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What Did the Founding Fathers Eat?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
7/4/2013 6:00 PM   :  49 comments   :  25,243 Views

See More: summer, food,
The Fourth of July is a time for flags, fireworks, food and fun!  It’s also a time to remember that safe and convenient food has not always been readily available in our country.  Today, the average person spends about 50 minutes in the kitchen each day preparing meals—about five minutes for breakfast, 15 minutes for lunch and up to 30 minutes for dinner. In colonial America, cooks would slave away over the stove for hours.  Talk about your American Revolution!
 
However, some of our modern dining habits actually do bear similarities to those of our colonial ancestors.  Beef, chicken, pork, fish, fruits, vegetables and baked products would have been familiar foods in colonial times. Colonial cooks used some of the same cooking methods we still use today, like frying, baking, broiling and boiling.  And while the colonists enjoyed their coffee, tea, and hot chocolate like we do, they didn’t have a Starbucks in every neighborhood!
 
Not much else was the same.  While we may not know exactly what George Washington ate for dinner on July Fourth, we do know several things about the preparation of foods in 1776.  Here are a few highlights:
  • Colonists had to make do with whatever food was in season. They prepared and ate it that day.  Refrigeration didn’t exist, and canned foods wouldn’t be invented until ten years after General Washington’s death.
     
  • If the colonists wanted a turkey for dinner, they would kill it early in the morning, cook it over an open fire and would eat it that day.  Otherwise, it would spoil. 
     
  • The colonists didn’t worry at all about flies and bugs buzzing around their food.  If it was summer, there were bound to be flies--and there were no screens on the windows or doors to keep them out.  Our ancestors simply shooed the critters out before digging into their meal.
     
  • If the colonists wanted to cook or bake, their only choice for a heat source was a wood fire.  They didn’t have a digital thermostat to tell them when the oven reached 350 degrees! They judged the heat by the brightness and color of the flames. 
     
  • If a colonial family was lucky enough to own a cookbook, they had to decipher recipes that contained general measuring terms such as ''a teacup full of molasses,'' ''a great spoon-full of ginger,'' and ''a little milk.'' They then baked the resulting pudding ''three or four hours.''
     
  • The colonists used lots and lots of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to season food.  In fact, the greasier, sweeter, and spicier the food, the better the meal!
     
  • Raw fruits and vegetables were considered unappetizing, so they were boiled vigorously with lots of sugar added to make them tastier.
     
  • When the colonists served meat (which was often), they usually left the head and feet of the animal attached.  
     
The culinary scene has changed greatly since 1776! In fact, one of the leading causes of death for women back in colonial times was burning to death--their large skirts would catch on fire while cooking!  Realizing the labor and risks involved to feed a family back then makes me feel ashamed of all my complaints about preparing meals with my modern kitchen luxuries.  As we enjoy our Fourth of July celebration, let’s take a moment to remember that freedom isn’t free, and to give thanks for the blessing of liberty. 
 
What are you cooking for the Fourth of July?


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