Cooking (and Contemplating) New England

50 Things to Know about American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, the first American Cookbook: #7 & #8

May 22, 2017

Tags: printers, stationers, newsstands, sundries, Wedgwood, patriotic symbols

Coming November, 2017, from University of Massachusetts Press!
7
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, printers were often also shopkeepers, selling not only books, newspapers, and stationery, but also minor luxuries such as chocolate, spices, and tobacco. The older among us witnessed the remnants of this tradition at our local newsstands, where chewing gum, breath mints, candy bars, and cigarettes nestled near the daily papers and monthly magazines. The Internet has pretty much killed off the newsstand, but the practice of combining the sale of newspapers and magazines with the vending of candy and mints persists at supermarket and pharmacy checkout counters.

8
In the early years of political independence, many inhabitants of the new nation wished to proclaim their fledgling identity as Americans by purchasing household goods inscribed with patriotic insignia. But ironically, as historian Kariann Akemi Yokota explains, only established British manufacturers such as Wedgwood were in a position to meet the demand of the American market for "jugs, plates, and mugs" on which were depicted “rousing scenes of the defeat of the mighty [British] empire” by the American rebels.

These intimate details about life in the young republic--how printers made ends meet, early forms of patriotism--paint a picture of early American society that we don't often see. How do such portraits of ordinary American life help us understand American Cookery by Amelia Simmons? Find out this November in our new book from University of Massachusetts Press, United Tastes: The Making of the First American Cookbook.


Map drawn by Kate Blackmer, Blackmer Maps

50 Things to Know about American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, the first American Cookbook: #5 & #6

May 12, 2017

Tags: reading, writing, gender, sewing, curiosity, knowledge

Coming November, 2017, from University of Massachusetts Press!
5
In the eighteenth century, boys and girls were both taught to read, but boys were taught much more often than girls to write as well. Historian E. Jennifer Monaghan tells us that writing was “a male job-related skill, a tool for ministers and shipping clerks alike,” whereas girls were educated "not to hold jobs, but to be successful homemakers." Instead of writing, they learned sewing, becoming equipped to produce words with a needle on a sampler rather than with a pen on a piece of paper.

6
The word curious is now mostly used to mean a desire for knowledge. But curious can also mean something that's singular or odd. Historian Elizabeth Spiller explains that the second meaning is a relic of a medieval notion: knowledge was thought most valuable when “curious,” displaying exceptional “jewels” and “delightes" to inspire awe.

How do these glimpses (curious or not) of the past help us understand American Cookery by Amelia Simmons? Find out this November in our new book from University of Massachusetts Press, United Tastes: The Making of the First American Cookbook.


Map drawn by Kate Blackmer, Blackmer Maps

50 Things to Know about American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, the first American Cookbook: #3 & #4

May 4, 2017

Tags: Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, Jedidiah Morse, Albany, Wethersfield

Coming November, 2017, from University of Massachusetts Press!
3
Jedidiah Morse, father of the inventor of the telegraph, Samuel F. B. Morse, complained in his American Geography (1789) that in Albany, New York, all the houses were constructed with projecting "watergutters or spouts," a custom that made it "almost dangerous to walk the streets in a rainy day."

4
In the 1740s in Wethersfield, Connecticut, a town near Hartford, women were employed to prepare onions for sale by tying them in bunches. Historian Gloria L. Main writes that these women workers were paid not in cash but rather in "store merchandise, mostly luxury imports." One woman's payment took the form of "a copy of Homer's Iliad."

These intimate details about life in the young republic--variations in house design, the specifics of a barter economy--paint a picture of early American society that we don't often see. How do such portraits of ordinary American life help us understand American Cookery by Amelia Simmons? Find out this November in our new book from University of Massachusetts Press, United Tastes: The Making of the First American Cookbook.


Map drawn by Kate Blackmer, Blackmer Maps

50 Things to Know about American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, the first American Cookbook: #1 & #2

April 25, 2017

Tags: Amelia Simmons, American Cookery, William Emerson, Timothy Dwight, George Washington

Coming November, 2017, from University of Massachusetts Press!
1
In the first decade of the nineteenth century, Ralph Waldo Emerson's father, William Emerson, was the pastor of the prestigious First Church of Boston. "Every Sunday evening," writes historian Phyllis Cole, "the deacons and other friends enjoyed wine and spirits, arrayed in gleaming decanters on the sideboard" in the dining room of the Emerson residence.

