding planner go for the gourmet; if you are catering a historic event balance authentic fare with contemporary expectations; if you are creating a foodways program go authentic; if you are a teacher on a limited budget make sure your students know the difference between what you/they are serving and the original recipe (ingredients, cooking methods, etc.)
Your resources...money, equipment & supplies
...Can you recreate hearth cookery? If you are working with limited resources that's okay. Modernized recipes abound.
The place & people...in all times, people eat different things in different places according to their cultural heritage and economic status
...Are you trying to recreate a meal from a Boston Publik House? New England whaling vessel? New Netherlands (Hudson River Valley)? Philadelphia tavern? Virginia gentlemen's home? Gulla Island? Charleston plantation? Slaves quarters?
The season & the occasion...ingredient availability & traditional foods
...In the 18th century, seasons dictated food availability; social customs required certain foods to mark special occasions.
How was the cooking done?
Colonial Virginia Cookery, Jane Carson
---excellent introduction to (and explanation of) colonial recipes and cooking methods.
- The Virginia House-Wife, Mary Randolph, with historical notes and commentaries by Karen Hess [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia] 1984. This repinted 1824 cookbook from provides authentic recipes. Ms. Hess' notes provide valuable insight into the ingredients and cooking methods employed at that time.
- Pleasures of Colonial Cooking, New Jersey Historical Society
- Hung, Strung, & Potted, Sally Smith Booth, "Cooking in the Home."
Planning a Colonial Day? Food ideas & sample menus!
- Colonial Williamsburg menu
- Recipes from Cape May, NJ
The American History Cookbook, Mark H. Zanger
---recipes with history notes
A Cooking Legacy: Over 200 Recipes Inspired by Early American Cooks, Virginia T. Elverson and Mary Ann McLanaham
---popular recipes grouped by meal (breakfast, dinner, supper, entertainment) for modern kitchens
Food From Our Founding Fathers, Helen Newbury Burke
---popular recipes from five colonial seaports
- 1777, this is what the American soldiers were eating during the Revolution.
If you need something simple to make for class we suggest:
- pound cake
- cornbread (or related items...spoonbread, corn pudding, hoe cakes).
- jumbles & sugar cakes
- apple pie (or pumpkin pie)
- cranberries (sauce, muffins, tarts)
- salmagundi (salad!)
- CAUTION!!! Snickerdoodles, Joe Froggers & Hermits are generally touted as popular colonial cookies. The recipes are period-inspired, the cookie names are not.
"CONTEMPORARY" 18TH CENTURY FARE
The art of reconciling authentic colonial fare with contemporary tastes is a complicated task. Understandably, few chefs choose to undertake this particular challenge. Those who have (and have done it well) are to be commended for their historic dedication, personal insight, and professional creativity. This is no mean feat. "A [real] taste of history" (even if the food is made in contemporary kitchens with modern ingredients) introduces modern diners to meals of times past. History notes and anecdotes enhance the experience. Some exemplary restaurants:
City Tavern Cookbook: 200 Years of Classic Recipes from America's First Gourmet Restaurant, Walter Staib
---Philadelphia-style recipes (About City Tavern, includes contemporary menus)
The Willamsburg Cookbook, Letha Booth (many editions, any will do)
---colonial Virginia cookery (About Colonial Williamsburg, includes selected recipes).
- America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking/Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald
- Colonial Kitchens, Their Furnishings, and Their Gardens/Frances Phipps
- Early American Beverages/John Hull Brown
- Early American Herb Recipes/Alice Cooke Brown
- Food in Colonial and Federal America/Sandra L. Oliver
- Home Life in Colonial Days/Alice Morse Earle (Chapter VII: Meat and Drink)
- A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America/James E. McWilliams
The recipes used by cooks in Salem, MA in the 1690s were based primarily on popular English cookbooks of the day: Robert May's  and Gervase Markham's English Huswife . Soups, stews, fresh roasts, preserved meats (bacon, ham, salt pork) salads, breads/biscuits, puddings/pies (sweet and savory), cakes/cookies were all common items. Fruits and vegetables were served fresh or preserved (dried, pickled).
The ingredients used by Salem cooks in the 1690s would have been a combination of "new world" foods (corn, clams, squash, beans, cranberries, potatoes), local fare (mollusks, fish, wild game, fowl/birds, domesticated hogs, apples, nuts, berries, onions, cheese, eggs) and imported goods (tea, coffee, sugar, rum, citrus fruits, spices & flavorings etc.)
General notes on colonial American fare
What was known as Salem Village in the 17th century is now known as Danvers, MA.
1. You will find a brief overview of the food eaten at this time/in this place and a few sample recipes in this book: Recipes from America's Restored Villages, Jean Anderson (pages 11-20) The Pioneers' Village and Salem, Massachusetts. These pages contain general food notes and recipes for chicken pie (original & modernized), lamb carbonnade, and Salem suet pudding. It also references a book published in 1910 by the Esther C. Mack Industrial School entitled What Salem Dames Cooked, which is described as containing popular local recipes from the 17th-18th centuries.
2. Check the food information uploaded by Plimoth Plantation (same basic period and too not far from Salem). Modernized recipes are included.
Pilgrim Thanksgiving dinner.
WANT TO MAKE A SALEM 1690 COOKBOOK?
Food historians tell us the first colonial/American cookbooks were not published until the late 18th century. 17th century Salem, MA/Puritan cooks would have been using (if they used at all) English cookbooks. The recipes would have been quite similar to what was prepared and eaten during Shakespeare's time.
These cookbooks were either printed and leather-bound (if you were rich) or handwritten manuscripts (these traditional wedding gifts passed on family recipes). The first New England cooks often substituted local ingredients (such as cornmeal, squash, cranberries) for ingredients listed in their English cook books. This was because some of the ingredients were non-existant or very expesive. Wheat flour and apples are two examples. If you want to be totally accurate, don't print these "new world" foods in your cookbook---enter them as handwritten notes.
Can I see some old cookbooks to learn which recipes were included and how they were worded?
Yes! Two key 17th century English cookbooks have been recently reprinted. Your librarian can help you get them:
- English Huswife/Gervase Markham
-  Accomplisht Cook/Robert May
Colonial wedding feast
According to the history books colonial wedding feasts were fabulous affairs, often lasting two or more days, depending upon family wealth & custom. Most colonial weddings & wedding feasts were held at home. Families served their guests the most expensive foods in the largest quantity in the best manner they could afford--not unlike today!. Church weddings, restaurant/hall/club receptions & traditional wedding cakes (the multi-tiered white on white cake we now eat) are Victorian customs.
Before you can recreate an authentic colonial wedding feast you need to decide a few things:
1. Where is your wedding?--Charleston? Williamsburg? Baltimore? Boston?
---people in different colonies had different culinary traditions/favourite foods
2. How rich is the bride's family? Wealthy merchant? Subsistence farmer?
---people traditionally spent as much as they could for weddings, just as they do now
3. What season is it?--fall was popular wedding time in agrarian societies (after the harvest)
---fresh fruit/vegetables had short life-spans in pre-electric days
One of the the best sources for leaning about colonial-era foods The Virginia House-Wife, Mary Randolph, with historical notes and commentaries by Karen Hess [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia] 1984. This repinted 1824 cookbook from provides authentic recipes. Ms. Hess' notes provide valuable insight into the ingredients and cooking methods employed at that time.
There are plenty of books that will help you recreate colonial recipes in your own kitchen. Ask your librarian to help you find these:
Colonial Virginia Cookery, Jane Carson
---excellent introduction and explantion of colonial recipes and cooking methods
A Cooking Legacy: Over 200 Recipes Inspired by Early American Cookis, Virginia T. Elverson and mary Ann McLanaham
---popular recipes grouped by meal (breakfast, dinner, supper, entertainment) for modern kitchens
Food From Our Founding Fathers, Helen Newbury Burke
---popular recipes from five colonial seaports
The Willamsburg Cookbook, Letha Booth (many editions, any will do)
---colonial Virginia cookery
If you can't get to the books you can use the colonial/early American recipes linked from the Food Timeline .
About colonial wedding cake:
Wedding cakes served in America from Colonial times to the mid-19th century were thick, rich spice cakes that included alcohol, dried fruit and nuts. They were more like Christmas fruitcakes than the light, fluffy cakes we are now used to. If you plan to make one of these PLEASE! Two things. First, omit the alcohol. Second, ask your teacher about the nuts. Some people are very allergic to nuts. If there is any question about using nuts, DON'T add them. Colonial cooks constantly adapted recipes to suit their guests, so you will be following in their spirit.
Also, be forewarned...most of these recipes are intended to serve large numbers of people and are somewhat vague about cooking instructions. You might want to ask your school's cafeteria supervisor for help on the practical side (cooking terms, baking instructions). If you only plan to serve your class, consider cutting the recipe to 25%.
1 1/2 pounds butter
1 1/2 pounds sugar
1 1/2 pounds flour
1 tablespoon ground mace
1 cup black molasses
1 cup coffee
1 tablespoon rose extract
2 pounds raisins
3 pounds currants
1 pound chopped almonds
1 pound citron, cut fine
Prepare the fruit and nuts, and dredge with part of the flour. Cream the butter and sugar together and add the well-beaten eggs. Mix and sift the flour and spices and add to the egg mixture. Add the fruit and liquids by degrees. Line a large baking pan with wax paper, greasing the pan well and then greasing the paper. Turn in the cake mixture and bake in a preheated slow over (250 degrees) for about 3 hours. Frost with white boiled icing. Makes about 12 pounds of cake."
---Foods From Our Founding Fathers, Helen Newbury Burke, (p. 238)
Boiled icing is usually a simple concoction of water and confectioner's sugar. Thickness depends upon your proportions. You can also make the icing this way:
3 egg whites
1 cup powdered granulated sugar (not superfine)
Beat egg whites. Add sugar, beating until smooth and white. Spread icing over slightly warm cake. It will harden very slowly.
