What Americans Ate for Breakfast & Dinner 200 Years Ago

Early american cooking recipes

Video Early american cooking recipes

Despite all the other glitches of the 2020s, most of humanity now enjoys a culinary variety like never before known. Two centuries ago, the selection was considerably narrower. Back then, the United States of America, which had not yet become the highly developed leader of the “free world,” remained for the most part a rather harsh land. This is reflected in a book like Democracy in America, which Alexis de Tocqueville wrote after traveling through the county in the 1830s, or on a YouTube channel like Early American, which recreates the life lived by Americans decades earlier.

Not long ago, Early American’s audience exploded. This seems to be due to cooking videos like the one at the top of the post, “A Regular People’s Dinner 200 Years Ago.” The menu, on this imaginary day in March 1820 Missouri, includes beef, turnip puree, carrots, muffins and hard-boiled eggs: it turns out that it is not a bad-looking extension, although its flavors may leave something to be desired for the palate of the XXI century.

Many of Early American’s new commentators, writes channel co-creator Justine Dorn, are telling her to “add this seasoning and this and that,” but “then I would no longer be loyal to the actual original recipe, so you’re all here to start.”

In the case of regular people’s dinner, his recipes come directly from an 1803 volume called The Frugal Housewife. As for the johnnycakes featured in “Making a Working Class Breakfast in 1820,” you’ll find their recipe in Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery from 1796, the first known cookbook written by an American. The meal also includes an unleavened bread for which there is no suitable recipe. However, Dorn writes, “there are several mentions of working-class people baking unleavened bread in autobiographies of travelers in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Because of this, we know it was common practice.”

Made from a modified family recipe passed down from the 1750s, this unleavened bread looks attractive enough, especially toasted over the fire and served with apple butter. But we must recognize that tastes have changed over the centuries. “I’m not claiming this food is good,” Dorn writes. “Sometimes it’s not. Many of the foods and condiments we take for granted today were either very hard to come by back then or only available seasonally.” But with seasonal “locally sourced” ingredients in vogue these days, it’s worth examining what, 200 years ago, was actually included in a simple Indian food pudding or early macaroni and cheese, albeit one prepared, in the purest ASMR style of the 2020s.

Related content

: The First American Cookbook: Sample Recipes of

American Cuisine (1796)

History of

Tasting: A Successful YouTube Series Shows How to Cook the Foods of Ancient Greece and Rome, Medieval Europe, and Other Places and Periods An archive of 3,000

vintage cookbooks

allows you to travel through culinary

time A database of 5,000 historical cookbooks, covering 1,000 years of food history, is now online

Handwritten Recipe Archive (1600

– 1960) will teach you how to stew a calf’s head and more


vintage recipe books are now digitized in the Internet Archive’s collection of cookbooks and home economics

Real interviews with people who lived in the 1800s

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts about cities, languages and culture. His projects include the Substack Books on Cities newsletter, The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, and The City in Cinema video series. Follow him on Twitter on @colinmarshall, on Facebook or on Instagram.

Canzaciti.com Culinary specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry.

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