FOOD IN COLONIAL AND FEDERAL AMERICA
Sandra L. Oliver
(Greenwood Press - 2005)
Food in Colonial and Federal America
is the second book in the "Food in American History" series
published by Greenwood Press. The first book in the
series is American Indian Food and the third
book is Food in the United States
In elementary school, when studying American history, one
probably learned that the early American settlers ate beans,
squash and corn; foods that they learned how to grow from
the Native Americans. Then we learned that the Pilgrims and the Native
Americans joined together one day in the late fall and had a
feast, serving dishes like turkey, cranberries and pumpkin
and it became an annual tradition known as Thanksgiving Day.
Often our knowledge of the food consumed in early America
stopped right there in the first or second grade.
Although we continue to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday
on the fourth Thursday of every November, one may give little
thought about what those early settlers really ate and how
that food actually came to be on their table.
This book provides an easily readable, fairly in-depth
look at what the American settlers in the 17th and 18th
centuries really had to eat and how important their food
supply was to the success of their early survival in the New
World. As the nation developed, so did their food
supply and food sources. Ms. Oliver covers roughly the
period between the early 1600s through the first quarter of
the 1800s in her story of food history during the Colonial
and Federal periods of American history.
The author tells of where the first colonists came from
and the food habits they brought along with them and how
those habits, combined with their new living circumstances,
evolved into the dishes that we are familiar with today.
The available foodstuffs of the time period are carefully
examined. These include grains, both wild and domestic
meat and fowl, fish, shellfish, dairy, fruits, vegetables,
spices and seasonings, nuts, condiments, spirits, beverages,
sugars and other sweeteners. She also discusses how
each food was prepared and what some of its uses were, as
well as where the foods came from. It's interesting to
learn that now-familiar names for some foods were called
something entirely different in the earlier days. This
might help clear up any earlier confusion when reading the
recipes of yesteryear and comparing them to the ingredients
we use today.
Where and how the food was cooked, as well as who cooked
it, is also examined. A look at early American
kitchens and the colonists' methods of food storage and food
preservation reveals a stark contrast to the kitchens and
methodology that we are used to today.
The section on eating habits is substantial and covers
the regional and cultural habits of the Native Americans and
the habits of those who immigrated to this country and
brought their ways with them.
Eating healthy is a major concern to Americans today, so
it shouldn't be surprising to find out that the Colonial and
Federal era Americans were concerned about this same topic.
The last section of the book covers their views on diet and
There are no recipes included in this volume, not even
the short, confusing ones that we are accustomed to seeing
from this time period. The book is illustrated with a
few black and white photographs.
All in all, I liked this book because it summarized
handily in one place information culled from many different
resources and compiled it neatly into one place. It is
a good reference for discovering more about the food and
eating habits of the American people from this time period.
If you want to learn more about the food consumed in 17th
and 18th century America, order your own copy of
Food in Colonial and Federal America. The
bibliography and notes about the sources used by the author
will be useful too, if you desire additional reading on this