Looking for some original recipes? Here are some wedding cakes (sometimes called rich cake) from historic cookbooks:
"To Make a Rich Cake
Take four Pound of Flower well dried and sifted, seven Pound of Currants washed and rubb'd, six Pound of the best fresh Butter, two Pound of Jordan Almonds blanched, and beaten with Orange Flower Water and Sack till they are fine, then take four Pound of Eggs, put half the Whites away, three Pound of double refin'd Sugar beaten and sifted, a quarter of an Ounce of Mace, the same of Cloves and Cinnamon, three large Nutmegs, all beaten fine, a little Ginger, half a Pint of Sack, half a Pint of right French Brandy, Sweetmeats to your liking, they must be Orange, Lemon, and Citron. Work your Butter to a Cream with your Hands before any of your Ingredients are in, then put in your Sugar, mix it well together; let your Eggs be well beat, and strain'd thro' a Sieve, work in your Almonds first, then put in your Eggs, beat them all together till they look white and thick, then put in your Sack and Brandy and Spices, and shake your Flour in by Degrees, and when your Oven is ready, put in your Currants and Sweetmeats as you put it in your hoop; it will take four Hours baking in a quick Oven, you must keep it beaten with your Hand all the while you are mixing of it, and when your Currants are well wash'd and clean'd, let them be kept before the Fire, so that they may go warm into your Cake. This Quantity will bake best in two Hoops."
"To Ice a great Cake another Way
Take two Pound double refin'd Sugar, beat and sift it very fine, and likewise beat and sift a little Starch and mix with it, then beat six Whites of Eggs to Froth, and put to it some Gum-Water, the Gum must be steep'd in Orange-flower-water, then mix and beat all these together two Hours, and put it on your Cake; when it is baked, set it in the Oven again to harden a quarter of an Hour, take great Care it is not discolour'd. When it is drawn, ice it over the Top and Sides, take two Pound of double refin'd Sugar beat and sifted, and the Whites of three Eggs beat to a Froth, with three or four Spoonfuls of Orange-flower-water, and three Grains of Musk and Ambergrease together; put all these in a Stone Mortar, and beat these till it is a white as Snow, and with a Brush or Bundle of Feathers, spread it all over the Cake, and put it in the Oven to dry; but take Care the Oven does not discolour it. When it is cold paper it, and it will keep good five or six Weeks."
---The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse, London  (p. 138)
[Note...Many colonial women cooked from European cookbooks until the American printing trade began to flourish.]
"A Rich Cake
Take six pounds of the best fresh butter, work it to a cream with your hands; then throw in by degrees three pounds of double refined sugar well beat and sifted; Mix them well together; then work in three pounds of blanched almonds, and having them altogether till they are thick and look white. The add half a pint of French brandy, half a pint of sack, a small quantity of ginger, about two ounces of mace, cloves, and cinnamon each, and three large nutmegs all beaten in a mortar as fine as possible. Then shake in gradually four pounds of well dried and sifted flour; and when the oven is well prepared, and a thin hoop to bake it in, stir into this mixture (as you put it into the hoop) seven pounds of currants clean washed and rubbed, and such a quantity of candied orange, lemon, and citron in equal proportions, as shall be thought convenient. The oven must be quick, and the cake at least will take four hours to bake; Or you may make two or more cakes out of these ingredients, you must beat it with your hands, and the currants must be dried before the fire, and put into the cake warm."
---The Frugal Colonial Housewife, Susannah Carter  (p. 102)
Take four pounds of fine flour well dried, four pounds of fresh butter, two pounds of loaf sugar, a quarter of an ounce of mace, the same of nutmegs well beat and sifted, and to every pound of flour put eight eggs, four pounds of currants well washed and picked, and dry them before the fire till they are plump, blanch a pound of Jordan almonds, and cut them lengthways very thin, a pound of candied citron, the same of candied orange, and the same of candied lemon peel, cut in thin slips, and half a pint of brandy; first work your butter to a fine cream with your hand, then beat in your sugar a quarter of an hour, and beat the whites of your eggs to a strong froth, and mix them with your sugar and butter; beat your yolks for half an hour with one hand, and mix them well with the rest; then by degrees put in your flour, mace, and nutmeg, and keep beating it till your oven is ready; put in the brandy, currants, and almonds lightly: tie three sheets of paper round the bottom of your hoop to keep it from running out, and rub it well with butter, then put in your cake, and lay your sweetmeats in three layers, with some cake between every layer; as soon as it is risen and coloured, cover it with paper before your oven in closed up, and bake it three hours. You may ice it or not, as you choose, directions being given for icing in the beginning of this chapter."
---The New Art of Cookery According to the Present Practice, Richard Briggs [W. Spotswood, R. Campbell & B. Johnson:Philadelphia] 1792 (p. 465)
"Icing for Cakes.--Take the whites of twelve eggs, and a cound of couble-refined sugar pounded and sifted through a fine sieve, mix them together in a deep earthen pan and beat it well for three hours with a strong wooden spoon till it looks white and thick, and with a thin paste knife spread it all over the top and sides of your cake, and ornament it with sweet nonpareils, or fruit paste, or sugar images, and put it in a cool oven to harden for one hour, or set it at the distance from the fire, and keep turning it till it is hard. You may perfume the icing with any sort of perfume you please."
---ibid (p. 457)
Now, all you have to think about is the proper table setting...rich families could afford fine European linen, porcelain dishes & silver; middle/lower class families often did their best with American-made cotton products, local pottery and pewter. Ask your classmates for assistance. Just like the colonial wedding described in colonial Connecticut, this can be a community event. Plates, etc. don't have to match. If you have a budget, your local party supply store probably stocks inexpensive items that will serve the purpose.
Colonial American Tavern Fare
We know a great deal about what was consumed in colonial American taverns, public houses, and ordinaries. Information comes from a variety of sources including proprietor records, expense accounts, and travel diaries. Prices were fixed by law. Meals varied greatly according to location, season, and availability. Then, as today, establishments based in urban centers offered a greater variety of foods and dining options. Our founding fathers conspired, conscripted, and celebrated America's independence in taverns throughout the colonies.
How were these places different from today's restaurants?
For starters, families did not go out to eat for fun, like we do today. Most of the folks who ate in these places were travelers who were not lucky enough to stay in the homes of friends and family. Taverns &c. places were NOT known for good food. In fact, most people who ate there complained bitterly about the poor quality and service of the food. They ate because they were hungry. The primary draw of these places were the alcoholic beverages (beer, ale, wine, sherry, rum etc.) and company (mostly men sharing news, political views, gampling, and conducting business). While most of the folks who dined publicly were men, there are several primary accounts (journals, diaries, letters, etc.) written by women staying in colonial inns. Children of the owners, indentured servants, apprentices also ate in these places.
What were the popular drinks?
What did they have to eat?
Whatever the cook decided to make that day! These daily "Bills of Fare" were sometimes etched on a slate board. People were served together, and they could take as much as they wanted from communal bowls. Most folks ate very quickly; the food disappeared fast. There were no menus or individually priced items for selection. Urban centers (Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Baltimore, etc.) offered more sophisticated dining options. The first American restaurant is said to have been established in Boston, 1794.
General notes here:
"The meals and services offered in a public house naturally varied...Travelers expected food and liquor on the road to be mediocre, the choices limited, and prices haphazard. They were characteristically delighted when a public house's entertainment exceeded their expectations. Samuel Vaughan listed in 1787 the types of food (all commonly found in the cupboards of 18th-century rural communities) available to travelers on the last page of his travel diary: Ham, bacon & fowl pigeon of one sort or another always to be had upon the road & often fresh meat or fish, dried Venison Indian or Wheaten bread, butter eggs milk, often cheese, drinks Rum, Brandy or Whiskey, resembling Gin.'...
"In the cities...tavern proprieters competed with one another for customers, advertising the merits of their housees in the newspapers...Dr. Alexander Hamilton, while traveling from Annapolis to Boston...might have satisfied himself on the road with bread, cheese, and cold apple pie for a meal but would have expected more substantial and better fare in the cities; he recorded a good dinner at Todd's Tavern in New York City, which consisted of veal, beefsteak, green peas, and raspberries...
"The foods served in Thomas Allen's tavern demonstrates the variety of foodstuffs available in agrarian America; the types of foods used, the kinds of dishes prepared and served at the City Coffee House and other taverns in urbanized areas did not vary significantly from what might have been found in a private home. Between January 9 and March 16, 1774, Allen purchased locally, and subsequently served to his customers, beef once, veal seven times, fowl and turkey five times, mutton twice, and lobsters, salmon, eels, oysters, duck, and other fish caughtin nearby Long Island Sound at least once. He kept stores of gammons (smoked ham or bacon), smoked and pickled tongue and beef, salt pork, crackers, butter, coffee, apples, and sugar on hand. Meat, heavily salted for preservation, was the mainstay of the 18th-century diet...In addition, Allen regularly served bread and a potpourri of vegetables: potatoes, carrots, peas, beans, beets, onions, cabbages, turnips, squashes, and cucumbers for pickling. He bought several types of English cheeses and imported lemons and limes for punch. In 1790 Allen ordered four tin plates "to Bake Gingerbread"...
"The dining habits ascribed by Moreau de St. Mery to Philadephians in the 1790s give an idea of how the meals at the City Coffee House in New London (and other taverns) might have been served: They breakfasted at nine o'clock on ham or salt fish, herring, for example, which accompanied by coffee or tea, and slices of toasted or untoasted bread spread with butter. At about two o'clock they dine without soup. Their dinner consists of broth, with a main course of an English roast surrounded by potatoes. Following that are boiled green peas, on which they put butter which the heat melts, or a spicy sauce, then baked or fried eggs, boiled or fried fish, salad which may be thinly sliced cabbage seasoned to each man's taste on his own plate, pastries, sweets to which they are excessively partial and which are insufficently cooked. For dessert they have a little fruit, some cheese and a pudding.' Tavern meals were simply prepared...Cooking facilities were limited, many kitchens contained only an open hearth...broiling and boiling were the most popular food preparation methods...
