By Virginia Monaco
September 17th marks a little known but vitally important day in American history – the day the United States Constitution was signed in Philadelphia. But how should a culinary school mark such an occasion? We celebrate the food and drink of our Founding Fathers, of course!
ICE was thrilled to have Chef Cathy Kaufman lead a class which discussed and celebrated the food of the early 18th century. Cathy is a senior editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America and ICE’s resident culinary historian. She discussed the first known written American cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, and The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, a vital colonial tome which compiled recipes that Thomas Jefferson collected from his own travels. They are our earliest written sources for American recipes—springing from English and European traditions, but featuring ingredients unique to the New World, such as cranberries, cornmeal and pumpkins.
As you would expect in a cultural melting pot, culinary influences flowed into American from all corners of the world. West Africans brought to the US as slaves simultaneously developed their own, very unique style of cooking which included a variety of rice dishes previously unknown to the British. Classic French cuisine was introduced to America via traveling diplomats—most famously Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin—who fell in love with exotic European ingredients such as almonds, mustard, vinegars and anchovies. All these influences merged and grew to create a distinctly American food culture.
After learning the history, a group of eager ICE students cooked up a sampling of traditional early America treats, including Martha Washington’s apple pancakes and an early afternoon snack of anchovies, parsley and cheese on toast. And, of course, no celebration of colonial America would be complete without a glass of traditional spiked apple cider punch!