"Most New Englanders had a simple diet, their soil and climates allowing limited varieties of fruits and vegetables. In 1728 the Boston News Letter estimates the food needs of a middle-class 'genteel' family. Breakfast was bread an milk. Dinner consisted of pudding, followed by bread, meat, roots, pickles, vinegar, salt and cheese. Supper was the same as breakfast. Each famly also needed raisins, currants, suet, flour, eggs, cranberries, apples, and, where there were children, food for 'intermeal eatings.' Small beer was the beverage, and molasses for brewing and flavoring was needed. Butter, spices, sugar, and sweetmeats were luxuries, as were coffee, tea, chocolate, and alcoholic beverages other than beer."---A History of Food and Drink in America, Richard J. Hooker [Bobbs-Merrill Company:Indianapolis IN] 1981(p. 67)
"English settlers in teh seventeenth century ate three meals a day, as they had in England...For most people, breakfast consisted of bread, cornmeal mush and milk, or bread and milk together, and tea. Even the gentry might eat modestly in the morning, although they could afford meat or fish...Dinner, as elsewhere in the colonies, was a midday, through the wealthy were like to do as their peers in England did, and have it midafternoon...new England's gentry had a great variety of food on te table...An everyday meal might feature only one or two meats with a pudding, tarts, and vegetables...The different betweeen the more prosperous households and more modest ones might be in the quality and quantity of the meat served...Supper was a smaller meal, often similar to breakfast: bread, cheese, mush or hasty pudding, or warmed-over meat from the noon meal. Supper among the gentry was also a sociable meal, and might have warm food, meat or shellfish, such as oysters, in season."---Food in Colonial and Federal America, Sandra L. Oliver [Greenwood Press:Westport CT] 2005(p. 157)
"Breakfast. The Colonial American breakfast was far from the juice, eggs and bacon of today. The stoic early settlers rose early and went straight to the chores that demanded their attention. In frontier outposts and on farms, families drank cider or beer and gulped down a bowl of porridge that had been cooking slowly all night over the embers...In the towns, the usual mug of alcoholic beverage consumed upon rising was followed by cornmeal mush and molasses with more cider or beer. By the nineteenth century, breakfast was served as late a 9 or 10 o'clock. Here might be found coffee, tea or chocolate, wafers, muffins, toasts, and a butter dish and knife...The southern poor ate cold turkey washed down with ever-present cider. The size of breakfasts grew in direct proportion to growth of wealth. Breads, cold meats and, especially in the Northeast, fruit pies and pasties joined the breakfast menus. Families in the Middle Colonies added special items such as scrapple (cornmeal and headcheese) and dutch sweetcakes wich were fried in deep fat. It was among the Southern planters that breakfast became a leisurely and delightful meal, though it was not served until early chores were attended to and orders for the day given...Breads were eaten at all times of the day but particularly at breakfast."---A Cooking Legacy, Virginia T. Elverson and Mary Ann McLanahan [Walker & Company:New York] 1975 (p. 14)
"Dinner. Early afternoon was the appointed hour for dinner in Colonial America. Throughout the seventeenth century and well into the eighteenth century it was served in the "hall" or "common room." ..While dinner among the affluent merchants in the North took place shortly after noon, the Southern planters enjoyed their dinner as late as bubbling stews were carried into the fields to feed the slaves and laborers...In the early settlements, poor families ate from trenchers filled from a common stew pot, with a bowl of coars salt the only table adornment. The earliest trenchers in America, as in the Middle Ages, were probably made from slabs of stale bread which were either eaten with the meal or thrown after use to the domestic animals. The stews often included pork, sweet corn and cabbage, or other vegetables and roots which were available...A typical comfortably fixed family in the late 1700s probably served two courses for dinner. The first course included several meats plus meat puddings and/or deep meat pies containing fruits and spices, pancakes and fritters, and the ever-present side dishes of sauces, pickles and catsups...Soups seem to have been served before of in conjunction with the first course. Desserts appeared with the second course. An assortment of fresh, cooked, or dried fruits, custards, tarts and sweetmeats was usually available. "Sallats," (salads) though more popular at supper, sometimes were served at dinner and occasionally provided decoration in the center of the table...Cakes were of many varieties: pound, gingerbread, spice and cheese."---A Cooking Legacy (p. 24-28)
"Supper. What is there to say about a meal that probably did not even exist for many settlers during the eary days of the Colonies and later seemed more like a bedtime snack made up of leftovers?...In the eighteenth century supper was a brief meal and, especially in the South, light and late. It generally consisted of leftovers from dinner, or of gruel (a mixture made from boiling water with oats, "Indian," (corn meal) or some other meal). One Massachusetts diary of 1797 describes roast potatoes, prepared with salt but no butter. Ale, cider, or some variety of beer was always served. In the richer merchant society and in Southern plantation life, eggs and egg dishes were special delicacies and were prepared as side dishes at either dinner or supper...Supper took on added importance as the nineteeth century wore on. This heretofore casual meal became more important as dinner was served earlier in the day."---A Cooking Legacy (p. 79-81)
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.