Friday, September 5, 2014

The Culinary Lives of John and Abigail Adams: A Cookbook by Rosana Y. Wan

I have been studying John Quincy Adams while I make the president quilt for Sue Reich's President Quilt tour in 2016. The Culinary Lives of John and Abigail Adams is about his parents and consequently the food of his childhood.

I took a Folklore course in college and my paper was on English memories and American realities, the roots of American cooking. I read early cookbooks including the first published in American by Amelia Simmons. The recipes in this book were not 'new' to me. Some I had actually enjoyed back  in the Bicentennial Days at the Philadelphia City Tavern.

I enjoyed the book very much since Rosana Y. Wan's commentary showed a great deal of knowledge gleaned from the letters and diaries of Abigail and John Adams. One learns about the private lives of the Adams family and about material culture and society in Colonial America.

Wan traces the culinary history of foods, discusses cooking methods and early cookbooks, and even covers dinnerware with photographs of dishes and utensils from the John Adams National Park.

A timeline of the Adams family with illustrations is an impressive overview of this remarkable family. One realizes how much of their married life John Adams was hobnobbing in high society abroad while Abigail ran the family farm, put away food, and enjoyed local produce in season.

Wan's chapters include Breakfast, Bread, Meat and Poultry, Sauces, Seafood, Vegetables, soup, pudding and snacks, and drinks. Each chapter includes introductory essays that are informative and interesting, including quotations from the Adams papers.She also provides a chapter on bills of fare for those who want to recreate an 19th c. dinner party. The recipes are updated for today's measurements and readily available ingredients.

Recipes include classic dishes like Buckwheat Cakes, English-Muffin style muffins, Indian Corn and Rye Bread, Roast Leg of Lamb with Mint Sauce, and Peas with Mint.

More unusual are the Garden Sauce for meat made with sorrel, sweet apple, vinegar and sugar and white bread for thickening; Roasted Salmon with nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice; Salad Sauce made of sieved boiled egg yolk and ground mustard, oil and vinegar; and Cucumber Soup. Baked Custard includes sweet tasting coriander along with cinnamon.

Classic Plumb Pudding was a favorite Adams family treat saved for holidays because of the exotic spices required, while Indian Pudding was made of readily available ingredients of corn meal and molasses. Wan notes that John Quincy Adams wrote to his wife Louisa about Indian Pudding being served at his family's New Year's Eve dinner.

New Englanders made Cranberry Tarts. I need to try that! The Whipt Syllabub has never appealed to me. It is made of milk or cream curdled by adding brandy and includes egg whites, sugar and lemon juice.

Drinks of the day included hot Toddy made of rum and molasses in lukewarm water with a dash of nutmeg. Abigail's Punch recipe was made of oranges and lemons, brandy and rum. Grog was dark rum and water with lemon juice to taste. The lemon juice would have been good for sailors at sea to guard against scurvy.

Whether you are interested in the Adams family, early American cooking, the history of cooking in America, or just enjoy reading recipes this is a delightful book.

I have finished the John Quincy Adams quilt! I bound it off yesterday using the method found on You-Tube "Binding the Angel" by Sharon Schamber which I highly recommend.

Thank you to NetGalley and Schiffert Press for ebook access.

The Culinary Lives of John and Abigail Adams
Rosana Y. Wan
Schiffert Press
Publication date October 2014
ISBN13: 9780764346699
Illustrated
Softcover, 224 pages