"Eighteenth-century entertainment took place in the tavern rather than the home. Diaries describe private parties, business and political meetings, celebratory banquets, and gatherings of male friends held in city taverns...City taverns, as the 18th century progressed, became accustomed to supplying large and elegant repasts;...a Charleston tavern keeper advertised that he could prepare a dinner of up to 40 dishes. An element of formality was injected into these private gatherings; the dishes were served and arranged on the table in order, and specific beverages accompanied them...Tavern keepers, like some early American housewives, apparently followed the dictates of English cooks like E. Smith....Elizabeth Raffald and Richard Briggs; all of whome included bills of fare and table diagrams for the placing of each course in their books...A Philadelphia family's "elegant entertainment" for 24 in 1786 began with turtle soup, then boned turkey, roast ducks, veal and beef, followed by two kinds of jellies and various kinds of puddings, pies, and preserves; and then almonds, raisins, nuts, apples and oranges'...Despite the formal arrangement of the table settings, the dishes themselves remained simple...It was customary to take small amounts of each dish...rather than large portions...The volume of liquor consumed usually far outweighed the food. When the City of New York paid the City Tavern for 28 dinners in 1798...[the tavern] was also reimbursed for 30 bottles of madiera...6 bottles of English porter, punch, brandy, bitters...
"In the city tavern, private dining areas were established. Complaints surfaced about dining and intermingling with ordinary citizens...Even a small public house like Allen's City Coffee House in New London included a modest private dining room...Edward Myston, manager of the City tavern in Philadelphia, advertised in 1793..."Private Dinners any day, or every day, for members of Congress, or parties of private Gentlemen, will be set on the table at any hour."...
"In the 18th century, drinking was the most popular of all tavern recreations...The kind of drink offered by an individual tavern was a factor in its location, the availability of supplies, and the economic status and aspirations of its tavern keeper. Drinking habits did not differ significantly from colony to colony, wehre the majority of the inhabitants were British...Rum was the most popular distilled liquor of the time...Punch was a combination of then luxurious ingredients. The drink was made using the rinds and juice of imported lemons, limes, and even oranges, commonly mixed with rum, and white or brown sugar...Lime punch was the most popular version of the drink...punch was served warm and sold in taverns by the bowl...Toddy--rum mixed with sugar and water--and sangre--a mixture of wine or beer sweetened with sugar and flavored with nutmeg--were also dispensed by the bowl...Wine, imported from Spain and Germany, was also served in taverns, but was not widely available outside the cities...Madeira, served during the meal, was the most expensive and popular wine. The consumption of wine, like punch, was limited to the more affluent. Many colonials drank cheaper, fermented beverages made locally. Cider (hard cider) was sold by the jug...Beer was either imported from England or locally brewed...Brandy was usually imported, but native varieties were sold, made from peaches, apples, or cherries. Homemade liquors gained popularity during the Revolution when the importation of alcohol, beer, and wine was halted."
---Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers, Kym S. Rice for Fraunces Tavern Museum [Regnery Gateway:Chicago] 1983 (p. 85-96)
"French emigre Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin...spent two years in New York (1794-96)...He later recalled the hospitality of American taverns...dinner consisted of roast beef, turkey, vegetables, salad, fruit tart, cheese, and nuts, all accompanied by copious quantities of claret, Port, and Madeira, followed by rum, brandy, and whiskey...The availability of meat and game exemplified America's bounty, so that venison, pigeon, turkey, ducks, bear and other game were not unusual in a large tavern, both in the country and in the city." Pork was the principal meat, beef not as easy to come by. Vegetables were not much eaten in those days, and shellfish was preferred to fish...Most of the food served at taverns, especially in the country, bore little resemblance to the kind of fancy cookery Sam Fraunces featured. Yet few ever complained about the huge portions offered at even the most remote inn, and a breakfast of several eggs, game birds, pancakes, and coffee or tea was ubiquitous throughout America...By far the most common dish served to travelers was ham, and, in the South, chickens...it was improbable that the average traveler in the colonial era would have much enjoyed whatever it was he was eating. Culinary excellence my have been held in high esteem at some homes or in the finer city taverns after 1750, but most inns and taverns served food of a very low, if stomach-filling order. Some communities set minimal standards for food service, even distinguishing between a "good meal" and a "common one." Meals were served at a set time and fixed price (often included in the price of the room) to the public...The food had a numbing sameness to it, depending upon the location of the tavern, it would stick pretty close to what was most readily available...Many customers couldn't have cared less about the food; they came for news, good talk, and companionship."
---America Eats Out, John Mariani [William Morrow:New York] 1991 (p. 18-21)
"Beyond the home, colonials consumed food and drink within another social setting--the tavern...Ordinaries dotted the colonial landscape. Ferries and courthouses were prime locations. The numerous watercourses that interrupted overland travel in North Carolina often necessitated ferriage...While waiting for ferrymen and perhaps for favorable winds, travelers needed an opportunity to rest and refresh themselves...Ordinary keepers emanated chiefly from the middling ranks of society...Indeeed, the occupation of ordinary keepers may have been a springboard to prominence, for the proprietors of public houses made many acquaintences...and maintained a creditor's hold over many of their patrons...Dinner consisted of meat (sometimes two dishes), hot or cold, salted or fresh, with or without corn or wheat bread, and with or without small beer or cider. Supper and breakfast included a hot meat and small beer. Often breakfast consisted only of tea or coffee and wheat bread, hoe cake, or toast...A variety of alcoholic liquors was served in the provincial taverns. They were rated by the gallon, quart, pint, gill, and half-gill but often were sold by the bow, nip, or dram... Rum generally came from the West Indies or New England...Cider might be the 'common Carolina' variety or it might be imported from England or New England. It was sometimes designated as 'summer' and 'winter' cider and rated in quality from 'good' and best.' Also popular were beer, brandy and wine. Varieties of beer included those form Europe...from the colonies...Ordinaries offered homemade peach and apple brandy as well as the imported drink...Mixed drinks, particularly punch, greatly appealed to the colonials. Punch, consisting of five ingredients, usually contained rum with 'loaf' or brown sugar. Another favorite was the toddy, made of rum, brandy, or whiskey..."
---"The Colonial Tavern: A Gathering Place in the Albemarle [North Carolina]," Alan D. Watson, A Taste of the Past: Early Foodways of the Albemarle Region [North Carolina], James C. Jordan III guest exhibition curator [Museum of the Albemarle:Elizabeth City NC] 1991 (p. 36-41)
What did our founding fathers eat for dinner on July 4, 1776?
According to the history books, Philadelphia's City Tavern was "THE PLACE" for the signers of our Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately, the Tavern's archivists confirm the original bill of fare was not preserved in business records or primary accounts. If you want to serve something similar, City Tavern's cookbooks are perfect: City Tavern Cookbook: 200 Years of Classic Recipes from America's First Gourmet Restaurant, Walter Staib
Colonial & early American tavern food
- Early American Beverages/John Hull Brown
- Early Taverns and Stagecoach Days in New Jersey/Walter H. Van Hoesen
- In Public Houses: Drink and the Revolution of Authority in Colonial Massachusetts/David W. Conroy
- Rum, Punch and Revolution: Taverngoing & Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia/Peter Thompson
- Taverns and Drinking in Early America/Sharon V. Salinger
- Taverns & Travelers: Inns of the Early Midwest/Paton Yoder
17th & 18th century France
Louis XIV & Modern French Cuisine
Louis XIV (1638-1715) encouraged and enjoyed the "new invention" of classic French cuisine. This food movement differed from Medieval/Renaissance cooking in that it stressed the natural flavors of foods rather than intense spices and sugars. Classic French cuisine was championed by chefs such as Pierre Francois de la Varenne. His book, Le Cuisiner Francois (published in 1651), is still regarded as a turning point in culinary history. This was also the period of "New World" food introductions. Among the most significant: potatoes and tomatoes (These were not, however, assimilated until the next century). Salads of all sorts were also very popular, as as were a battery of new sauces, which would define classic French cuisine. Of course, not everyone was able to partake in this new food revolution. What were the peasants eating in the 17th century France?
"In the reign of Louis XIV, cooking was spectacular rather than fine or delicate, and the festivities of the Prince of Conde at Chantilly, for example, were particularly sumptious. The famous Vatel was maitre d'hotel of Conde the Great, a very important position! A great number of dishes were served at each meal and there are many descriptions of the meals served at the table of Louis XIV, who ate too heavily for a true gourmet. The Palatine Princess wrote: "I have very often seen the king eat four plates of different soups, an entire pheasant, a partridge, a large plateful of salad, mutton cut up in its juice with garlic, two good pieces of ham, a plateful of cakes and fruits and jams.' However, Louis XIV established the habit of having dishes served separately. Before this time, everything was piled up together in a large pyramid. In his reign, the culinary utensils of the Middle Ages were replaced by a batterie de cuisine, which included many new pots and pans in tinplate and wrought iron, and, later, the introduction of silver utensils. Louis XIV had a passion for vegetables, which led La Quintinie to develop gardening: green peas were produced in March and strawberries in April. Oysters and lamb were particularly highly prized, and elaborate dishes were concocted. One sauce became famous: bechamel, named after the financier Louis de Bechameil, who drafted recipes and precepts in verse. Coffee, tea and chocolate were favoured by the aristocracy, and doctors debated about their advantages and drawbacks. Establishments were set up specializing in these exotic drinks. For example, in 1680 the cafe Procope opened in Paris. Here, fruit juices, ices and sorbets, exotic wines, hippocras, oregat pastes, crystallized (candied) fruits and fruits preserved in brandy were sold. In addition to the coffee houses, taverns, inns and cafes had multiplied in the city and were visited frequently by princes and their courtiers."
