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TIP OF THE DAY: The History Of Independence Day (& What They Ate)

THE HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE DAY

A federal holiday, Independence Day—also known as July 4th or the Fourth of July—commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress, which met in Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia.

The legal separation of the Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, the day that the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution declaring the United States independent from Great Britain’s rule.

Congress declared that the 13 American colonies were now a new sovereign nation, the United States of America, and no longer part of the British Empire.

The Declaration of Independence, a statement comprising 1137 words, authored largely by Thomas Jefferson, was officially adopted by Congress on July 4th after two days of debate and revision.

   

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Happy Independence Day. God Bless America! Photo courtesy ESquared Hospitality.

 
Nearly a month would go by, however, before the signing of the document took place.

  • On July 4th, only 12 of the 13 colonies voted to approve the Declaration. New York’s delegates didn’t officially give their support until July 9th, because their state assembly hadn’t yet authorized them to vote in favor of independence.
  • It took two weeks for the Declaration to be engrossed on parchment. Engrossing is the process of preparing an official document in a large, clear hand. Timothy Matlack, a Pennsylvanian who had assisted the Secretary of the Congress, Charles Thomson, was probably the engrosser.
  • Most of the delegates signed on August 2nd, but several signed on a later date. Two others never signed at all! (Source)
  • Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin all later wrote that they had signed on July 4th!
  • If you were a member of the Second Continental Congress in 1776, you were a rebel and considered a traitor by the King of England. You knew that a reward had been posted for the capture of certain prominent rebel leaders, and that signing your name to the Declaration meant that you pledged your life, your fortune, and your sacred honor to the cause of freedom.
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    The Revolutionary War was a long, hard, and difficult struggle that began on April 19, 1775 with the battles of Lexington and Concord. It ended officially on September 3, 1783, when a peace treaty with Great Britain was signed. If you’ve forgotten your high school history, here’s a recap.

    From the outset, Americans celebrated their independence on July 4th, preferring to honor the approval of the Declaration of Independence over the July 2nd vote for independence.

     

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    Baked ham was a colonial mainstay. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

      WHAT DID THE DELEGATES EAT?

    Since THE NIBBLE focuses on food, we investigated what the delegates might have eaten.

    Working long hours, the delegates would have stepped out for nourishment at coffee houses, taverns and publick houses. These destinations were not known for their cuisine, but were venues for exchanging ideas, sharing news and conducting business (the restaurant business as we now know it developed later).

    People who could afford to eat meals in these establishments were generally of the wealthier classes. The food was often served buffet-style, on a sideboard. As was common into the 20th century, the food came free with the drinks. (Source)

    At the time, colonial Philadephia was a melting pot of English, French and West Indian cuisine influences.

  • Meals often featured baked ham with warm potato salad, meat pies (chicken or pork), oysters, stew and soup, including the traditional Philadelphia PepperPot Soup.
  • Also popular: terrapin (turtle) and tripe (animal stomach, typically from cows or pigs).
  • The bread included corn muffins, white and whole wheat rolls—buttered, of course.
  • Dessert could be fruit pies, sugar cookies, gingerbread, Sally Lunn (a pound cake) or ice cream. The confectionery in Philadelphia, including ice cream, was considered the best in America.
  • Beverages included beer, hard cider, rum, and other alcoholic beverages; alcohol was considered healthful. City water supplies were dangerously polluted; only rural folk drank water from clean sources, and bottled it to sell in the city. In 1790, government figures showed that annual per-capita alcohol consumption for Americans over age 15 included 34 gallons of beer and cider, five gallons of distilled spirits and one gallon of wine. (Source)
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    Would you give up the modern July 4th standards for a colonial-era meal? If yes, start planning for next year!

      




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