I week ago, I talked about the idea of housewife, and how and why it had been created. As we all know, the idea made its way across the sea to the British Colonies in the Americas, where we helped define it into what it would mean to be a housewife in the twentieth and twenty-first century.
How was the idea of the women taking care of household management taught? For one, through extended families and teaching by example. Mothers. aunts, and Grandmothers taught the younger women in the house through socialization and teaching by example. But for those educated enough (mostly in the upper classes), collections of recipes, handed down from one generation to the next, certainly propagated the idea of how to run a kitchen and even some rudimentary medicines.
There is plenty of evidence to support this theory, including some from the first First Lady of the United States, Martha Washington. She received the collection of recipes in 1749 from the Custis family, her first husband’s side of the family (Martha was married to Daniel Custis for several years until he passed away and she married George). It was clearly a family heirloom by this time, and the information within defined how to make both foods and sweetmeats. It is the latter in which I am most interested.
For example, there’s a recipe for marmalades and preserves, both close relatives of candy. There’s one for Candy Suckets, which is most certainly recognizable to us today as an out an out confection. There’s even a recipe for orringe Lozenges which detailed as followed:
Take preservd orringe & leamon pill minced small, of each one ounce; sugar candyed, (one) quantety of A nutmegg; (one) powder of (one) lesser cardemones & carraway seed, of each (one) weight of 2 pence; musk & civit, of each (one) weight of 2 graynes; fine sugar dissolved in rosewater, 5 ounces. mingle these well together over (one) fire, then spread on a silver plate & cut them into lozenges, & soe let them coole.
There are many things interesting about this recipe, far too many for this post alone. My main point is that, while the First Lady may have believed she was making (or more likely overseeing the making) of some medicine, the recipe is pretty straightforward to us today that it is a candy.
For those of you interested in candy’s history during colonial America, I highly recommended Karen Hess’ transcription of Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery & Booke of Sweetmeats. It’s a fascinating look at how American’s ate in the eighteenth century.