American Cookery

American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection

This is a beautiful reproduction of the first ever American cookbook, with recipes using ingredients unique to America. While the recipes contained in this book are not what would be normally produced in a modern American kitchen, they provide a valuable insight into the changes of the home and marketplace. But one thing has not changed, as Amelia states: “and the best cook cannot alter the first quality, they must be good, or the cook will be disappointed.” Or, in modern American, always get the best, freshest ingredients you can obtain, for the best end results.

Some of the most fascinating pieces that I, personally, found in this book are the descriptions of how some tradesmen would try to trick the shopper into purchasing a poor quality product. For example, “deceits are used to give the (fish) a freshness of appearance, such as peppering the gills, wetting the fins and tails, and even painting the gills, or wetting with animal blood”. While the original book was only 47 pages and the reprint which translates the original in modern English is a slim 100 pages, there is a lot of very good information and a few things I would like to try. Luckily I do know where to get food grade rosewater (a good organic or health food store can help you out).

Originally published in 1796, this volume is a treasure sure to be valued and treasured by anyone that enjoys history, cooking or food. With its red cover, gilt edges and red ribbon page marker, this book is definitely nice enough to give as a present.

Book Blurb for American Cookery

Named by the Library of Congress as one of the 88 "Books That Shaped America," American Cookery was the first cookbook by an American author published in the United States. Until its publication, cookbooks printed and used by American colonists were British. As indicated in Amelia Simmons’s subtitle, the recipes in her book were “adapted to this country,” reflecting the fact that American cooks had learned to make do with what was available in North America. This cookbook reveals the rich variety of food colonial Americans used, their tastes, cooking and eating habits, and even their rich, down-to-earth language.

Bringing together English cooking methods with truly American products, American Cookery contains the first known printed recipes substituting American maize for English oats; and the recipe for Johnny Cake is apparently the first printed version using cornmeal. The book also contains the first known recipe for turkey. Possibly the most far-reaching innovation was Simmons’s use of pearlash—a staple in colonial households as a leavening agent in dough, which eventually led to the development of modern baking powders.  

“Thus, twenty years after the political upheaval of the American Revolution of 1776, a second revolution—a culinary revolution—occurred with the publication of a cookbook by an American for Americans.” (Jan Longone, curator of American Culinary History, University of Michigan)

This facsimile edition of Amelia Simmons's American Cookery was reproduced by permission from the volume in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a Revolutionary War patriot and successful printer and publisher, the Society is a research library documenting the life of Americans from the colonial era through 1876. The Society collects, preserves, and makes available as complete a record as possible of the printed materials from the early American experience. The cookbook collection includes approximately 1,100 volumes.

Night Owl Reviews Nov, 2012 4.00