Tag Archives: colonial food

Christmas in Penn’s Colony

A Christmas menu 1685

 “A Bill of Fare for Christmas Day, and how to set the Meat in Order.: Oysters. 1. A collar of brawn. 2. Stewed Broth of Mutton marrow bones. 3. A grand Sallet. 4. A pottage of caponets. 5. A breast of veal in stoffado. 6. A boil’d partridge. 7. A chine of beef, or surloin roast. 8. Minced pies. 9. A Jegote of mutton with anchove sauce. 10. A made dish of sweet-bread. 11. A swan roast. 12. A pasty of venison. 13. A kid with a pudding in his belly. 14. A steak pie. 15. A hanch of venison roasted. 16. A turkey roast and stuck with cloves. 17. A made dish of chickens in puff paste. 18. Two bran geese roasted, one larded. 19. Two large capons, one larded. 20. A Custard.

The second course for the same Mess. Oranges and Lemons. 1. A Young lamb or kid. 2. Two couple of rabbits, two larded. 3. A pig souc’t with tongues. 4. Three ducks, one larded. 5. Three pheasants, 1 larded. 6. A Swan Pye. 7. Three brace of partridge, three larded. 8. Made dish in puff paste. 9. Bolonia sausages, and anChoves, mushrooms, and Cavieate, and pickled oysters in a dish. 10. Six teels, three larded. 11. A Gammon of Westphalia Bacon. 12. Ten plovers, five larded. 13. A quince Pye, or warden pye. 14. Six woodcocks, 3 larded. 15. A standing Tart in puff-paste, preserved fruits, Pippins &c. 16. A dish of Larks. 17. Six dried neats tongues. 18. Sturgeon. 19. Powdered Geese. Jellies.”
The Accomplisht Cook, Robert May, facsimile 1685 edition [Prospect Books:Devon] 2000 (pages unnumbered)

In the later 1700’s George Washington would have finished his dinner at Mount Vernon with his own recipe for eggnog:

  1 quart of cream, 1 quart of milk, 12 eggs, some sugar,  2 cups brandy, 1 cup rye whiskey, 1/2 cup rum, 1/2 cup  sherry.

And we thought all our founding fathers were Puritans?  

 

Thomas Massey House (1696 brick section)

Anglican and Catholic Southerners did celebrate Christmas with considerable feasting, unlike the Puritan, Congregationalist, Quaker, and Mennonite Northern colonists but both traditions blended in the keystone colony of Pennsylvania. The prior history of the Delaware Valley and William Penn’s inclusive policies created an ethnic and religious mix not found in the other twelve colonies. Swedes, Germans, French Huguenots, Welsh among others settled and celebrated their traditions next to their simple Quaker neighbors. The prosperity of Pennsylvania led even  Quaker families to decorate their homes with greens and dine on the bounty of the colonies. Thirty and forty course dinners in wealthy Philadelphia homes were not uncommon by the 1770’s. 

Massey House interior - (Top) view of stable & blacksmith shop, 17th century floor boards, chaise lounge, (Bottom) faux painted moulding on stair case, 18th century Swedish wick trimmer

Thomas Massey, a prosperous self-made Quaker farmer with over 300 acres,would have celebrated Christmas in a restrained manner in these early years (17th century) of the colony. At the recent (11 December 2010) Christmas reception at the Thomas Massey House – a Pennsylvania Historic Site –   the variety of holiday traditions in colonial Pennsylvania was celebrated – minus the thirty course dinner. 

 

 

 

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original 1696 sitting room

 Quaker simplicity is evident in the sparsely furnished and decorated sitting room. Dried fruits and gingerbread were both seasonal luxuries and celebratory foods.

Swedish settlement in the Delaware Valley preceded William Penn, and they remained an important part of the colony.  They brought over their pre-Christmas festival of St. Lucia (above left) its saffron bun (Lussekatter) and simple woven decorations (lower right). Although there is no evidence that the Christmas tree was used by Germans in the colonial period, they did decorate with boughs of greens, made pretzels (praying hands – see center picture) and a number of cookies that have become American traditions – Lebkuchen, PfeffernusseAnisplatzchen. 

18th century reflective hearth rotisserie with pork roast
Massey House blacksmith making a 4" iron nail
Wall House, 1682

On an original William Penn land grant, Richard Wall began construction on his house in 1682. Like all surviving houses from this era, additions were numerous. Even though both the Wall and Massey houses remained private residences for over 250 years, major structural renovations seem to have ceased  by the early 19th century. As a house museum, the Cheltenham Historical Society interprets the interior of the Wall House to reflect the changing taste in furnishings and fashion during 250 years as a home and the events that shaped the lives of the residence.

The parlor is Victorian with early crocheted decorations (center). A room devoted to World War II memories displays a field hospital “tree” decorated with blue and white ribbon, paper and painted tongue depressors (left). The entrance tree is aglow with 19th and early 20th century German glass ornaments (right).

(top) water pump, hearth, 2-storey spring house, (bottom) mid-19th century soup tureen, late 19th century bread mixer

The Wall House kitchen contains an extraordinary collection of 18th and 19th century tools and well as a well restored hearth. In honor of the season, the table was set for Christmas dinner in true 18th century fashion – all the dishes on the table at once.

An 18th century Quaker Christmas dinner at Wall House

Having served as a Quaker Meeting House in its very early years,  a stop on the Underground Railroad, and the home center of the Shoemaker-Bosler Mill complex until the 1920’s,  the Wall House reflects the human stories that are history and displays with great care the objects of everyday life.

(left) one of many 19th century "eggbeater" drills, (center/top right) late 18th century tree trunk sewer pipe, (bottom right) early 19th century shovels made by the nearby Rowland Shovel Factory

Today, toys are always Christmas, although not in Colonial times. Among the many everyday treasures at the Wall House is a stunning 5 foot tall, 9 room doll house. Constructed in 1915, furnishings were painstakingly assembled over the next forty years.

the Cynthia Langsdorf Wilkinson doll house

 Nearly everything within the house was hand-made or adapted. Miniature electrified chandeliers glow, a sub-miniature electric train operates and even an attic is appropriately cluttered including a discarded toilet. It’s awesome whimsy – just the spirit Christmas is supposed to generate. The Wall and Massey Houses prove that in Pennsylvania we have been enjoying that spirit for centuries.