Colonial Americans were dour, Puritanical people who took no pleasure in eating, right?
Wrong. The late historians Karen Hess and John L. Hess published a book in 1977 that debunked the myth that America was founded on an anti-epicurean tradition. The surprising truth is that Americans of nearly every class ate better then than we do today.
In their book, The Taste of America, the Hesses wrote about early American cooking, with recipes from the era that are not so different from the simple, ingredient-driven cooking of today.
Choose a blend of greens from scores of possibilities and toss with a dressing that should be a "discreet choice and mixture, neither the Prodigal, Niggard, nor Insipid" of olive oil from Lucca, and the "best Wine Vinegar …impregnated with the infusion of Clove-gilly-flowers, Elder, Roses, Rosemary, Nasturtiums," etc., or verjuice from green grapes, and "the brightest Bay grey-Salt."
Far from denying pleasure at the table, Americans of this era may actually have used open enjoyment of food to subliminally replace the other delights they denied themselves. As the Hesses put it: "It was better to eat than to burn."
• Read more: Did the Puritans Enjoy Dinner? at The New York Times
(Image: Cornell University Library)