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Eagle Archive: Chief ingredient of colonial cooking was hard labor

Eagle Archive

By Kevin E. Dayhoff, kevindayhoff@gmail.com

2:50 PM EST, January 12, 2013

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The preface from a turn-of-the-century St. Mark's Lutheran Church of Hampstead "Model Cook Book" gives us some insight into what the book called, "many the types of foods that the housewife of 1900 routinely made for her family."

The 86-page cookbook was compiled and edited by Mrs. S.F. Tholan, according to research by local historian Jay Graybeal, who wrote about it for the Historical Society of Carroll County back in the 1990s.

Graybeal noted that the cookbook, "contains recipes in the following categories: soups, fish, meats, bread, fowl, eggs, vegetables, salads, cakes and icings, icings and fillings, puddings and desserts, pies, candies, preserves, jellies, etc., pickles and one on miscellaneous foods."

Several local businesses advertised in the book: "The Hampstead Bank; I. C. Kelly, Grocer; D. H. Millender, Grain, Feed and Flour; T. J. Hunt & son, General Merchandise; Spencer & Baldwin, Packers; A. D. Frankforter, Photographer; W. H. Miller, Boots and Shoes; Blizzard's Drug Store; Frank B. Snyder, Stoves and Furnaces; A. P. Schultz, Monuments and Tombstones; Hampstead Supply House, Buggies and Agricultural Implements; and Howard Patterson, Bicycles and Guns."

Cooking in pioneer and colonial Carroll County of the 1700s and 1800s was not the romanticized picture of the women in long dresses and wonderfully adorned aprons hovered over pots and kettles of aromatic delights over an open fire.

Carol Lee wrote in her history of agriculture in Carroll County, "Legacy of the Land," that "as far as basic items went, the more settlers could provide for themselves the better. While they could rely upon themselves for a great deal, they were by no means the self-sufficient pioneers of popular imagination."

The good ole' days were indeed hard. Meals were more often than not cooked in one large kettle. And in spite of what Hollywood would have you believe, cooking over an open fire was darn difficult. The constant bending over and lifting heavy pieces of wood and large kettles took its toll on the woman of the house. Herbs and spices, unless grown in the garden just outside the outdoor kitchen, were rare. For that matter, flour and sugar were quite expensive and also uncommon. Food usually consisted of local game from hunting, and either corn, or corn ... or even more corn. And, oh yes, your food also gathered its share of pieces of wood, ashes and lots of smoke.

Making bread often took several days, and it was made from cornmeal and animal grease.

Happily, in 21st century Carroll County, we not only have better kitchens, but also telephones and carryout service. I'll have a large pizza with mushrooms, onions and green peppers.

Hold the corn mush, pieces of wood, ash and smoke, thank you.

When he's not using his handy-dandy microwave oven, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

The preface from a turn-of-the-century St. Mark's Lutheran Church of Hampstead "Model Cook Book" gives us some insight into what the book called, "many the types of foods that the housewife of 1900 routinely made for her family."

The 86-page cookbook was compiled and edited by Mrs. S.F. Tholan, according to research by local historian Jay Graybeal, who wrote about it for the Historical Society of Carroll County back in the 1990s.

The book's preface boldy proclaimed, "Not all men are of equal value; neither are all books prized alike. Some are to be studies, other read, and other used. This one is to be used, and will occupy a very important place in the home."

Graybeal noted that the cookbook, "contains recipes in the following categories: soups, fish, meats, bread, fowl, eggs, vegetables, salads, cakes and icings, icings and fillings, puddings and desserts, pies, candies, preserves, jellies, etc., pickles and one on miscellaneous foods."

Several local businesses advertised in the book, revealing some of the staples of the business community in Hampstead at the turn of that century: "The Hampstead Bank; I. C. Kelly, Grocer; D. H. Millender, Grain, Feed and Flour; T. J. Hunt & son, General Merchandise; Spencer & Baldwin, Packers; A. D. Frankforter, Photographer."

Also listed were, "W. H. Miller, Boots and Shoes; Blizzard's Drug Store; Frank B. Snyder, Stoves and Furnaces; A. P. Schultz, Monuments and Tombstones; Hampstead Supply House, Buggies and Agricultural Implements; and Howard Patterson, Bicycles and Guns."

Better roads, the railroad and the rise of mercantile and dry goods stores — along with various improvements associated with the industrial revolution — had made cooking and maintaining a home in 1900 much easier than day-to-day life in Carroll County in the 1700s and 1800s.

Cooking in pioneer and colonial Carroll County of the 1700s and 1800s was not the romanticized picture of the women in long dresses and wonderfully adorned aprons hovered over pots and kettles of aromatic delights over an open fire with a loaf of bread or two strategically placed nearby.

Carol Lee wrote in her history of agriculture in Carroll County, "Legacy of the Land," that "as far as basic items went, the more settlers could provide for themselves the better. While they could rely upon themselves for a great deal, they were by no means the self-sufficient pioneers of popular imagination."

The good ole' days were indeed hard. Meals were more often than not cooked in one large kettle. And in spite of what Hollywood would have you believe, cooking over an open fire was darn difficult. The constant bending over and lifting heavy pieces of wood and large kettles took its toll on the woman of the house.

Herbs and spices, unless grown in the garden just outside the outdoor kitchen, were rare. For that matter, flour and sugar were quite expensive and also uncommon. Food usually consisted of local game from hunting, and either corn, or corn ... or even more corn.

And, oh yes, your food also gathered its share of pieces of wood, ashes and lots of smoke.

Making bread often took several days, and it was made from cornmeal and animal grease.

Oddly enough, despite its shortcomings, all of this discussion of colonial cooking makes me hungry. Happily, in 21st century Carroll County, we not only have better kitchens, but also telephones and carryout service. I'll have a large pizza with mushrooms, onions and green peppers. Hold the corn mush, pieces of wood, ash and smoke, thank you.

When he's not using his handy-dandy microwave oven, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.