2
According to then-president of Yale Timothy Dwight, in his Travels in New England and New York, sometime in the early years of American independence, a justice of the U. S. Supreme Court told a governor of Connecticut that "when General Washington took the oath of office in the balcony of the assembly house in Philadelphia, the chief justice, who administered it, could scarcely be heard at a distance of ten feet on account of the noise and tumult of the yard below."

These intimate details about life in the young republic--cocktail hour at the parsonage, an unruly audience for Washington's swearing in--paint a picture of early American society that we don't often see. How do such portraits of ordinary American life help us understand American Cookery by Amelia Simmons? Find out this November in our new book from University of Massachusetts Press, United Tastes: The Making of the First American Cookbook.


Map drawn by Kate Blackmer, Blackmer Maps

Of Citrons and Amelia Simmons (with an Aside about Emily Dickinson)

January 26, 2017

Tags: Citron, Amelia Simmons, Emily Dickinson, Catharine Beecher, Hannah Glasse, black cake, fruitcake

How Are These Two Alike? Find Out Below

Black Cake
In working on our next book, due out from University of Massachusetts Press this fall, we had some correspondence with the staff of Harvard's Houghton Library on the subject of citron, a fruit that, in candied form, is included in many fruitcakes. Some of the Houghton staff had gotten together and baked a "black cake,"


from a recipe used by (more…)

An Election Baking Selection

October 24, 2016

Tags: cake, election

Elect to Celebrate Elections

With this bitter election campaign dragging along to its conclusion, we thought we would try to sweeten the experience of the final couple of weeks before November 8th by reminding our readers of an earlier post of ours: Election Cake. We're moved to do this partly because of a recent post about Election Cake on the NPR website, brought to our attention by Tony Stavely: A History of Election Cake.

This NPR "history" of the famous cake is unfortunately (more…)

Boston Refried Beans

August 16, 2016

Tags: Immigrants, Nativism, Holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Foods, Boston Baked Beans, Boston Brown Bread, Catharine Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sarah Josepha Hale, Lydia Maria Child

Vetting Immigrants Once Upon a Time

The New Nativism--An Old Story
It has become almost a cliche to say that the present period of American history, beginning around 1975, is similar in many important ways to the period beginning roughly a hundred years earlier. We are living now, it appears, in a second Gilded Age, with pronounced inequalities of wealth and income and with transformative changes in our technology, economy, and the demographic profile of our society.

The last of the trends on this list—the arrival of lots of new people—has received much attention in the past few years from political commentators and is in the headlines almost every day in the coverage of the current presidential campaign, because of the xenophobia that constitutes the primary plank in the platform of the Republican candidate. (more…)

Brexit? Doubt It

June 28, 2016

Tags: Culinary exchange, Culinary influence

Breakin' Up Is Hard to Do

Immigrant Foods
With this post, we start an occasional series on some of the myriad ways that New England foods are connected to the region's broader culture and its place in the world. In the past few days, the headlines have been dominated by the startling news that the people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union. There has been, and will continue to be, as there must, much discussion of the many still largely unknown implications and consequences of this decision. (more…)

"Mince Pies," from Lydia Maria Child's "American Frugal Housewife" (1833)

December 27, 2015

Tags: Lydia Maria Child, pies, mincemeat, beef

Where's the Beef? In 1832, it was in the pie!

Mincing Medievalism
Mincemeat pie is a relic of the time centuries ago when two things were true of European food: one, that until Shakespeare's day pies were made more often with meat, poultry, or fish than with fruit or vegetables as the primary ingredient; and two, that very few dishes of any kind, including pies, tasted primarily sweet or primarily savory. Most dishes, including pies, offered what we would consider a blend of sweet and savory tastes, something like the sweet-and-sour items on a Chinese restaurant menu. Or like that American classic of the Betty Crocker era--ham baked with brown sugar and pineapple. (more…)

"To Smother a Fowl in Oysters," from Amelia Simmons's "American Cookery" (1796)

May 3, 2015

Tags: Amelia Simmons, chicken, oysters

An "Oystered" Fowl That Makes Excellent Fare

The Oyster: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor
In our last post, the oyster had the featured role. As we mention there, the oyster has also performed admirably in historic New England cuisine in supporting parts. This time we offer oysters in such a supporting role from our old friend Amelia Simmons and the book by her that's considered "the first American cookbook." (more…)