---Larousse Gastronomique, Completely revised and updated [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2001 (p. 519)
"The decisive change in French cooking did not become apparent until the middle of the seventeenth century, although the new cuisine codified by Pierre Francois de la Varenne in Le cuisinier francois (1651) had been evolving for some time before that...La Varenne, squire of the kitchen to the Marquis d'Uxelles, seems to have been unable to abandon the court tradition completely, but the atmosphere of Le cuisinier francois suggests that his heart was not in it. The old recipes were there, but the new ones, harbingers of what is now thought as the classic French cuisine, were sharply contrasted. La Varenne began his book with a recipe for stock-in which most cookery writers have followed him ever since-gave sixty recipes for the formerly humble egg...treated vegetables as food in their own right, made much use of the globe artichoke and very little of spices, and recommended simple sauces based on meat juices and sharpened with vinegar, lemon juice, or verjuice..."
---Food in History, Reay Tannahill [Three Rivers Press:New York] 1988 (p. 237-8)
"Common European cooking traditions endured until the seventeenth century, when national cuisines began to develop. It was only when French cookery became culturally stylized and was used to mark social differences that it also became a model for the courtly and aristocratic cuisines of Europe. This concious cultural creation of cookery and table manners shows itself most clearly in the fact that before the seventeenth century, cookbooks and recipe collections were rarely published. Then, suddenly, in the seventeeth and eighteenth centuries, many cookbooks appeared. The first of this series was Cusinier Francois, by Francois Pierre de la Varenne, published again and again from 1651 until 1738....In the seventeeth and eighteenth centuries...the haute cuisine served to express courtly aristocratic lifestyles. Only cooking and eating that demonstrated wealth, luxury, and pomp could accomplish this goal and distinguish the aristocracy in no uncertain terms from the rising middle class..."
---"The Dominance of the French Grande Cuisine," The Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple & Kriemhild Conee Ornelas, Volume Two [Cambridge University Press:Cambridge] 2000 (p. 1210-1216) [includes extensive bibliography]
"The age of Louis XIV! The teachings of Olivier de Serres now bore fruit. Gastronomical customs and culinary recipes appeared in new forms that were very close to our own of today. Food supplies contined to increase. Market-gardens and kitchen-gardens under cultivation flourished. Vinyards produced the finest wine: people were now able to drink it without flavoring it. Good food became an art. More and more cookbooks appeared...M. de Bonnefons had an entre almost everywhere, among the great as well as those of lesser importance. He had a keen eye and his book is full of instructive information. In the chapter on arranging a formal dinner we read, for instance: "The great fashion is to place four fine soups at the four corners of the table with four dish stands between each two, with four salt cellars placed near the soup tureen. On the dish stands are placed four entrees, in low pie dishes, Guests' plates should be deep so that they can use them for the soup or for helping themselves to whatever they wish to eat without taking it spoonful by spoonful out of the serving dish as they might be disgusted at the sight of a spoon which had been in the mouth of a person, being dipped into the serving dish without being wiped. The second course will consist of four substantial dishes set in the corners, either a court-bouillon, a pice of beef or a large roast, and salad on the plates. The third course will consist of roast poultry and game, small roasts and all the rest. The middle of the table is left free as otherwise the head steward will have difficulty in reaching across it, because of its great size. If desired, fill the centre of the table with melons, various salads in bowls or on little plates to make serving them easier, oranges and lemons. Preserves in syrup on marzipan biscuits could also be put there."...The Sun King was a glutton. He ate without discernment, and he ate enourmously. He would think nothing of four huge plates of different kinds of soup, a whole pheasant, a partridge, vegetables, a large dish of salad, two big slices of ham, mutton with garlic, a plate of cakes and --to wind up a good meal--eggs prepared in various ways. Thanks to the Sun King, oysters regained the popularity they had lost since the days of the Romans...Families no longer ate in their bedrooms or in the halls of their dwellings. Every respectable household now boasted a dining room...The national dish was the pot-a-foie--it was to remain popular right up to the Revolution. The recipe is simple: take an enormous goose and stuff it with various meats, especially feathered game...Place a few aromatic herbs inside the poultry as well. Put it in the oven to roast. The most refined person ate only the stuffing; they left the goose for the servants...Coffee apperaed in France under Louis XIV. The king drank it for the first time in 1644...From coffee to cafes was but a step. In 1672, an Armenian at the Saint-Germain fair opened the first shop where one could sample coffee...The man made a fortune."
---An Illustrated History of French Cuisine, Christian Guy, translated by Elisabeth Abbott [Bramhall House:New York] 1962 (p.63-66)
"The King's Meat...Three hundred and twenty-four people were exclusively employed on preparing the toothless monarch's food. This army was lodged in the Grand Commun, now the Hopital Militaire. At meal-times, the 'beat', that is to say, all the dishes shown on the menu, was borne in solemn procession, led by the First Maitre d'Hotel, himself accompanied by thirty-six serving gentlemen and twelve Masters bearing as a sign of seniority a silver-gilt baton, from the kitchens across the road into the palace, through a maze of galleries and corridors and finally to the King's table which was usually laid in his bedroom. Louis XIV generally ate alone, except when away from Versailles, he seldom if ever entertained another man and only admitted his family to his board on rare occasions when the Princes of the Blood wore their hats and he remained bareheaded, no doubt in order to convey that he was the host and at home, whereas th others were no more than transient guests. On rising, for his breakfast he took only a bouillon or a cup of sage tea, so that by the ten o'clock meal his appetite was keen and the matter serious; the following meal was prepared for one person.Soups
Of the two old capons, four partridges with cabbage, six pigeons for a bisque, one of cocks' crests and beatilles
One of capons, partridges
A quarter of veal with the rump, the whole of a 28 lb. 12 pigeons for pie
Six fricasseed chickens, two minced partridges, three young partridges in gravy, six ember cooked pies, two young grilled turkeys, three fat chickens with truffles
Two fat capons, 9 chickens, 9 pigeons, 2 petendeaux, 6 partridges, 4 tarts
Two bowls of fruit, 2 of dried preserves, 4 of stewed fruit, or liquid hams.
...The roast was also flanked by two small dishes; one of capon, two snipe and two teal, and the other consisting of five partridges. The hors d'oeuvre are not mentioned, but they were not tiny dainties by solid stuff: sausage, white boudin, truffled pasties and warmed up beef in gravy. However, during Lent, the King rested and allowed his royal stomach to benefit by abstinence. It much however be noted that a totally meatless meal, for fear that he might be too debilitated on fast-days, usually began with a soup made of capon, 4 lb. Beef, 4 lb. Veal and 4 lb. Mutton. This purely hygienic precaution taken, abstinence began: a carp, a hundred crayfish, a milk soup, a herb soup, two turtle soups, a sole, a large pike, four medium soles, two perch, a sole, a hundred oysters, six sting-fish, and as a roast half a salmon and six soles...And for supper: two foot-long carp, two soups, a pike a foot and a half long, three perch, three soles, a trout a foot and a half long, half a large salmon, a large carp. All the King had then to do was retire to bed, but for fear of his collpasing from night starvation a tiny snack was put at his door...a bottle of water, three loaves and two bottles of wine."
---Gastronomy of France, Raymond Oliver, translated from the French by Claude Durrell [Wine and Food Society:Cleveland OH] 1967 (p. 315-7)
- Acquired Taste: The Origins of French Modern Cooking, T. Sarah Peterson
- Haute Cusine: How the French Invented the Culinary Profession, Amy B. Trubek
- French Gastronomy: History and Geography of a Passion, Jean-Robert Pitt
- Culture and Cuisine:A Journey Through the History of Food, Jean-Francois Revel
- Food: A Culinary History, Jean-Louis Flandrin & Massimo Montanari [Columbia University Press:New York] 1999 "The Europe of Nation-states: 15th-18th Centuries," (p. 347-432)
- Feast: A History of Grand Eating, Roy Strong
- The Physiology of Taste, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Meditation XXVI, "Philosophical History of Cooking," number 133: "Periods of Louis XIV and Louis XV" (text orginally published in 1824. English translations are available; M.F.K. Fisher's is recommended.
The French Cook, Francois Pierre La Varenne, Englished by I.D.G. 1653, introduced by Philip and Mary Hyman [Southover Press:East Sussex] 2001 ---introduction to the book, biographical sketch of La Varenne, and translated recipes
DISHES & FLATWARE
French porcelain in the 18th century
French silver in the 17th and 18th centuries
Spoon and fork (picture, closeup)
ABOUT 17TH CENTURY FRENCH SALADS
The Sun King likely had several kinds of salads on his table. Popular salads of the day included mixed greens (lettuce, cress, chickory, purslane) with vinaigarette (vinegar, oil, salt & spices), pickled vegetable salads (cucumbers, asparagus, etc.), composed salads (chopped greens and salted meats), boiled salads (warm vegetables dressed in vinegar/spices), and fruit salads (lemon, pomergranite "dressed" in sugar).
Food historians tell us salads (generally defined as mixed greens with dressing) were enjoyed by ancient Romans and Greeks. As time progressed, salads became more complicated. Recipes varied according to place and time. Dinner salads, as we know them today, were popular with Renaissance diners throughout Europe. Pickled salads (cucumbers, cabbage, etc. packed in vinegar, salt, & spices) and boiled salads were also regularly consumed by 16th and 17th century European diners. The 17th century marks the genesis of the classic French Cuisine (La Varenne, Massialot, etc.). One of the key concepts of this new cuisine was the perfection of the relationship between acid and salt. This taste combination was reflected in the sauces (including salad dressings) of the day. Louis XIV was said to have been fond of food in great excess. Presumably, his menu featured many salads in grand quantities.
