Friday, August 9, 2019

America's First Wild Woman Cookbook Writer

Wild Woman Cookbook Writer Amelia Simmons

By Jacqui Nelson

Cooking is a delicious adventure. Cooking without the right knowledge or recipe can be a daring and nerve-wracking adventure...or at least that's how it sometimes feels to me :) 

Meet the first American writer to publish a cookbook in America...

Amelia Simmons

( date and location of birth unknown ) 

American Cookery 1st Edition 1796 - CookBook Cover
1st Edition, 1796
In 1796, Amelia's cookbook, American Cookery, was published in Hartford, Connecticut - making it the first-known cookbook written by an American. Previously, all cookbooks printed and used in the Thirteen Colonies were written by the British. 

Amelia's cookbook's full title 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.

The cover and title page lists her as "Amelia Simmons, An American Orphan." The preface says: "The candor of the American Ladies is solicitously intreated by the Authoress, as she is circumscribed in her knowledge, this being original work in this country."

American Cookery had many firsts. It was...
  • the first to include New England specialties such as Indian pudding, johnnycake, and what is now called pumpkin pie. 
  • the first to suggest serving cranberry with turkey
  • the first to use the Hudson River Valley Dutch word cookey  
  • the first to use pearlash (a precursor of baking soda) as a chemical leavener (which started a revolution in the making of American cakes).

Amelia's cookbook was very popular. It was printed, reprinted, and pirated for decades after its first publication. Today, only four copies of the first edition are known to exist. The Library of Congress considers American Cookery to be one of the “Books That Shaped America.”

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Wow! That's quite the legacy! 

What's your favorite cookbook? Or the first cookbook you used? 

One of my firsts (or the first I used on my own) was a cookbook given to me by my awesome friend Julie. It's called 4-H Favourites and I still use it :) 

More interesting cookbook firsts & resources...

The first French cookbook in the United States was published in 1840, the first Spanish in 1845, and the first German (Pennsylvania Dutch) in 1848. Apparently, the 1840s was a good time to publish a cookbook! 

Want to read more about American cookbook history? Head to the Early American Cookbooks website that is (following text taken from their site) "a carefully curated collection of 1450 cookbooks published in the United States between 1800 and 1920. All of the titles in the collection are in the public domain and are available in full-text on the HathiTrust Digital Library. Browse the titles, read them online, and search through the contents of each book."

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2 comments:

Julie Lence said...

Great blog, Jacqui! Though I am not thrilled to cook, I do like cookbooks, especially older ones. Do you know if this one available to purchase? I would enjoy taking a peek. Thanks!

Jacqui Nelson said...

Awesome to hear you enjoyed my blog, Julie! I'm not sure if this cookbook is in print, but it sure would be interesting to have a copy for historical writing reference.