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Cooking (and Contemplating) New England

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

Sampler, Mariette Thompson, East Haven, Conn., 1826, Yale University Art Gallery
 Gift of Archer M. Huntington, M.A. (Hon.) 1897, in memory of his mother, Arabella D. Huntington

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.

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.

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