Sample period recipe:
"Minor Herbs of All Kinds for Salads--a recipe of Niclas de Bonneons, 1654:
Tarragon, saxifrage, garden cress, watercress, lamb's lettuce, pimpernel-all these and a thousand others, flowers as well as herbs, are useful in making salads to be served with oil or sugar. And, as a rule, the greater the diversity of ingredients in these salads, the more enjoyable they are. Pimpernel is also useful when placed in one's wine glass, for it gives its taste and fragrance to the winde. And the bud of the elder, when used in a salad, serves to relax the stomach."
---The Grand Masters of French Cuisine: Five Centuries of Great Cooking, Celine Vence and Robert Courtine [G. Putnam's Sons:New York] 1978 (p. 260)
"In the mid-seventeenth century La Varenne, like the Italians, continued to recommend salad platters, including salt meats, which he suggested should be kept on hand. He gave instructions for half-salt or marinated fish and chicken and directions for preserving lettuce, artichokes, cucumbers, purslane, aparagus, chickory, and cabbage. Salt products are prominent in his composed dishes. The melted anchovy, or garum, makes its debut, linking La Varenne closely with Apicius. In contrast to the Italians, he gave no salt meat any prominence in composed dishes. The mid-seventeenth French twist on Roman food is the caper, which now makes its appearance in dishes of every sort."
---Acquired Taste: The French Origins of Modern Cooking, T. Sarah Peterson [Cornell University Press:Ithaca] 1994 (p. 152)
"The French took the salad--that is, food seasoned with salt and acid--as the framework of their new, stimulating cuisine. They derived the notion of extending the salad throughout the meal--that is, of making the salt-acid taste a kind of umbrella--from the ancients and the Renaissance Italians, both whom had served salads at various points throughout their banquets...The French idea of engulfing the meal in the salad came principally from [the] Italian practice of making salads of various kinds available throughout dinner. In their radical revision of food, the French took the idea of the salad and reshaped the whole meal up to the sweet course so that it would stimulate the appetitie. Every dish was to become saladlike, whether it was called a salad or not...Salt coupled with acid became the signature of many a sauce, just as it had become the stamp of salad. The acid might be vinegar, wine, verjuice (juice of unripe fruit), lemon, or orange (or much later the tomato)...Of the two crucial parts of a salad, the French gave the palm to salt. The touch of acid was important, but not so critical as salt."
---ibid (p. 185-6)
Sallets/Dr. Alice Ross
About vinaigrette ("French" dressing)
Need to make something for class? We suggest pumpkin pie!
What were the peasants eating during the Sun King's reign?
"...we need to look at the documents closest to peasant life, drawn up by those who knew them well, to obtain the completest and most accurate information...The words which appear most often in these numerous and humble texts are 'bread' and 'corn'. Vorn, bled as they spelled it, was defined as any cereal which could be used to make bread. Not only bread, though...since barley, oats, millet, buckwheat, and maize (which was introduced at the beginning of the seventeenth century) were frequently used in different sorts of porridge, galette, or thick pancakes, which were not just for the toothless of all ages but in some provinces...were for general consumption. Nevertheless, bread remained symbolic both of basic religious and physical nourishment, even among well-off country people; and the breaking of bread was for long the solemn, almost sacred gesture with which the paterfamilias signalled the start of each meal. For some time now it has been established that expenditure on bread and flour absorbed easily half a poor or humble family's income. To this it should be added that an adult consumbed three pounds of bread a day, or more. The reason for this was entirely obvious: bread was far and away the cheapest source of calories...Stale bread was always consumed, out of economy...hard bread was much better for pouring soup on to. Not everybody had soup, though....a porridge of improved maize, may have taken th e place of one made with millet when the American plant became established between 1630 and 1650...Its introduction enabled famine to be brought under control...A less striking food (with some salt pork, fortunately made possible by a plentiful supply of acorns for the pigs) was provided by rye and sweet chestnuts, usually boiled and mashed...
"It seems that, in most places, soup was the main food a dejeuner (eaten in the morning, breaking the nocturnal fast), at diner (in the middle of the day), and at souper (in the evening). What we sould call stock cooked slowly in the hearth, over a fire of wood or cinders in a pot that was more likely to be earthenware than metal, hanging from the ineveitable chimney-hook...Into water fetched from the well...they put whatver they could find in the way of herbs and root vegetables from the garden or the open fields...These would not include potatoes (except in some mountainous areas in the east end at the end of the century), but there would be pelnty of radishes...a few carrots and turnips...sometimes a leek or two, not many of the green vegetables we use today, although there were twenty or so local kinds of cabbage which still survived at the begining of this century, and plenty of almost forgotten farinacious foods of the pea and bean variety...In those relatively rare parts of the country wehre pigs were kept, a piece of well-salted fat, old and therefore somewhat rancid, swam in the broth...On feast days in the regions wehre olive and...nut oil were produced, they added a few drops of the precious liquid...There was also a great variety of herbs...and very different in the south from in the country round the Loire: chives, spring-onions, tarragon, sage, savory, thyme, basil, shallots, onion stalks...garlic...When [the soup] was ready everybody brought their earthenware or wooden bowls to the hearth, or to the table if there was one, and the father or mother cut the bread into each receptacle and then poured over an amount of broth appropriate to everybody's age and needs. The soup would be rich in autumn, but considerably less so by the end of winter. Near the sea or large rivers, a fairly thick and highly spiced fish soup was less a culinary specialty than a mere utilisation of the fruits of fishing...After the soup the peasants did not usually have anything...
"This very widespread absence of dairy products, fruit, and especially meat...can be explained by two simple facts which are seldom, ...noted...The majority of the poor in the countryside farmed only two or three acres, and tried to live off this land completely, which they were more or less able to do as long as the weather was kind and the harvests were good. But they were all forced to find money with which to pay the royal taxes...That is why they always had to take their eggs, young cocks, butter and cheese, and the best of the fruit and vegetables to market...
"Meat was hardly ever seen except on feast days...If there were cows, then any calves would naturally be sold, as would any lambs; old beasts too were sold rather than eaten. Which leaves the 'mystery' of the rabbit and the pig. Pigs...were kept in quite large numbers...The rabbit, which has been such an important element in the diet of the poor in the last two centuries, was seldom bred outside large towns like Paris...If they wanted to eat fish, there were rich, tempting stoks in pools, ponds, and rivers (and in the sea for those who lived by it)...
"Food at feasts...Each house would have a store-room or cellar stocked with full with barrels and bareels waiting to be filled...in which were kept oil, wine, cider, fat pork, maybe some veal, preserves, and some fine hams woudl be hanging from the ceiling. In the main room, near the hearth, would be brass or cast-iron utensils, copper pans, plates of earthenware...and a set of pewter cutlery for important occasions. There the stews were redolent of fat pork or even ham, and butter, oil or lard, with cabbage, or peas (i.e. haricot beans...) or sun-ripened tomatoes or other vegetables, depending upon the region. There would be dried sausage, or smoked pork, a hen or capon, a fat goose at Christmas, a lamb at Easter, sometimes a stewed chicken on a Sunday. All the regional differences can bee seen roughly symbolised in what ethnologistslike to call the 'foundations' of a cuisine: in the west, this was butter, tin the south-west goose-fat, int he Mediterranean south olive oil; in some places they used lard, and in a few they made to with nut oil or rapeseed oil. Then, to round off these feasts or disners of the rich, there would be all sorts of crepes, fritters, bugnes, mervielles, pets de nonnes..., tartes, clafoutis, with spice-breads and brioches for the pre-Lenten feasts of Candlemas and Shrove Tuesday, and of other special festivals...It was th town cooks, in fact, who improved, enriched, and sometimes refined the simple, plentiful, and tasty dishes and the elast ppor pcountry peiople took these over in the following centuries...
Drinks...it is obvious that both great feasts and poor gruel must have been washed down with something. In the big houses and the larger share-cropping farms, the master would have had local wine...But except in times of extravagant generosity, servants would not have been entitled to any. Ordinarily they mande do with buvande, boisson or demi-vin: this would be made of water poured on to the well-pressed grape stalks...the most universal...drink...was water...When the feast days came round, the poor threw themselves on the wine, as well as the food, in a kind of frenzy...
"Hunger...in the seventeenth century was always a social phenonemnon...The lavish feasts were also social and provinical phenomenon, but only happened on rare occasions."
---French Peasantry in the Seventeeth Century,, Pierre Goubert [Cambridge University Press:Cambridge] 1989(p. 82-96)
Louis XV of France reigned from 1723-1774. His reign bridged the brilliant opulence of his predecessor to the disastrous excesses of his successor. The culinary offerings of Louis VX reflected this period of change.
"The reign of Louis XV was no less happy for gastronomy. Eighteen years of peace healed painlessly the wounds made by more than sixty years of war; wealth created by industry, and either spread out by commerce or acquired by its tradesmen, made former financial inequalities disappear, and the spirit of convivality invaded every class of society. It is during this period that there was generally established more orderliness in the meals, more cleanliness and elegance, and those various refinements of service which, having increased steadily until our own time, threaten now to overstep all limits and lead us to the point of ridicule."
---The Physiology of Taste, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, originally published in Paris 1825, translated by M.F.K. Fisher [Counterpoint:Washington DC] 1999 (p. 298-9)
Sample menu, circa 1740, for ten persons, provided by Brillat-Savarin
1st course: the bouilli (meat and its broth); an entree of veal cooked in its own juice; an hors d'oeuvre.
2nd course: a turkey; a plate of vegetables; a salad; a creamy pudding (sometimes).
Dessert: some cheese; some fruit; a jar of preserves.
Plates wer exchanged only three tiems, after the soup, at the second course, and for dessert. Coffee was very rarely served, but quite often there was a cordial made from cherries or garden pink, still something of a novelty then."
