What's for dinner, Mrs. Washington?
Our colonial culinary treasures are well documented and easy to reproduce at home. Nach Waxman, owner of Kitchen Arts and Letters, the legendary New York City bookstore dedicated to all tomes gastronomic, shares his favorite American heritage cookbooks.
. Harriott Pinkney Horry. A Colonial Plantation Cookbook. 1770 (Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1984. $20). Early recipes transcribed from a manuscript household book, with useful notes and information on period ingredients and cooking methods.
. Martha Washington. Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery. (Columbia Univ. Press, 1981. $26). Ancestral household notebooks dating back to the early 17th century, brought by Martha Dandridge Custis into her marriage to George Washington. Each new custodian updated the handwritten books for her generation. Immensely useful notes on every aspect of food and cooking practices. Unpublished until this edition appeared.
. Mary Randolph. The Virginia Housewife. 1824 (Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1997. $30). A valuable repository of recipes and household advice taken from family notebooks. Superb notes by food historian Karen Hess, who also edited the Martha Washington compilation.
. Edwin Morris Betts, ed. Thomas Jefferson's Garden Book, 1766-1824 (Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2008. $50). An essential of Virginia food history. Nearly 60 years of Jefferson's records and correspondence relating to his gardens, especially food plants he introduced and established in mid-Atlantic America. Practical, inspirational, and unfailingly interesting.
All books are available at Kitchen Arts and Letters, 1435 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY; 212/876-5550; kitchenartsandletters.com.
Recipes begin here.