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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Sunday, July 14, 2019

A Cookbook Started in 1764

One of the items in the Harvard Library’s Colonial North American collection is the cookbook digitized here.

Early in the book Sarah Fayerweather’s name appears over “June 26 MDCCLXIV,” telling us the initial owner and date.

The first pages are beautifully written in at least five different handwriting styles, perhaps even by a professional scribe.

At page 30 another hand takes over, also accomplished but not as showy or as even. The long S disappears about page 35. On pages 36-37 is a remedy “For Consumptive Complaints in the Breast” copied from the 21 Aug 1786 issue of the American Herald newspaper.

At page 40 yet more handwritings appear, with recipes attributed to “Mrs. Smith,” “Mrs. Thompson,” and others. One recipe on that page is for “polka cake,” and the polka craze dates from the mid-1800s. Page 44 (“Apple, Cream Pudding,” “Wine Jelly,” and “Cream Tartar Biscuit”) has been spattered on, so the notebook was obviously still in use.

The number of blank pages shows that this recipe book was designed to grow, just as people used it. It ends with an index which subsequent owners kept up.

Here are two recipes from page 4, the latter broken out from one paragraph:
To make Gingerbread
Take 5 lb. Flour 2 1/2 Sugar, 1 1/2 lb. Butter, 3 oz Ginger, 14 Eggs, 14 Spoons full rose water, 2 or 3 Spoons full Milk

for a
Calfs Head Tortois Fashion

Take a Calfs Head wth. ye. skin on, and parboil it, & take all the bones out & cut in pieces

then season it wth. pepper & put a Gill of Ketchup & also. Calfs feet in it, & salt & sweet herbs a little mace pounded fine, shread an Onion fine, about half a pint of Claret

take eno’ of the Liquor that you parboil it in to cover it, set it a stewing at 11 o’Clock & keep it doing till after one

season the Liver cut in slices & fry

put it in a dish by it self wth. some of ye. Gravy & ye. [heart shape] wth. it,

the tongue must go wth. ye. stew,

take ye. Brains wth. some melted Butter a little Ketchup & put in a bowl, Garnish it wth. yolks of Eggs Boiled hard, and force meat Balls.
“Force meat” is chopped and spiced meat. I’m not sure meatballs and the yolks of hardboiled eggs would make a calf’s brain look more appetizing, but I’ve never tried it.

TOMORROW: Who was Sarah Fayerweather?

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