WALPOLE, N.H. – The first American cookbook, “American Cookery,” by Amelia Simmons, was published in Hartford, Conn., in 1796. It was reprinted 16 years later in Walpole, N.H.
The Walpole Historical Society has invited a pair of authors who have written about that early compilation of recipes, both English and specifically American, in a book entitled “United Tastes: The Making of the First American Cookbook.”
Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald will be at the Walpole Town Hall with an illustrated talk Friday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m., to discuss the social circumstances and culinary traditions that led to America’s first cookbook.
Recently, “American Cookery” has received a great deal of attention. The Library of Congress has designated it one of the 88 “Books That Shaped America,” and writers about food, both journalists and historians, talk frequently and enthusiastically about it.
Yet in all of this current discussion, there has been no attempt to reconstruct the social circumstances and culinary traditions that shaped the book that helped shape America. “United Tastes” fills this gap, showing how “American Cookery” – an inexpensive collection of mainly British recipes, interspersed with a few American favorites – was part of an effort to promote a particular version of American national identity. It also describes in compelling detail the social structure, the homes, the farms, and the foods of early Connecticut and the Connecticut River Valley.
The authors will also answer questions about the book, which has been termed “a second revolution,” a cookbook by an America for Americans.
The event is free, open to the public, and refreshments will be served. For more information, go to www.walpolehistory.org.