Notes on Colonial Virginia’s Cooking Dynasty By Katharine E. Harbury

(Harbury, Katharine E. Colonial Virginia’s Cooking Dynasty. University of South Carolina Press, 2004)

  • Tidewater Society in Colonial Virginia
    • Seventeenth century cuisine was simple due to the harsh living conditions and limited supplies, common dishes were stews and potages (4)
    • Americans felt insecure of the public image into the nineteenth century and the rich plantation owners strove to dispel the stereotype of common farmers (5)
  • Status and Cookbook Authors 
    • Men bought the material goods and women used them to be the ideal of hospitality (26)
    • The way the woman of the house presented the food was a representation of herself (27)
    • Jane (Bolling) Randolph was innovative in her food, stretching boundaries and exploring new things, mixed Native American elements with traditional (28)
    • Meat was a status symbol (28)
    • Mary Randolph: lived in city of Richmond, (1815) icebox could keep things cold for up to 24hrs and increased opportunities for new dishes, (1824) published The Virginia Housewife– included simpler recipes for less time in the kitchen (29)
  • Virginia’s Cultural Boom 
    • 1670-1730: the rise of Virginia’s gentry and refinement of cuisine (32)
    • Upper class refinement strengthened the social hierarchy (33)
  • The Dining Room Stage
    • Men showed their political power by the elegance of the food on the table (46)
    • Not what was presented but how determined social status when it came to everyday meals (47)
    • French cooking was n fashion, nineteenth century (48)
  • Dining Room Decorum 
    • Eighteenth century dinner was served the French way, hostess serving top dish, host serving bottom dish, plates passed around the table (53)
  • All Things French
    • Cock’s combs, sweetbreads, oysters, anchovies, mushrooms, truffles, morels, capers and tart liquids were used in dishes to mimic french recipes  (59)
  • Religious Aspects of Food
    • Feasts and fests were celebrated on various religious holidays (61)
  • The Dinner Table
    • Artful food was very popular, such as fish pies shaped as fish or one thing disguised as another (66)
    • Virginians did not use ambergris or musk to scent their food like in England (66)
  • The first part of this book is about the hospitality employed by the plantation mistresses to maintain their social status of a genteel Virginian. How the food served had to be elegant and refined and was commonly derived from the fashionable French cuisine. The specific tables manners and settings of tables, and the charisma and hosting abilities of the mistress of the house. The focus of this part is mainly on the presentation and the outer side of colonial food.

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