Discovered in the Archives
“America’s First Cookbook”
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 if ever do they notice anything I’ve left out.
A cookbook I recently took home to review, however, “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. They couldn’t put it down.
Excitement was the order of the day. You’d have thought I’d brought a “girlie” book into a World War Two Navy barracks!
The book is a pre-publication facsimile copy 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 written for men cooks. None dealt with the unique food ingredients available in America.
First Feminist Movement Spark
American Cookery was 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 also 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.