|Inside the steamy State House.|
Colonial Americans didn't have a meal called "lunch". Instead, "dinner" was served in the early afternoon and was the big, sustaining meal of the day. Poor families often ate from "trenchers"--pieces of stale bread that were used as plates. Stews, often of pork, corn and cabbage, would be ladled onto the trencher. If the bread softened up enough, it would be eaten. If not, it was given to the animals. More affluent families would have menus made of meats, meat puddings and pies, fruits, pancakes and fritters, pickles and soups. Desserts finished the meal--fruits, custards and tarts.
A meal at the time of day when we eat dinner was not always eaten. "Supper" in Colonial times, was a brief meal--sometimes not long before bedtime, if at all--made up of leftovers or gruel (oats, cornmeal or other grains boiled with water). Some sort of alcoholic beverage was almost always served. In the South, egg dishes were popular and in New England, salt-roasted potatoes became a staple.
|The still "genteel" City Tavern.|
Since many of the Continental Congress were far from home during their time in Philly, the tavern was home to these men while they served in Congress. Luckily for them, Philadelphia was probably the most culinarily advanced city in the Colonies. English, French and West Indian influences led to a variety of food choices. Philadelphia pastries and other confections--including ice cream--were known to be the best in America. Taverns thrived and markets were full of rare items brought in through the busiest port in the New World.
Philly's City Tavern, still serving Colonial fare today, was known as THE place to be for members of Congress. In David McCullough's book, John Adams, he writes: "Adams, recording his first arrival in Philadelphia in August 1774, had written that 'dirty, dusty, and fatigued as we were, we could not resist the importunity to go to the [City] Tavern,' which, he decided, must be the most genteel place of its kind in all the colonies." A few days later, Adams met George Washington while dining there. Without good food and drink, who knows what would have happened all those years ago in the State House? It's awfully hard to start a country on an empty stomach!
Have a fun and safe holiday!