---ibid (p. 298-9)
"...let us consider courses which have varied in number at different periods, rising to a maximum under Louis XIV and Louis XV when there were eight coruses of eight dishes each...In a ceremonial meal tow ouf to the eight courses consisted of entremets and two of desserts. There would be a soup course consisting of several soups, a fish course of several fishes, and entree course, a roast course and a game course. Rather surprisingly, the compositon of the courses could be optiona, the entremets mainly consisted of vegetables, and the entrees (poultry or classical) could appear in the same course as the fish, shellfish, roasts or game." ---Gastronomy of France, Raymond Oliver, translated from the French by Claude Durrell [World Publishing Company:Cleveland OH] 1967(p. 207-7)
Supper eaten by Louis XV at the Chateau on 29 September 1755
[NOTE: "supper" was a meal taken late in the evening, not the main meal of the day.]
Two oilles: One of large onions, One a l'espagnole
Two potages: One de sante, One of turnip puree
Small pies a la balaquine, Rabbit fillets a la genevoise, Filet mignon of mutton with sauce piquant, Fillets of pheasant en matelote, Quails with bay leaves, Turtle doves a la vinitienne, Partridges a l'ancient salmy, Small garnished pigeons, Blanquette of fowls with truffles, Marinade of campines, Fowl wings en hatelets, Leg of veal glazed with its own juice, Minced game a la turque, Sweetbreads Ste. Menehould, Rouen ducklings with orange, Halicot with dark veloute sauce.
Roast mutton of Choisy, Rump of beef a l'ecarlate, Sirloin, the fillet minced with chicory, Caux fowls with raw onion
Four Main Entremets
Pheasant pie, Jambon de perdrouillet, Brioche, Croquante
Two Medium Entremets--Roasts
Small chickens, Campines, Ortolans, Thrushes, Guignards, Red-leg partridges, Pheasants, Rouen duckling
Sixteen Small Entremets
A coffee cream, Artichokes a la galigoure, Cardoons a l'essence, Cauliflower with Parmesan, Eggs with partridge gravy, Truffles a la cendre, Spinach with gravy, Cocks' crests, Animelles, Green beans with verjuice, Ham omelette, Turkey legs a la duxelles, Mixed ragout, Chocolate profiterolles, Small jalousies, Creme a la genest." ---ibid (p. 297-300)
- A Souper, Vendredi 4, Novem. 1757 (en Francais). A "souper" was the light meal evening meal. The Main meal of the day was Dinner, served sometime between noon and three.
- Dinner menu for six to eight diners, 1748, Massialot (scroll down about half way)
Need modernized recipes??!
Ask your librarian to help you find The Grand Masters of French Cuisine: Five Centuries of Great Cooking, Celine Vence and Robert Courtine. Here you will find dishes from La Chapelle , Marin , Cuisinier Gascon , Menon , Dictonnaire Portatif , and Buc'hoz .
French Revolution foods
The years immediately preceding the French Revolution were a time of great excess and terrible poverty. Royalty feasted on rich confections and huge roasts; the starving peasants ate anything they could find, including stale bread and scraps. In 18th century France, new world foods, most notably potatoes, played a pivotal role in feeding the starving country.
The Revolution was a great culinary equalizer. The fall of the Royal regime created (by necessity) a more egalitarian cuisine. Food, and the concept of how it was eaten changed radically. During the revolution another notable French "invention" happened. The restaurant. The first restaurants were quite different from what we know today. Their initial purpose was to serve healthy restoratifs (soup!) to anybody who could pay.
"The eighteenth century was a great century for cooking, but the progress made and the refinements added to the art of cooking were briefly interrupted by the French Revolution. In 1789 the French Revolution broke out, and according to one observer at the time, it "served the soverign people a dish of lentils, seasoned with nothing but the love of their country, which did very little to improve their blandness." The interest in cooking and gastronomy was temporarily interrupted, but when things had calmed down enough in 1795, a little book entitled La Cuisiniere Republicaine was published. It was written by a Mme. Merigot, who gives recipes for potatoes (unnacceptable until then as a food by the French.)"
---The Grand Masters of French Cuisine: Five Centuries of Great Cooking, Celine Vence and Robert Courtine [G.P. Putnam:New York] 1978 (p. 55)
[NOTE: This books has much more information/recipes than can be paraphrased here. Ask your librarian to help you find this book.
The bread question
"Let them eat cake," Marie Antoinette allegedly pronounced. What was this cake and why is this phrase so important? Parisians were indeed starving in the years preceding the French Revolution. Bread, while commonly employed for its symbolic connection as the "staff of life," was not the only commodity in short supply. There were several reasons for these food shortages, number one being a population explosion. Other key factors included war (farmers pressed into service meant neglected fields), weather conditions (severe drought), and economics (inadequate distribution systems).
"A shortage of bread has been suggested as the cause of the fall of Rome, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution of 1917."
---The Story of Bread, Ronald Sheppard and Edward Newton [Charles T. Branford:Boston MA] 1957 (p. 58)
"Bread was the staple food of the masses and it was poverty which caused the [French Revolution] rebellion. The more naive than caustic comments of Marie Antoinette, 'Let them eat cake,' was explosive in an already tense atmosphere. What the people wanted was bread, with all its symbolic implications."
---Gastronomy of France, Raymond Oliver, translated from the French by Claude Durrell [World Publishing Co.:Cleveland OH] 1967 (p. 107-108)
"'The people was all roaring out Voila le boulanger et la boulangere et let petit mitron, saing that now they should have bread as they now had got the baker and his wife and boy.' The year was 1789, the place Paris, the 'baker' Louis XVI and the 'bakers wife', Marie Antoinette. The French Revolution had not...been sparked off by hunger or high prices, and Marie Antoineette's relentlessy mistranslated remark that if there was not dread, the people would eat 'cake' was no more than one of those minor but eminently quotable political gaffes that their perpetrators are never allowed to forget. Bread shortages had always been a fact of Parisian life, productive of nothing more serious than an occasional riot. It was only after the middle classes made the first breach in the defences of the privileged elite that the ordinary people of France began to take a hand in the game. While the Constitutent Assembly discussed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the abolition of aristocratic privileges, the market women of Paris took the opportunitiy of demonstrating their disapproval of the fact that, after a series of disastrious harvests, a four-pound loaf now cost 14 1/2 sous. The effective daily wage of a builder's labourer at the time was 18 sous. Throughout the 1790s far more serious food crises and riots were to bedevil the plans of the revolutionaries and their successors--and to sound a warning to the governments of other countries confronted with the problem of expanding towns and an unprecedented increase in population. The problem was more one of distribution than production since agricultural developments were taking place that promised to make shortages a thing of the past."
---Food in History, Reay Tannahill [Three Rivers Press:New York] 1988 (p. 283)
"...in France...there was a new investment by the state in solving problems of food distribution that had previously been the responsibility of individual cities...French monarchs in the eighteetnh century became increasingly concerned with the possibility of popular uprisings due to bread shortages. To forestall that possibiltiy, they stocked wheat and promulgated new laws governing the sale of grain. Both responses appear to have improved the situation, but not everyone agreeed that this was the case. In The Bakers of Paris and the Bread Question, 1700-1775, Steven Kaplan has shown that when merchants followed the king's orders to stockpile grain, their actions were often interpreted as attempts to corner the market in order to drive up prices. Large-scale wheat purchases did in fact raise prices on local markets and force some people to go hungry, and critics saw this as evidence of a "famine conspiracy." Furthermore, laws promoting free trade in grain, which ultimately stimulated new cereal production, had to be withdrawn or modified on several accasions in the face of vehement protests by various groups: the best known of these episodes was the "flour war" of 1775...Was the French government right to intervene in the food distribution system rather tahn lieave it, as in the past and as in some other coutnries, in the hands of municipal governments and private interests? It would have been difficult to have acted differently: whereas popular protest in the seventeenth century had been directed mainly against taxes, int eh eighteenth century it was directed maily against shortages of bread. Although these disturbances were not as severe as in previous centuries, they could not be neglected. Thus the bread question became the paramount political issue of the day, just as wheat came to dominate agriculture and the popular diet...Antoine Parmentier, suggested making bread with flour from potatoes, which could be grown in fallow fields between grain harvests and with helds tow to three times greater than that for wheat. But in many parts of Europe people did not yet feel miserable enough to accept such fare, which was considreed fit only for hogs, eveni if it could be turned into bread."
