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American Cookery [Hardcover]

Amelia Simmons , Melissa Clark

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Book Description

Oct. 16 2012 American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection
Published in Hartford in 1796, this volume in the American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection is a facsimile edition of one of the most important documents in American culinary history. This is the first cookbook written by an American author specifically published for American kitchens.  

Named by the Library of Congress as one of the 88 "Books That Shaped America," American Cookery was the first cookbook by an American author published in the United States. Until its publication, cookbooks printed and used by American colonists were British. As indicated in Amelia Simmons’s subtitle, the recipes in her book were “adapted to this country,” reflecting the fact that American cooks had learned to make do with what was available in North America. This cookbook reveals the rich variety of food colonial Americans used, their tastes, cooking and eating habits, and even their rich, down-to-earth language.


Bringing together English cooking methods with truly American products, American Cookery contains the first known printed recipes substituting American maize for English oats; and the recipe for Johnny Cake is apparently the first printed version using cornmeal. The book also contains the first known recipe for turkey. Possibly the most far-reaching innovation was Simmons’s use of pearlash—a staple in colonial households as a leavening agent in dough, which eventually led to the development of modern baking powders.  

“Thus, twenty years after the political upheaval of the American Revolution of 1776, a second revolution—a culinary revolution—occurred with the publication of a cookbook by an American for Americans.” (Jan Longone, curator of American Culinary History, University of Michigan)

This facsimile edition of Amelia Simmons's American Cookery was reproduced by permission from the volume in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a Revolutionary War patriot and successful printer and publisher, the Society is a research library documenting the life of Americans from the colonial era through 1876. The Society collects, preserves, and makes available as complete a record as possible of the printed materials from the early American experience. The cookbook collection includes approximately 1,100 volumes.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing; Reissue edition (Oct. 16 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1449423132
  • ISBN-13: 978-1449423131
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.5 x 1.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,289,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

There is no formal biography of Amelia Simmons available, except what is listed on the cover of her cookbook: “Amelia Simmons, an American orphan.” From the language of the book and its publishing history, culinary historians have deduced that she was most likely a domestic servant without formal education. (She describes enlisting a transcriber to write out the book for her.) Simmons probably came from the Hudson Valley region, and the basic content of the recipes indicates that she was a “good plain cook,” to substantiate the theory of her origins.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at history on an everyday level Nov. 18 2012
By A.M Donovan - Published on
This is a beautiful reproduction of the first ever American cookbook, with recipes using ingredients unique to America. While the recipes contained in this book are not what would be normally produced in a modern American kitchen, they provide a valuable insight into the changes of the home and marketplace. But one thing has not changed, as Amelia states: "and the best cook cannot alter the first quality, they must be good, or the cook will be disappointed." Or, in modern American, always get the best, freshest ingredients you can obtain, for the best end results.
Some of the most fascinating pieces that I, personally, found in this book are the descriptions of how some tradesmen would try to trick the shopper into purchasing a poor quality product. For example, "deceits are used to give the (fish) a freshness of appearance, such as peppering the gills, wetting the fins and tails, and even painting the gills, or wetting with animal blood". While the original book was only 47 pages and the reprint which translates the original in modern English is a slim 100 pages, there is a lot of very good information and a few things I would like to try. Luckily I do know where to get food grade rosewater (a good organic or health food store can help you out).
Originally published in 1796, this volume is a treasure sure to be valued to be treasured by anyone that enjoys history, cooking or food. With its red cover, gilt edges and red ribbon page marker, this book is definitely nice enough to give as a present. © Night Owl Reviews -[...]
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reproduction! Dec 28 2013
By Janet R. Webb - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this for my son-in-law for Christmas -- he is a costumed interpreter at Mount Vernon, George Washington's home, and is very interested in the kinds of cooking and recipes used in Colonial times. He was thrilled to receive this book. The recipes are reprinted on one side just as they were originally written in those days. A "translation" into modern English is given on the opposite page. He hopes to use the book to better inform his understanding of Colonial cooking, but he also plans to see if any of the recipes can be adapted for cooking today.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book July 5 2013
By Diana Buchanan - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was surprised at how much historical information is provided along with the recipes in this book. I used American Cookery (Clark, 2012 ed.) for a 2nd grade Social Studies class to demonstrate how recipes and cooking have changed over time. The kids loved the recipes and they were surprised at some of the ingredients that were once used on a regular basis.

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