J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

“Half a dozen cooks were employed upon this occasion”

In the spring of 1761 there was an argument in the pages of Edes and Gill’s Boston Gazette over whether the dinner to celebrate the installation of a new minister at the Old South Meeting-House had been too elaborate.

The initial report called the celebration “very sumptuous and elegant,” and declared “many poor People were the better for what remained of so plentiful and splendid a Feast.”

But then a correspondent identifying himself as from the countryside declared the event a “disgusting” contradiction of ministers’ disapproval of “Feasting, Jollity and Revelling.” On 11 May 1761 that writer described what he understood of the meal itself:
There were six tables, that held one with another 18 persons, upon each table a good rich plum pudding, a dish of boil’d pork and fowls, and a corn’d leg of pork, with sauce proper for it, a leg of bacon, a piece of alamode beef, a leg of mutton with caper sauce, a piece of roast beef, a roast line [loin] of veal, a roast turkey, a venison pastee, besides chess cakes and tarts, cheese and butter.

Half a dozen cooks were employed upon this occasion, upwards of twenty tenders to wait upon the tables; they had the best of old cyder, one barrel of Lisbon wine, punch in plenty before and after dinner, made of old Barbados spirit.

The cost of this moderate dinner was upwards of fifty pounds lawful money.
Which was, indeed, an awful lot.

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