Hospitality and lavish meals have always been a keynote of Colonial Williamsburg. The holidays are a time for celebration of our American heritage and the authentic food that was enjoyed by our forefathers at Thanksgiving and Christmas. During colonial days, relatives and friends visited back and forth with carefully planned meals. The first settlers at Jamestown found rivers abundant with oysters, crabs, clams, and fish, and surrounding forests where game was plentiful. Because Virginians were mostly English and Scottish stock, they ate most of the foods in the New World that Britons favored in the Old World such as meat pies, soups, and puddings. It is interesting to note that one dish called “Yorkshire Christmas Pie” instructed the housewife to stuff a partridge with a pidgeon, a fowl with the partridge, and goose with the fowl, and finally a turkey with the goose, all to be baked in a pastry case made from a bushel of flour and ten pounds of butter. Sounds like the colonial version of a modern day “turducken!” Other recipes followed by the colonial housewife were in a cookbook called “The Compleat Housewife.” first published in London in 1727, and reprinted for sale at the Virginia Gazette printing office in Williamsburg in 1742. It is the first cookbook known to have been published in British America and it remained popular throughout the Colonial period.
This beautiful cookbook is filled with recipes and information about the taverns and Inns of Williamsburg. One establishment, Christiana Campbell’s Tavern was frequented by George Washington, who often noted in his diary that he had “supped” at Mrs. Campbell’s. The modern day dishes still reflect the popular foods of the times such as scalloped oysters, biscuits, Virginia ham, sweet breads, fruit fritters, corn fritters, fried chicken, nut pies, and Sally Lunn rolls.
This booklet is a collection of bakery items such as gingerbread cookies, apple turnovers, apple pie, lemon pie, plum tarts, Queen’s cake, and pear pie. The interesting recipes are listed side-by-side with one page being the way the items were prepared in Colonial times, and next to it, the modern way to prepare them.
My daughter and her boyfriend visited Williamsburg a few months ago and bought me these lovely cookbooks. One of their most memorable meals was at the “Fat Canary” where they enjoyed a goat cheese and walnut salad, steak, and salted caramel brownies. They also enjoyed watching a Williamsburg parade with participants in full costume:
And they also bought me this darling Christmas ornament!
Both my girls know that any time they are visiting a new city or country, they are to buy me a cookbook and Christmas ornament from the area. Needless to say, I have a very interesting Christmas tree and lots of stories behind each ornament. And you know how many cookbooks I have…
I’m a lucky mom.