---Food: A Culinary History, Jean-Louis Flandrin & Massimo Montanari [Columbia University Press:New York] 1999 (p. 354-355)
"In the months before the storming of the Bastille the people of Paris commenced once more to greet each other with the forbidden greeting of the Jacquerie: "Le pain se leve..." What bread? There was none...most Frenchmen believed that the lack of grain was due to a conspiracy...There is no doubt that the grain speculators were making a great deal of money at the time...The unique factor was the mass delusion that the purpose of their speculation as to "exterminate the French nation."..It was said that Louis XV had already earned ten millions pounds as a result of this murderous conspiracy. The society was alleged to be buying cheaply all the grain in France, secretly exporting it, buying it again from abroad, and importing it back to France at tenfold the original price...The fact was that all export of grain from France had been prohibited for the past hundred years...Revolt was...raging in the provinces...The Bastille had been stormed--but the people of Paris did not yet have their bread...In fact, in the days after the storming of the Bastille there was an unusual shortage of flour. The people could not feed on the glory of the Revolution. Why did a four-pound bread still cost 12 1/2 sous and a white bread 14 1/2? The government provided subsidies so that the bakers would lower their price. But this did not increase the supply of bread. The angy populace lost precious hours waiting in front of the bakeries. To be sure, Parmentier's potato bread was much cheaper. But who was interested in Parmentier and his bakers' college? That was...nonsense. Parmentier's experiments--it was unjustly said--were donducted only so that the rich could cram something into the mouths of the poor. Let him eat his potates himself. "We want bread!" the people shouted...[in] August 1789...a drought had come upon France worse than any the nation remembered. The streams dried up. The result was that the mills could not run. There were windmills only in the provinces of northern France. In central and southern France all milling was done in water mills. Now the little grain there was could not be ground! The Minister of Agriculture at once ordered the erection of horse-driven mills. But this took time. In September the supply of bread in Paris dwindled away again, and the price rose shamelessly. The seething masses became convinced that the Court still had bread...In the early morning of October 5, 1789, Paris spewed her torrents of human beings out into the misty roads. They marched with pikes and scythes, barefood and in rags...The masses were obsessed with hallucinations. "Did you see the bread wagons?" "Yes, bread wagons on the horizon!"...King Louis XVI had turned off the water in the park--it was needed to run the mill. Because the water no long splashed in the fountains, the villages around Versialles had bread--though there was not enough for Paris. All at once it occurred to the marchers that perhaps the king himself had not much bread...The women's cries from bread died down...When they returned, there was general disappointment. Paris had though it would now begin to rain bread...but...Louis XVI could not conjure up bread...Fourteen hungry days passed..."Watch out for the bakers" became the watchword. "The bakers have hidden flour. They want to wait until we can pay more."...Both the National Assembly and the administrators knew that whether the nation were kingdom or republic, the people would hang all authorities who did not solve the bread problem. But the bread problem could not be solved. The National Assembly set aside 400,000 pounds for agricultural aid, but this still not solve the problem...Where was the bread? The flow of grain dwindled to a trickle, as it had when the despots reigned, and the bakers' ovens remained empty...Grain had to be procured--but how? Trade was unpopular...Traders must be speculators, therefore cheats...At great cost the city of Paris bought grain abroad...What monsters there were among the people; such individuals as those who on August 7, 1793, spirited away 7,5000 pounds of bread out of starving Paris becasue they hoped to obtain higher prices in the provinces...All the guilty men were executed...In Ocober 1793 Paris once more received flour...The Commune of Paris decreed that from then on only a single type of bread could be baked in the city--the pain d'egalite. The flour sieves of millers and bakers were confiscated, for they were a symbol of fine berads. All, poor and rich, would have bread of equally poor quality... On Decmeber 2, 1793, the bread card was introduced; and eighteen months later the Commune decided upon free distribution of bread: one and a half pounds daily to workers and the heads of families, one pound to all others. Before long all there was of bread were the cards. In 1794 the harvest was pitifully small...Men killed one another for bread...France saw no bread until peace came. The Revolution had not been able to produce it, and the war made it impossible to distrubute it. It was until the period of the Directory, from 1796 on, that the soldiers were furloughed; they returned to the fields which now no longer belonged to landowners but to themselves and their families, and they began to till these fields. Such was the role of bread in the French Revolution."
---Six Thousand Years of Bread, H.E. Jacob [Lyons Press:New York] 1997 (p. 246-254)
"For a time, food prices rose dramatically; crops planted by farmers, who were then drafted into the Republic's armies, went unharvested...Attempting to impose fraternal solidarity by means of food distribution programs, more than one revolutionary demanded that bakers stop preparing their typical range of breadstuffs and combine brown, white, and rye flours together to make one single "Bread of Equality." In the capitol, in Feburary 1792, shortages led to the outbreak of popular street protests, but, as William Sewell has noted, the men and women of Paris were rioting not for bread, the totemic staff of life, but for sugar, soap, and candles. Sewell's point is particualrly well take, for the radical revolutionary rhetoric of "subsistence" has long led historians to believe that the danger of famine was the driving force behind many of the National Convention's economic policies. True, the Convention passed "the Maximum" in September 1793, putting it in effect a broad series of...price-fixing regulations... That these "necessities" included not only bread and wine, but cheeses, butter, honey, and sausages as well..."Subsistence" was certainly at the heart of much revolutionary rhetoric; but revolutions do not subsist on bread alone."
---The Invention of the Restaurant, Rebecca L. Spang [Harvard University Press:Cambridge MA] 2000 (p. 106-107)
Many of the fruits growing in France during the Revolutionary period (mid-late 18th century) were introduced by the Romans in ancient times. They flourished according to agreeable climate, accomodating soil, and nurturing farmers. In the late 18th century, fresh fruits were consumed in season. Fruits were also preserved (dried or sugared) for use in baked goods, confectionery, bread spreads (jams, jellies), cake and pie filling. Grimod de la Reyniere's Almanach des Gourmands (early 19th century) mentions these fruits in the dessert chapter: strawberries, cherries, apricots, redcurrants, raspberries, peaches, plums, greengages, raisins, figs, melons, blackberries, Seville oranges, lemons, apples, pears and pineapples. Grapes were used for wine; probably also consumed as fruit.
The 17th century marked the genesis of classic French Cuisine. Food historians tell us the nobles of this period followed this new trend, supporting the chefs and their ideas wll into the 18th century. By the 18th century, the noble and wealthy classes were dining in the manner of "Grand Cuisine." Multi-course meals and elaborate service were the hallmarks of this style. Notable chefs/cookbook authors included Massialot, La Chappelle, Marin, and Menon.
"Louis XVI did not inherit Louis XV's delicate taste in food. Like the Sun King, he was a glutton...During their reign Louis and Marie-Antoinette dined every Sunday in public. But the queen only pretended to eat...She dined afterwards in her apartments, among her intimates."
---An Illustrated History of French Cuisine, Christian Guy [Bramhall House:New York] 196 (p. 86)
Supper given...for Marie Antoinette
...menu of this supper from the imperial archives quoted by L'Almanach des Gourmands pour 1862, by Charles Monselet. Her Majesty's Dinner, Thursday 24 July 1788 at Trianon:
Rice soup, Scheiber, Croutons with lettuce, Croutons unis pour Madame
Two Main Entrees
Rump of beef with cabbage, Loin of veal on the spit
Spanish pates, Grilled mutton cutlets, Rabbits on the skewer, Fowl wings a la marechale, Turkey giblets in consomme, Larded breats of mutton with chicory, Fried turkey a la ravigote, Sweetbreads en papillot, Calves' heads sauce pointue, Chickens a la tartare, Spitted sucking pig, Caux fowl with consomme, Rouen duckling with orange, Fowl fillets en casserole with rice, Cold chicken, Chicken blanquette with cucumber
Four Hors D'Oeuvre
Fillets of rabbit, Breast of veal on the spit, Shin of veal in consomme, Cold turkey
Six dishes of roasts
Chickens, Capon fried with eggs and breadcrumbs, Leveret, Young turkey, Partridges, Rabbit
Sixteen small entremets
(menu stops here)
---Gastronomy of France, Raymond Oliver, translated from the French by Claude Durrell [Wine and Food Society:Cleveland OH] 1967 (p. 300-1)
Middle class food
"The difference that existed, up to the end of the seventeenth century, between ordinary, everyday bourgeois cooking and aristocratic cooking was a difference in quantity and in elaborateness of presentation. Beginning in about 1750, the cuisine of ordinary days and that of special occasions were separated by a difference in kind, quality, and method. Ordinary cuisine naturally remained closer to old-style cuisine, for reasons of cost and convenience. According to Brillat-Savarin who, who had gathered his information from the inhabitants of several departments, a dinner for ten persons around the year 1740 was composed of the following:
First service...boiled meat
an entree of veal cooked in its own juice;
Second service...a turkey;
a vegetable dish;
a cream (sometimes)
A pot of jam
This order, with the succession of the boiled and roasted as its prinicpal distinguising characteristic, was to remain practically the same in private homes down to the end of the nineteenth century. In Zola, it is the typical bourgeois menu."
---Culture and Cuisine: A Journey Through the History of Food, Jean-Francois Revel [Doubleday:Garden City NY] 1982, English translation (p. 193-4)
Daily meals for the "average" person consisted of bread, pottage (gruel from ground beans or soup with vegetables and perhaps a little meat), fruit, berries & nuts (in season) and wine. If you need to make/take something to class to signify this particular period in French history we suggest basic a loaf of French bread and a simple dish of potatoes. These would have been foods consumed daily by most of the people at that time.
Here is a recipe...with historic notes...for "Pommes de Terre a L'Econome," Cuisinier Republicaine 1795:
"Although potatoes could have been grown in France earlier, it was not until the French Revolution in 1789 that this precious vegetable was accepted by the French. The French accepted it only because famine, and the economic exigencies of the Revolution, forced it on them. The potato had long been considered poisonous in France, but once the French tried it and survived, they showed a surprising amount of enthusiasm for this "new" food. The following recipe is taken from one of the first postrevolutionary French cookbooks and is one of the earliest French recipes using potatoes.
Pommes de terre a l'econome
Ingredients: (for 4 servings): 3 sprigs parsley, finely chopped. 1 scallion, finely chopped. 4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped. 2 cupps chopped cooked meat (leftover meat or poultry). 2 pounds potatoes. 3 1/2 tablespoons butter. 1 egg. 1 egg, separated. Salt. Pepper. Flour. Oil for frying. Chopped parsley (to garnish).
The Herbs and the Meat: Mix the finely chopped parsely, scallion, and shallots with the chopped meat. The Potatoes: Boil the potatoes in their jackets (skins) for thirty minutes in lightly salted water. Peel while still hot; then mash with a fork. The Patties: Combine the mashed potatoes and the chopped ingredients. Add the butter, egg, and egg yolk. Salt and pepper to taste. Shape into medium patties. (If they are too small, they will be too crunchy, and if too large, the centers will not cook thoroughly.) Beat the egg white until it begins to stiffen. Dip the patties into the egg white; then roll them in flour. Cooking the Patties: Place the patties in a frying pan with very hot oil. Turn so that they will brown on all sides. To Serve: Drain well, and serve garnished with parsley."
