02 March 2009

Food & Drink: Colonial America

By Isabel Roman

Colonial meals differed greatly from today in many ways. A class distinction existed were food was concerned beyond the quality of the food consumed. If you were among the poor classes in Colonial times it was more likely that you ate breakfast at dawn or even before, as the poor, more often than not, had to rise early to accomplish their morning chores. The wealthy, however, had the luxury of sleeping in late and consuming their meals at a later time in the morning.

The food consumed also differed depending on where you lived. Those on farms, ranches and outposts often drank beer or cider in the morning. A quick meal of porridge or some type of gruel had most likely been cooking slowly over low fires or embers through the night. In the cities, cornmeal was popular with molasses, as was freshly baked breads. Coffee, teas and juices became staples of the morning meal late in the century and at the turn of. In the south the poor often ate cold turkey with cider and the southern planters, who are credited with transforming breakfast into a leisurely meal to be enjoyed, elevated breakfast to a social art.

Dinner was not what we consider it today, dinner was lunch to the colonial individual. It was often served in halls or common rooms. Stews were often made with pork, sweet corn , cabbage or whatever vegetable or roots were available. A second course at dinner was also typical, usually a pudding, tart, custard or dried fruit. The first course, if not a stew, could have included a variety of meat pies, pancakes and fritters or other meat. Sauces, pickles and catsups were a staple. Also available might have been cakes such as pound, gingerbread, spice and cheese.

Supper was a late evening repast mainly in colonial times. Many settlers did without and those that consumed supper often consumed leftovers from dinner.

A link to a typical colonial meal from 1771
Food Timeline