The cuttings come from the Woman’s Own magazine of the mid-fifties and reflect what the good British housewife would have expected American food to be like. Back then a trip to the States would have been as inconceivable as a trip to the moon to the majority.
Her understanding of America would be based on the images she saw in the cinema such as diners, hot dog stands and burger bars.
Grilling meats and spit roasting were common while vegetables were often cooked directly in the ashes of the fire.
Lacking in basic pottery, early Native Americans developed a technique which has caused many anthropologists to call them “Stone Boilers”.
They would stones directly in a fire and then add them to a pit or pot filled with water until it came to a boil. With this they would cook their meat and vegetables in boiling water.
They also created adobe ovens called hornos to bake items such as cornmeal breads. Pits were dug to create an oven in which they would steam foods such as fish and shellfish, using a base of heated rocks or embers covered with seaweed or corn husks. Potatoes would be added while still in-skin and corn while in-husk.
From these humble beginnings the ingredients and meats prepared by the indigenous population have been expanded and augmented by the large and diverse influx of colonists from across Europe who came and settled here.
Quite naturally they brought with them, from their homelands, many ingredients and cooking styles that have gradually been incorporated into the mix. This eclectic mish-mash of many and various styles continued to expand well into the 19th and 20th centuries.
The widespread use of seafood in the United States originated with the Native Americans, who often ate cod, lemon sole, flounder, herring, halibut, sturgeon, smelt, olachen and salmon. Whale, hunted by Native Americans, was used for their meat and oil.
Seal, walrus, eel and catfish were also popular amongst native peoples, as were shrimp, lobster, crayfish and crabs (blue crabs in the East) Other shellfish include abalone, geoduck, oysters, mussels, surf clam, quahog, periwinkles and the soft-shell clam.
Commonly hunted game included deer, bear, buffalo and wild turkey. The larger cuts or joints were roasted and served with wild currant sauce, while the smaller cuts went into soups, stews, sausages, pies, and pasties.
In addition to game, the colonists’ diet was supplemented by mutton, (the Spanish in Florida originally introduced sheep to the New World) The keeping of sheep followed the English non-practice of animal husbandry.
The beasts provided wool when young and mutton upon maturity. The forage-based diet of the sheep in the Colonies produced meat of a strong, gamy flavour and a tougher consistency, which required aging and slow cooking to tenderize.
As the 18th and 19th centuries progressed, Americans developed many new foods of their own devising. Some, such as peanut butter (a core ingredient of the famous peanut butter and jelly sandwich) spread throughout the nation, while others such as popcorn, fried chicken, cornbread, the poppy-seed muffin, the cupcake and chocolate brownies went global.