---The Grand Masters of French Cuisine: Five Centuries of Great Cooking, Celine Vence and Robert Courtine [G.P. Putnam:New York] 1978 (p. 253)
AFTER THE REVOLUTION
"In July 1789, only a few days after the storming of the Bastille, the Marquis Charles de Villette proposed that the new ideal of fraternity could be achieved by common dining in the streets. The rich and poor could be united, and all ranks would mix...the capital, from one end to the other, would be one immense family, and you would see a million poeple all seated at the same table...' And then, standing on its head the ancien regime traditon of the royal family dining au grand couvert, Villette goes on to add: On that day, the nation will hold its grand covert'. Ironically, of course, the proposal would have represented just as much a manipulation of the meal in service of the state as anything ever staged at Versailles. That flirtation with the communal meal as emblematic of a new age of equality and faternity was to continue to ebb and flow through the early, more extreme, years of the Revolution. On 14 July 1790, the first anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, a Festival of Federation was staged, prefaced the previous day by two thousand spectators watching members of the National Assembly share an open-air patriotic meal' in the circus of the Palais Royal...The left-overs from this fraternal repast were distributed to the poor...All of this was to be as dust within a few years, yet what occurred in the priod after 1789 fundamentally shaped developments around the table down to our own day. A primary effect was to dissolve the equation of cuisine and class. Henceforward cuisine of a kind seen as the prerogative of royalty and nobility would be available to anyone who could afford to pay for it."
---Feast: A History of Grand Eating, Roy Strong [Harcourt:New York] 2002 (p. 274-6)
"The French Revolution marks, in its first years, a certain slowing down in the "culinary" evolution of the coutnry...But not for long. Soon the arts of the gourmet and the pleasures of the table reclaimed their prestige; the new leaders of France quickly tired of Spartan virtues. People began to eat well again, not only in Paris, but also in the provinces. Cooks whos masters had emigrated were snapped up. Great houses reorganized. New restaurants were opened. The cuisine of France regained the grandeur it had enjoyed during the reign of Louis XV. However, what with wars and the gory horrors of the Terror, famine raged again for several years. In 1793 and ordinance prohibited more than one pound of meat a week per person...There was no bread and the potato crop was poor. But restrictions are never applied to all-under any regime. And while plain people...were rushed to the guillotine, there were feasting and carousing in the mansions of Barras and Fouche. The following is a menu of a dinner served by Barras in the winter of 1793:
With a little onions, a la ce-devant minime
Steaks of sturgeon en brochette
Turbot saute a l'homme de confiance
Cucumber stuffed with marrow
Vol au vent of chicken breast in Bechemel sauce
A ci-devant Sait-Pierre sauce with capers
Fillets of partridge in rings (not to say in a crown)
Gudgeons of the region
A carp in court-bouillon
Lentils a la ci-devant Reine
Beets scalded and sauted in butter
Artichoke bottoms a la ravigote
Eggs a la neige
Cream fritters with orange water
Celery en remoulade
Twenty-four different dishes"
"The Revolution was not merely political: it also changed many customs of the French people. The four meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper) were reduced to two: breakfast and dinner. The latter was soon the more important of the two."
---An Illustrated History of French Cuisine, Christian Guy [Bramhall House:New York] 1962 (p. 95-7)
Napoleon & Josephine
Napoleon and Josephine were said to be fast and fussy eaters. They were not a gastronomes but they did understand and appreciate the social power of the table. Napoleon chose his chefs wisely. Josephine was charged with teaching the "new" etiquette to staff and guests.
"If Bonaparte had been as great an epicure as were Barras, Cambaceres and Tallyrand, the already rapid progress of gastronomy would have been very considerably speeded up."
---The Gastronomy of France, Raymond Oliver, translated by Claude Durrell [Wine and Food Society:Cleveland OH] 1967 (p. 102)
"Even in the sumptuous days of the Empire, Napoleon never conformed with good grace to the ceremonies of the table. He ate quickly and gluttonously. After the meal, Constant, his valet, sometimes had to bring him clean garments to replace those he had spotted. At any hour of the day or night, his meals had to be ready to be served on call. His breakfasts, which he was apt to take from six o'clock in the morning on, were most often served to him on a little mahogany pedestal table, incrusted with mother-of-pearl: eggs fried in butter, a salad of beans and, for dessert, some Parmesan cheese or two olives. Dinner was heartier meal. The Emperor ate between six o'clock in the evening and two, three or even four o'clock in the morning, depending on his work or his audiences. He liked to eat alone. He was served a great number of dishes, each one under a cover which the Emperor lifted himself. He would keep the dishes he liked and return the others to the kitchen. 'How is it I never eat pork crepeinettes (small, flat sausages)?' he asked Danau, his maitre d'hotel, one day testily. 'Sire, that is not a choice dish..' 'I don't care! I want some crepinettes.' The next day Danau had crepinettes of pheasant prepared for his master. Napoleon clapped his hands (sic) and helped hemself thre times. A month later, the maitre d'hotel gave it to him again. 'What's this!' cried Napoleon in angry disgust, 'I'll have none of these hostler's dishes!' The Emperor would not allow string beans to be served. He was afraid of finding strings in them which, he said, felt like hairs in his mouth. At the siege of Cherbourg, when he was inspecting quarters and walked past the camp kitchen, he asked for a plate of 'ration soup.' It was served to him. He grimaced in disgust: there was a hair in the plate! Napoleon looked around, saw his old guard watching him, petrified with respect. The Emperor calmly went on eating his soup--he even asked for a second helping! 'The most extraordinary thing,' Constant relates, 'is that there was also a hair in the second plate.'... Napoleon was fond of starches, potatoes, beans, lentils and especially of pastas a l'italienne of which he consumed a full plate at least once a day. He never ate bread. Among cooked dishes--if one can believe Constant his faithful valet--his preferences leaned to Boudin a la Richelieu (blood pudding served on stewed apples fragrant with cinnamon), ragout of mutton, quenelles (force-meat balls). For dessert, nothing pleased him so much as macaroni timbales a la Milanaise. His favorite wine was Chambertin, diluted with water. He never drank alcohol or liqueur but ended every meal with a cup of coffee."
---An Illustrated History of French Cuisine From Charlemagne to Charles de Gaulle, Christian Guy, tranlsated by Elisabeth Abbott [Bramhall House:New York] 1962 (p.99-103)
"If Napoleon was not a gastronome, he nevertheless occupies an important place in the history of French cooking through a third person. 'Entertain in my place,' he ordered the Arch-Chancellor Cambaceres,' and let your table do honor to France.' 'Entertain, ' he said to Tallyrand his minister. 'Give a dinner for thirty-six people four times a week. See that all men of importance in France and all foreign friends are invited.' Both Cambareres and Tallyrand were ideally suited to play the part..."
---ibid (p. 107)
Napoleon & Jospehine: public banquets & private dining
These rulers and their period were a time of social upheaval. Everything Old Regime was shunned. But? The contemporary literary histographers were Old Regime. They shunned back. The seeds of culinary evolution in Josephine's time were planted by the Revolution. Restaurants serving all people who could pay, regardless to rank or birth, thrived. The Bonaparte did not participate. They ate/entertained just like the nobility they supplanted. The BEST source for researching period foods/dining customs is the book A Palate in Revolution: Grimod de la Reyniere and the Almanach des Gourmands/Giles MacDonough. Your local public librarian can help you get a copy. Reyniere chose to ignore Napoleon for a reason. Biographers generally agree neither Napoleon nor Josephine were "gourmets," (aka enjoyed the pleasures of the table). Privately, they were dining soulmates: consuming whatever quickly & return to business/pleasure. Napoleon understood state dining is not about enjoying food, but an edible expression of power and influence. This is a common thread among all powerful/wealthy people from ancient times to present. Napoleon engaged the finest culinary talent to plan and execute his public dinners. Josephine was expected to oversee dining etiquette & attend public meals in full regalia.
"The emperor expected his wife to supervise the observance of palace etiquette, and to ensure that the expanding corpus of regulations prescribed in the official etiquette book be carried out without default. It was her responsibility to invite the young wives of court to breakfast and introduce them to the subleties of the recently installed social code...The etiquette book goverened nearly everything; the proper serving of meals, their number of courses, the correct way to eat... In her role as hostess, Josephine was kept constantly in a state of preparing for, or presiding over, official events. There were dreary suppers for aging generals and balls for five hundred guests, civic and military festivals held in the open air over which the empress had to preside...There were small 'teas' at three in the afternoon, and late suppers, and concerts at the palace by celebrated Italian singers."
---Josephine: A Life of the Empress, Carolly Erickson [St. Martin's Press:New York] 1998 (p. 240-242)
"When Napoleon and Josephine were alone--neither one interested in food or wine--they dined in a few minutes. But even official banquets must reflect what Napoleon called the 'social mirror,' and he demanded for these occasions the complicated dishes promoted by the imperial chefs...all the courses except for the dessert were still placed on the table together in a minutely ordered pattern...The serving dishes themselves...were set between the massive silver gilt services, the candelabra and the four-foot-high soup tureens, all stamped or painted with the imperial arms."
---Napoleon & Josephine: An Improbable Marriage, Evangeline Bruce [Lisa Drew, Scribner:New York] 1995 (p. 390)
"At eleven, Josephine was finally ready for breakfast, served by her matire d'hotel, Richaud, in her apartments. Bonaparte did not join her, usually breakfasting alone in his office...Josephine's meal was often shared with Hortense and five or six friends or dames de service. The menu seems formidable to modern eyes, including soup, hors d'oeuvres, entrees, roasts, entremets and sweet dishes. These were accompanied by numerous bottles of Burgundy and followed by coffee and liqueurs. Josephine, like her husband, was not a gourmet, and ate lightly, preferring the gossip to the food...Josephine waited to be summoned to diner by the prefect of the palace. The meal was scheduled for six o'clock but it was sometimes delayed by one, two, or even three hours while Napoleon worked. When he finally arrived the pair usually dined alone."
---The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon's Josephine, Andrea Stuart [Grove Press:New York] 2003 (p. 332-333)
Recommended reading (period history & dining customs)
A Palate in Revolution: Grimod e de La Reyniere and the Almanach des Gourmandes, Giles MacDonough
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3 January 2015