Constitution Day

Constitution Week – Foods of Our Forefathers

September 17, 2013

Revolutionary War

Today is Constitution Day (Constitution Week is from Sept 17th – Sept 23rd), which commemorates the formation, and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787, recognizing all who, are born in the U.S. or by naturalization, have become citizens.  Our Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787, and after an extended period of national conversation and with the promise of a bill of rights, it became the supreme law of the land.  We are a proud Nation of immigrants. Throughout our history, immigrants have embraced the spirit of liberty, equality, and justice for all – the same ideals that stirred the patriots of 1776 to rise against an empire, guided the Framers as they built a stronger republic, and moved generations to bridge our founding promise with the realities of time. 

Many people wonder what it was like in those days.  What did people eat?  Today, it is possible to travel from coast to coast, at any time of the year, without feeling any need to change your eating habits.  Sophisticated processing and storage techniques, fast transport, and a creative variety of formulated convenience food products have made it possible to ignore regional and seasonal differences in food production – if it is desirable or necessary for personal reasons. 

It was not always so.  As early Americans moved about, they had to change their eating habits to fit local conditions.  Climate was one of the major limiting factors, but soil water and other vegetation play a part.  It’s easy to romanticize the food supply of early America, and there is no question that in many ways it was a vast improvement over that available in many of the immigrant’s homelands.  Inadequate yields, seasonal availability of produce, nutrition-robbing preservation techniques, constant labor, continual attention to schedules and danger of contamination were some of the factors bearing on the food supply that sustained our forefathers and foremothers as they developed our country. 

Most early immigrants from Europe were accustomed to a limited, monotonous diet.  Fresh meat was an infrequent main course on the tables of the working classes.  Two meal’s worth of meat per week was regarded as good treatment for a servant.  Game was the property of the Royal Family in most countries, and killing a deer was a capital offense. “Milk, butter and cheese are the laborers dyet, and a pot of good beer quickens his spirit,” said Breton, an English author, in 1626.

Only a handful of vegetables were known in Europe, prior to the discovery and settling of the New World.  The short list included root vegetables such as beets, carrots, radishes, turnips and parsnips, plus cabbages, onions, leeks and lentils.  There was a considerable variety of fruits and berries, but they were available only during a short harvest.  

To Be Continued…

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