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Learn more about the authors of the original recipes.
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The recipes we have chosen are presented in the original language and measurements of the colonial era. Our modern translations are intended to be as accurate as possible to the original recipes using modern ingredients and equipment. Our job is to recreate 18th-century food as genuinely as possible. In some cases we will indicate items that can be omitted or substituted in order to make the recipes healthier.
The recipes here are the foods of the wealthy. Most Virginians of the 18th century could not afford so much meat and sugar, and would have had a far more simple and healthy diet and a much more active lifestyle than most modern Virginians.
Most 18th-century cookbooks were written by professional cooks, for professional cooks. Often, they don’t specify quantities of spice or sugar because they knew that the cooks preparing them would adjust them to the taste of the people they were cooking for. Today’s modern cooks are accustomed to exact measurements of everything. Hannah Glasse’s cookbook is an exception, written to provide housewives and servants instructions to economically reproduce the dishes of the French style that were becoming popular.
These recipes were created before there was any knowledge of calories and cholesterol, and when there was a very different concept of the relationship between food and health.
Although these dishes may have high levels of fat and cholesterol in them, it is important to point out what was not in them. The food of the 18th century did not contain any artificial colors, preservatives, chemicals or pesticides, and was much more local, fresh and unprocessed than the food we get today.
We do not recommend the inclusion of these recipes on an everyday basis as part of a healthy modern diet, but hope that you’ll use them on special occasions, or as a resource for those interested in 18th-century cooking.
Modern cooks may want to make some more healthy substitutions: margarine instead butter, sugar substitutes, or skim milk in place of heavy cream. We have not tested the recipes this way and are not sure what effect that will have on the final product, but we would love to hear what changes you make and how they turn out.