Food Nation

Five Foods of Our Founding Fathers (And Mothers)

Like many of my fellow Americans, I celebrated Independence Day with hamburgers, potato salad, and some sort of red, white, and blue dessert concoction. As much as I enjoy this federally sanctioned annual feast, I have always found it a bit strange that the holiday has become synonymous with picnic and/or cookout fare. I'm no historian, but I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that the members of the Second Continental Congress weren't chowing down on ketchup-smothered hot dogs and poppyseed coleslaw after affixing their signatures to the Declaration of Independence.

Here are five foods that our Founding Fathers and Mothers (for giggles, let's acknowledge for once the integral and diverse roles played by the "softer sex" in early American nation-building) were likely to have consumed on and around July 4th, 1776.

1. Clabber

Also known as "bonny clabber," clabber was basically loose liquidy curds produced by souring milk in the sun. Clabber was regularly paired with cornbread and other cereal grains or drunk straight from the, uh, pewter cup. It's sort of like a warm, chunky, cheese milk shake.

2. Stew

Early stews were usually oriented around some sort of protein: cod or oysters if you lived close to the ocean; rabbit, beef, or pork for those farther inland. Potatoes, carrots, peas, and corn were added along with a copious amount of pepper and salt.

3. Mush

A staple of 18th-Century breakfast tables, mush was very similar to modern-day grits and consisted mainly of boiled yellow cornmeal seasoned with salt and molasses. If you were lucky enough to have a cow handy, you might temper its thick consistency with a few squirts of creamy, unpasteurized milk.

4. Cider

Hard cider was the most popular alcoholic beverage in America until the mid-19th Century when the first large wave of German immigrants began establishing beer breweries. Apparently anytime was a good time for cider in the colonies, as the brew was often served at breakfast as well as dinner and supper (John Adams supposedly consumed at least one pint before 9 a.m.).

5. Apple Pie

Well, in this case we haven't strayed too far from our colonial brethren. Since Philadelphia had "ice confectionaries" as early as 1773, John Hancock may have even topped his pie with scoop of vanilla. A prolonged sugar high certainly would explain that outlandish signature.

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Joanna O'Leary