Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Turtles, Turkeys, & Punch - Food & Drink at 18C US New Year's gatherings

In 1774 John Adams recorded in his diary on several special occasions enjoying the turtle on the dinner table, while visiting Philadelphia for the First Continental Congress. 1774 Septr. 11. "Dined at Mr. Willings, who is a Judge of the Supream Court here, with the Gentlemen from Virginia, Maryland and New York. A most splendid Feast again—Turtle and every Thing else."
Sea Turtles were available in both the Atlantic & Pacific

In 1768, John Hancock was buying sea turtles to serve at his table.

Recipes for preparing sea turtle.  1774 edition of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy. The recipe 1st appeared in the 1751 edition of this book.

Colonial & Early American cookbooks do not contain suggested complete menus or "bills of fare" for New Year's celebrations. What we know about these gatherings is gleaned from primary sources such as journals, letters, household accounts, & newspaper articles.
1797 Newspaper Advertisement of Mr Julien of Boston

"The custom of paying New Year's calls originated in New York, where the Dutch held open house on New Year's Day & served cherry bounce, olykoeks [doughnuts] steeped in rum, cookies, & honey cakes. From New York the custom spread throughout the country. On the first New Year's after his inauguration, George Washington opened his house to the public, & he continued to receive visitors on New Year's Day throughout the seven years he lived in Phildadelphia. On January 1, 1791, a senator from Pennsylvania hoted in his diary: "Made the President the compliments of the season; had a hearty shake of the hand. I was asked to partake of punch & cakes, but declined...Eventually, it became de rigeur [common social practice] for those who intended to receive company to list in newspapers the hours they would be "at home." It was a disastrous practice: parties of young men took to dashing from house to house for a glass of punch, dropping in at as many of the homes listed in the papers as they could. Strangers wandered in off the streets, newspapers under their arms, for a free drink & a bit of a meal. The custom of having an open house on the first day of the year survived the assaults of the newspaper readers. The traditional cookies & cakes continued to be served, along with hot toddies, punches, eggnogs, tea, coffee, & chocolate. But public announcements of at-home hours were dropped at the end of the nineteenth century, & houses were open only to invited friends."
---American Heritage Cookbook & Illustrated History of American Eating & Drinking, American Heritage:New York] 1964 (p. 392)

"New Year's Day Collation at Mount Clare: Crab Imperial, Oyster loaves, Boned Turkey Breast with Forcemeat & Oyster Sauce, Fried Chicken, Maryland Ham, Fruits in White Wine Jelly, Beaten Biscuits, Sally Lunn, Apricot Fool, Minced Pies, Pound Cake, Light Fruit Cake, Maryland Rocks, Little Sugar Cakes, Coconut Jumbles, Peach Cordial, Syllabub, Egg Nog, Sangaree."
---The Thirteen Colonies Cookbook, Mary Donovan et al [Montclair Historical Society:Montclair NJ] 1976 (p. 176)

[New York]
"New Year's Eve was especially noisy, with the firing of guns to bring in the New Year. Ordinances in both the Netherlands & New Netherland eventually prohibited such behavior. The special treat for New Year's Day in the Netherlands was nieuwjaarskoeken (thick crisp waters), which originated in the eastern part of the country & adjoining parts of Germany. These wafers were made in a special wafer iron. The oblong or round long-handleed irons, made by blacksmiths, created imprints of a religious or secular nature on the wafers. Wafer irons were often given as a wedding gift, even in this country. Enormous quantities of wafers were prepared on New Year's Day. The were consumed by family, servants, & guests distributed to children, who went from house to house singing New Year songs, while collecting their share of treats along the way. There is ample evidence in diaries & letters that Dutch Americans continued the custom of visiting each other on New Year's Day. In New Netherland...the nieuwjaarskoeken were molded in wooden cake-boards, instead of wafer irons...The American New Year's cake is a combination of two Dutch pastries brought here by the early settlers, the nieuwjaarskoeken described above & spiced, chewy, honey cakes formed in a wooden mold or cake-board. It was in the late eighteenth century that this homemade pastry prepared in heirloom wafer irons by the Dutch, changed to a mostly store-bought product purchased by the population at large."
---Matters of Taste: Food & Drink in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art & Life, Donna R. Barnes & Peter G. Rose [Syracuse University Press:Syracuse NY] 2002 (p. 24-5)

Menus for 18C American New Year's gatherings from Foodtimeline here

Colonial Era Cookbooks

1615, New Booke of Cookerie, John Murrell (London) 

1798, American Cookery, Amelia Simmons (Hartford, CT)

1803, Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter (New York, NY)

1807, A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Eliza Rundell (Boston, MA)

1808, New England Cookery, Lucy Emerson (Montpelier, VT)

Helpful Secondary Sources

America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking/Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Colonial Kitchens, Their Furnishings, and Their Gardens/Frances Phipps Hawthorn; 1972

Early American Beverages/John Hull Brown   Rutland, Vt., C. E. Tuttle Co 1996 

Early American Herb Recipes/Alice Cooke Brown  ABC-CLIO  Westport, United States

Food in Colonial and Federal America/Sandra L. Oliver

Home Life in Colonial Days/Alice Morse Earle (Chapter VII: Meat and Drink) New York : Macmillan Co., ©1926.

A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America/James E. McWilliams New York : Columbia University Press, 2005.