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Of Pearl Ash, Emptins, And Tree Sweetnin’
America’s First Native Cookbook
August/september 1981 | Volume 32, Issue 5
But it is in the brief section on apples, which calls to mind the fruitful wanderings of New Englander John Chapman, alias Johnny Appleseed (see December, 1979, AMERICAN HERITAGE ), that American Cookery could be accused of ascribing too many virtues to a single food. Here Simmons shows not only enthusiasm for fruit trees, but also a concern with problems not limited to eighteenth-century America:
There is not a single family but might set a tree in some otherwise useless spot, which might serve the two-fold use of shade and fruit; on which 12 or 14 kinds of fruit trees might easily be engrafted and essentially preserve the orchard from the intrusions of boys, &c. which is too common in America. If the boy who thus planted a tree, and guarded and protected it in a useless corner, and carefully engrafted different fruits, was to be indulged free access into orchards, whilst the neglectful boy was prohibited—how many millions of fruit trees would spring into growth—and what a saving to the union. The net saving would in time extinguish the public debt, and enrich our cookery.
Amelia Simmons’ cookbook stayed in print until the 1830’s, going through four editions and at least one plagiarized version. After 1796 English publishers began to include recipes from it in later editions of their own cookbooks, along with references to “the American manner of cooking” and “cooking in the American mode.” Amelia Simmons had helped the new nation establish its own cuisine.