Go to any book sale or bookstore, or search online, and cookbooks abound. Just about every cuisine can be found, but that was not always the case.
The Wilton Historical Society tells us that American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons, is the first known cookbook written by an American. It was first published in Hartford, Conn., in 1796. Until then, the cookbooks printed and used in the Thirteen Colonies were British.
According to wikipedia.org, culinary historian Karen Hess described Simmons as a “good plain cook” who used a variety of herbs and wine in her recipes.
The book apparently broke new culinary ground in a number of areas. Perhaps most notably was Simmons’ use of American products such as cornmeal, made of American maize, for English oats in a number of recipes. Her recipe for Johnny Cake appears to be the first printed version made with cornmeal.
Some recipes call for a chemical leavening agent known as potash, which was a forerunner of baking powder, in place of yeast.
Also, the cookbook includes the first known printed recipe for turkey made with cranberries.
It is not known if Simmons was from New England or the Hudson River Valley, since her cookbook had its second printing, also in 1796, in Albany, N.Y. While only four copies of the first edition are known to exist, recent editions may still be purchased.
Children may make their own cookbook at the historical society during a bookbinding workshop on July 8.