The Colonial Revival was a nationalistic movement in architecture, interior design and garden design that looked back to 18th-century America, especially New England, for inspiration.
Symmetrical design, many-paned windows, elaborate doorways and clapboard, shingle, or brick construction characterized Colonial Revival architecture; period textiles served as interior design models. Although the style is still an influence, the period is generally defined as the years between 1870 and 1940.
The celebration of the 1876 centennial boosted interest in the architecture, history and foodways of Colonial America. Concerns about the effects of industrialization and increased immigration from non-English-speaking nations encouraged nostalgia for an idealized rural past and for Anglo-American culture. Colonial Revival sentiments encouraged the preservation of historic homes as museums and also found expression in cookbooks.
Some cookbooks of the late 19th century consciously honored colonial Americans and the early days of the Republic. Other cookbooks of the time appealed to those with a taste for the new cooking schools’ modern, scientific approach and the emerging domestic science movement.
The editor of “A Book for the Cook: Old Fashioned Receipts for New Fashioned Kitchens” cleverly tried to straddle both camps. It was published by the Village Improvement Society of Greenfield Hill, Conn., in 1899. The preface claims that the contributors included “valuable old-fashioned receipts inherited by them from the original settlers of the New England states.” It also claims that the cookbook will “commend itself to those interested in the instruction of children in hygienic cooking that calls for trained skill and scientific knowledge.”
The dedication to Mrs. Frederic Bronson is particularly interesting to a social or literary historian. Amos Bronson Alcott, who was well known as a Transcendentalist philosopher and educational reformer, and better known as the father of Louisa May Alcott, grew up on a hardscrabble farm in Connecticut. His mother, Anna Bronson, came from a Connecticut family. So this supporter of the Greenfield Hills Improvement Society may have been a relative of the Alcotts.
Lobster, seafood and clam chowder recipes appear in the cookbook. These are good chowder recipes, but the inclusion of milk, cream and potatoes means they were certainly not colonial. I adapted the crab soup recipe, which is a good use for our excellent Maine crab.