The First American Cookbook: American Cookery, 1796

The First American Cookbook: American Cookery, 1796

Paperback

By (author) Amelia Simmons

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  • Publisher: Readaclassic.com
  • Format: Paperback | 54 pages
  • Dimensions: 140mm x 216mm x 3mm | 122g
  • Publication date: 22 December 2010
  • ISBN 10: 1611043468
  • ISBN 13: 9781611043464
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations

Product description

American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons, was the first known cookbook written by an American, published in 1796. Until this time, the cookbooks printed and used in what became the United States were British cookbooks, so the importance of this book is obvious to American culinary history, and more generally, to the history of America. The full title of this book was: American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life. This book was quite popular and was printed, reprinted and pirated for 30 years after its first appearance. Only four copies of the first edition (Hartford, 1796) are known to exist. From the Historic American Cookbook Project of Michigan State University: "The importance of this work cannot be overestimated. Its initial publication (Hartford, 1796) was, in its own way, a second Declaration of American Independence..."

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Author information

The only biographical information known about Amelia Simmons were from the cover and title pages of her cookbook that list her as "Amelia Simmons, An American Orphan"; nothing else is known about the author, so all else is by inference. American Cookery is the only known published work by her. She said in her preface: The candor of the American Ladies is solicitously entreated by the Authoress, as she is circumscribed in her knowledge, this being original work in this country. This phrase indicates that she probably lacked formal education. Based on other quotes from her preface, she was most likely a domestic laborer. She wrote of "those females who have parents, or brothers, or riches," and how female orphans may be "reduced to the necessity of going into families in the line of domestics." Culinary Historian Karen Hess says that because ..".the first edition is from Hartford, historians have always assumed that she was a New Englander." However, many of the later editions were published from a cluster around the Hudson River Valley. Also, several Dutch words appeared in her work (for example, slaw and cookey), words that would have more likely come from that region, rather than New England. So a case can be made that Simmons more likely came from the Hudson Valley region. Karen Hess also referred to Miss. Simmons as a "good plain cook," noting the generous use and variety of herbs and the use of wine in her recipes. Simmons also showed the use of English "extraordinarily fine roasting techniques" in her recipes.