The First American Cookbook

American Cookery by Amelia Simmons

Culture : Books By Photo by Applewood Books

American Cookery ($10) is the first cookbook written by an American. Strangely, the only details that are actually known about its author come from the words “American orphan” found on the cover. Other hints from the book’s text suggest she was a domestic laborer who lacked formal education. The book was published originally in 1796 and much of its contents revolve around using traditional English cooking methods with American ingredients. Before then, English cookbooks were the only items available and called for ingredients not readily accessible in the new world. For instance, its recipe for Johnny Cakes is the first known printed version that exchanged English oats for American maize, which has evolved today to become corn bread. It also contains the first printed recipe for turkey and cranberries. Finally, and probably most important of all, Simmons outlines the use of leavening agents for making dough rise.

Only four first editions of the book exist today, but Applewood Books does offer new copies of the rare, second edition, printed in 1796 with a special introduction by food historian Karen Hess. For $10, it’s an ideal gift for foodies and chefs looking for insights on what real American cooking was like before the advent of Hamburger Helper and Velveeta.

Buy Now: $10