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Southern and West India markets, the New England housewives proved themselves eminently resourceful and skillful. They pickled Indian corn and other vegetables, nuts, and oysters; they dried apples or else made them into sauce and butter; and they preserved fruits not in cans or sealed jars but in huge crocks covered with paper and so sealed that the fruit would keep for a long time without fermenting.
For spices and condiments, however, all the colonists had to depend on outside sources. Capers, English walnuts, anchovies, nutmegs, pepper, mace, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, olives, salad oil, almonds, raisins, and dried currants were commonly ordered from England; lemons, which in 1763 were declared to have become “almost a necessity for the health and comfort of the inhabit ants of North America,” were obtained from the Mediterranean and the West Indies; coffee, tea (hyson, bohea, congo, and green), and “cocoa nuts”: came from England usually, though much of the spice, tea, and cocoa was smuggled in from Amsterdam or the foreign West Indies. From the latter came also sweetmeats, tamarinds, preserved ginger, citrons, and limes, which were often brought by the sea captains as presents from West India merchants, to whom hams, turkeys, geese, and the like were sent in return. Spices and coffee were ground at home, and “cocoa nuts” were made into chocolate, either at home or at a neighboring mill. Beverley ordered a stone and roller for preparing chocolate on his plantation, and in New England there were several chocolate mills, where the beans were crushed either for the housewife at her request or for sale.
* The eighteenth-century name for the cocoa bean from which chocolate is made.
In the country households of the North nearly everything for the table was obtained from the farm, and only salt, sugar, and spices were bought. Even sugar was a luxury; maple sugar, honey, and brown muscovado sugar were sometimes used, but the common sweetening was molasses, though this was rejected in the South for table use. The food, though ample in quantity, was lacking in variety and was heavier and less appetizing than in the cities. The commonest dishes were pork, smoked salmon, red herring, cod, mackerel, Indian meal in many forms, vegetables (including the familiar “succotash”), pies, and puddings, But in the Northern cities the variety was greater and equaled that of the South. Philadelphia had
scores of families whose elaborate tables seemed a sinful waste to John Adams, who has recorded in his diary the luxury of the Quaker households. In Massachusetts the extravagance of hospitality was none the less marked. Henry Vassall's expense book mentions oysters, herrings, mackerel, salmon, sausages, cheese, almonds, biscuit, ducks, chickens, turkeys, fowls, quails, teals, pigeons, beef, calf's head, rabbit, lamb, veal, venison, and quantities of vegetables and fruit, as well as honey, chocolate, and lemons.
In Virginia breakfast, at least, was a less elaborate meal than in New England. Harrower tells us that at Belvidera it consisted of tea, coffee, or chocolate, warm bread, butter, and cold meat. Eddis mentions a Maryland breakfast“of tea, coffee, and the usual accompaniments, ham, dried venison, beef, and other relishing articles.” Dinner, which was always served at noon, consisted at Belvidera of “smoack'd bacon or what we call pork ham ... either warm or cold; when warm we have also either warm roast pigg, lamb, ducks, or chicken, green pease or anything else they fancy.” As these colonists also had “plenty of roast and boyled and good strong beer,” it is perhaps not to be wondered at that they “but seldom eat any supper.” Fithian speaks of a “winter plan” at Nomini Hall, with coffee“ just at evening” and supper between eight and nine o'clock. Quincy gives an account of his entertainment at Charleston which is full of interest. “Table decent but not inelegant; provisions indifferent, but well dressed; good wines and festivity." And again on other occasions, “a prodigious fine pudding made of what they call rice flour. Nicknacks brought on table after removal of meats,” “a most genteel supper,” "a solid plentiful good table.” What most impressed him were the superior quality of the wines, the frequent exchange of toasts, and the presence of musicians. Adam Gordon said of Charleston that the poultry and pork were excellent, the beef and mutton middling, and the fish very rare and expensive. “All the poor," he added, “and many of the rich eat rice for bread and give it even a preference; they use it in their cakes, called Journey Cakes, and boiled, or else boiled Indian corn, which
they call Hominy." į It is a well-known fact that the colonists were heavy drinkers and that they consumed liquors of every variety in enormous quantities on all important occasions — baptisms, weddings, funerals, barn raisings, church raisings, house raisings, ship launchings, ordinations, perambulations, or “beating the bounds,” at meetings of commissions and committees, and in taverns, clubs, and private houses. In New England a new officer was expected on training day “to wet his commission bountifully.” Among the New England farmers beer, cider, cider brandy, and rum were the ordinary beverages. Cider, however, gradually supplanted beer, and the thrifty farmer sometimes laid in for the winter a supply of from ten to thirty)) barrels. A keg or puncheon of rum would usually lie alongside the barrels of cider in the cellar. There it would be left to ripen with age, with the assistance of about five dozen apples, peeled and cut in pieces, which were added to improve the flavor. Beer was brewed at home by the wives or in breweries in some of the towns; even Charleston experimented in brewing with malt from Philadelphia. Ale and small beer in bottles were imported from England; and spruce beer was used as a drink and sometimes at sea as a remedy against scurvy.