“America’s First Cook Book”
By Guy Coalter, Feature Writer
As a newspaper writer, I often leave items of my work on the coffee table in my den. My friends and neighbors come and go… but seldom ever do they notice anything I’ve left out.
A cookbook I brought home to review, however, recently “brought down the house.”
Of twenty or so friends who wandered in and out over the weekend, everyone picked up the book. All were thoroughly amused and entertained. Excitement was the order of the day. You’d have thought I’d brought a girlie book into a World War II Navy barracks!
The book is a pre-publication facsimile of American Cookery… the first cookbook published in America by an American author. It’s a first in cookbook literature and an historic document.
The Mother Of All Cookbooks
In 1796, a young lady named Amelia Simmons published what would become “the mother of all cookbooks” to follow in the U.S.A. Until then, few cookbooks had been published in our new nation, but without exception, all had been reprints of European works. All had been written by men… and for men cooks. None dwelt with the unique food ingredients available in America.
First Feminist Movement Spark
This is also the first cookbook on the planet slanted toward female cooks… Amelia’s book, in addition to being an outstanding cookbook, was also the very first spark of the feminist movement and the emancipation of women in America.
American Cookery published the earliest clear pairing of our Thanksgiving classics, cranberries and turkey, and the first recipes anywhere using corn meal as the primary ingredient. Here was the very first recipe for “Indian slapjacks,” and “Johnny Cake” or “Hoe Cake” which was to become an American staple under several other names during the following centuries.
Amelia also gave us the very first recipes for pumpkin pie, Indian pudding, rice pudding, and gingerbread. Here also was the first use of the words “cookie” and “slaw”… both borrowed from the Dutch in America.
Dozens of recipes tell you how to cook beef, pork, mutton, lamb, veal, poultry, fish and seafood, meat pies, apple and other fruit pies, puddings, dumplins, tarts, custards, cakes, gingerbread, biscuits, and literally dozens more amazing, amusing, and delicious recipes.
“Sinful” in Richness & Goodness
Many of Amelia’s recipes are downright “sinful” in their richness and goodness. In many others, however, you can easily substitute a low fat cooking oil for lard and be right up-to-date and modern!
Only two original copies of this 1796 First Edition are known to exist… one in the Bitting Collection of the Library of Congress, the other in the Whitney Collection of the New York Public Library.