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Early American Cooking: Recipes from America’s Historic Sites

By MaryAnn Miano

Early American Cooking: Recipes from America’s Historic Sites, by Evelyn L. Beilenson, is a timely book you can check out at the Colts Neck Library as part of the Kitty Henning Collection. During this month of July, when we celebrate the birth of our great country, commemorate the occasion with an authentic dish enjoyed by our Pilgrim Fathers, the colonists at Williamsburg, General Washington, Ben Franklin, President Lincoln, and even Mark Twain. This book will introduce you to some of America’s great historic sites and to samples of the cuisine actually served at these sites during their time in history.

The book presents the true recipes along with equivalent modern recipes to help cooks prepare them in our present-day kitchens. The original recipes are set in italics and are sometimes presented without a list of ingredients, indicating their Early American roots. The information in this book was donated from various historic sites, and the author herself helped interpret these recipes into more modern versions to enable cooks to enjoy the intriguing tastes and smells of Early American cooking. The author believes that by learning about the lifestyles of the past, we can better appreciate and savor the present.

Take a stroll through the Appomattox Court House and learn about Robert E. Lee’s favorite cake to eat. At the City Tavern in Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park, a meeting place for political friends and foes, military personnel, and fraternal societies, try the chicken marinade from Hannah Glasse in 1789.

Colonial Williamsburg is a great place to learn about the colonists, who were of mostly English and Scottish descent. The old world recipe for brandied fresh peaches was popularly given as a gift. At the Victorian home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, roast shoulder of lamb was a popular dish.

At the home of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln in Springfield, IL, President Lincoln had a fondness for dessert. Try the vanilla pecan pie recipe that he loved in this chapter. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived for 45 years in Cambridge, MA.  Fanny, his wife, liked to prepare vegetable soup for her family and for guests.

On Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, MA, the Pilgrims prepared and flavored food as they had done in England, until the Indians introduced new foods to them. Try the Cambridge Pudding to get a taste of the Old World during the 17th century.

At the Booker T. Washington Monument in Virginia, commemorate this great man, who endured slavery but rose above his condition, by making sweet potato pie, something he enjoyed as a free man.



2 cups peeled, cooked, sweet potatoes, mashed

2 beaten eggs

2/3 cup sorghum molasses

¼ cup butter

½ cup sweet milk

½ teaspoon ground, dry ginger

Pinch salt


Mix together and place in unbaked pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes.


Recipe from Early American Cooking: Recipes from America’s Historic Sites, page 87, by Evelyn L. Beilenson. Publisher: Peter Pauper Press, Inc. 1985.



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