Celebrating 1776

The Fourth of July these days seems to be more about fireworks and barbecue than the true origins of the holiday – our declaration of independence from the British Empire.

Although the exact date of the signing is a little fuzzy, the intent is the same. Independence Day is all about rah-rah-USA. Or is it?

We want to declare our independence from half-burnt hot dogs and food-poisoning-prone potato salad. To that end, we’ve each put together a little collection of recipes dating back to the 18th and early 19th centuries – when the U.S. was young. Each collection gives our advice, take on the revolution and some history. A recipe just won’t be complete without a little history!


  • Watermelon balls in sherry – Sherry, madeira, and port were all popular wines in the 18th century and watermelon was a perfect sweet summer treat.
  • Raspberry shrub – Shrubs, or vinegar syrups mixed with water, were a popular type of soft drink in the 18th and early 19th century.
  • Deviled chicken legs – this is likely a Victorian recipe, not Revolutionary-era, but it sounded so good, it had to be included.
Don’t forget to include some classic 18th century booze, like hard apple cider, madeira or port, or an 18th century punch like Second Horse Punch.

In that same vein, for 18th century flair, forgo the vinyl tablecloths (however easy they may be to clean) and go for something that looks a little more like this:

This is a table setting in the period rooms of Knox's Headquarters State Historic Site.

You can replicate this kind of lovely grace in the following ways:

  1. Use real dishes at your Fourth of July celebration, white or cream-colored if you can find them.
  2. Use real silverware – cruise thrift stores for 18th-century looking ones.
  3. Use a tablecloth. White tablecloths look very elegant and you can bleach them if they get stained.
  4. Use pewter/silver/aluminum accent pieces in historic forms.
  5. Dine by natural light during the day and candle light and/or firelight in the evenings.

Note the gorgeous creamware and the pretty linen tablecloth.

A windowsill is an adorable place to have coffee. Although in July it should maybe be iced coffee.

If you can’t manage to fit any 18th century style or recipes into your celebration, consider visiting an 18th century historic site instead. New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site celebrates the Fourth of July every year and can be relied upon for musket demonstrations and very loud cannon firings and colorful uniforms. Revolutionary War-era historic sites also serve as a reminder as to why and how we fought for our independence as a nation.

British regulars face off against Continental soldiers.

Continentals fire back!

How are you choosing to declare your independence this Fourth of July?


Hello all!  Okay so here is my take, mainly based on the African-American foodways of that time.

Slave wedding in Mississippi

In honor of the the Fourth of July I wanted to share recipes I like – using a staple of African-American food experience, black-eye peas, greens and other ingredients.  In fact, according to Herbert C. Covey who wrote a book called “What Slaves Ate:  recollections of African American Foods and Foodways from Slave Narratives” slave even ate black-eyed peas on the slave ships from Africa to the Americas, along with peanuts, yams among others.

Not surprising the Fourth of July has historically been a somewhat controversial holiday for African-Americans.  Many thought “Should we celebrate the freedom of America, when we do not have our own.”  In fact in 1830 when many states in the South were not ending slavery African-Americans in New York and other Northern states began celebrating July 5th, as a protest to the continued bondage of African-Americans in this country.

"Jumping The Broom" African-American 18th Century Wedding

But the early history of African-Americans though linked to slavery, is not exclusive to this fact not even at the time of revolution.  Crispus Attucks, is considered to be the first casualty of the American Revolution, killed in the “Boston Massacre,” March 5, 1770.

Depiction of Crispus Attucks

Given that slavery in the Americas extended down to the Caribbean and South America, I wanted to pick a recipe that offered the flavor of the entire Americas.  So enjoy and celebrate the freedom of America and the eventual freedom of the Black men and women who did so much to build this country.

  • Coconut Milk + Black-Eyed Peas –  Black-eyed peas came with the Africans to the Americas.  A wonderful tradition, this one with a bit of an Caribbean twist.
  • Corn Bread – A year-round staple, this one Southern style with butter and buttermilk, yummy.
  • Skillet-sautéed Kale – Greens but slightly Yankee-fied.


The success of the American Revolution War was due in part that everyone came together to fight for the cause. The contributions of the men who drafted the Declaration of Independents and fought in the war were tremendous. The women’s role were not only taking on the responsible of the agricultural work while their husbands or loved ones were at war, many women flocked to the army camps and even fought in the war like Deborah Samson who disguised herself as a man. Women at the camps took on traditional chores such as cooking, laundry, and nursing soldiers. Women at home were boycotting British goods, spying on the British, knitting goods, weaving and spinning their own cloth and maintaining their families. These roles as well as women educating themselves and their children in the principles of liberty, independence and democracy, known as “Republican Motherhood”, played an important role in the emergence of the United States.

Molly Pitcher

Looking back on what these men and women accomplished you can defiantly tackle this years holiday party! A few thing that were most likely important for women when cooking for their families or army camps, were doubling recipes, using foods that surrounded them in their own garden, backyard or woods and keeping the ingredients simple. Simple ingredients doesn’t have to mean boring though. I have selected a few recipes that can easily be doubled, saved for later and hopefully enjoyed by your family and guests!

Colonial Women, 1876 by H. W. Pierce

  • Boiled custard – A fast and simple recipe that can also be doubled to make large quantities for special occasions.
  • Strawberry Preserves – Since 200 BC strawberries have been a favorite food, most likely because of its abundance, its familiarity to people as they traveled (immigrated) and of course taste!
  • Smothered Steak -Just the sound of this recipe make my mouth water.
We hope you enjoy these recipes and we would love to hear from you! Especially if you tried one of these recipes, e-mail us at farmhousemag(at)gmail(dot)com.If you missed a link for a recipe, here is a complete list:

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