English-born Ann Head Warder, wife of Philadelphia merchant John Warder, visited the United States in 1786-87 and kept a wonderfully descriptive journal for her sister Eliza to read. Food figures prominently, as you’ll see in the days leading up to Christmas.
11th mo. 5th. … Dine … on venison, the first I have eaten here, which I think preferable to ours, as the flavor is milder.
11th mo. 6th. … [Visited friends] had a good supper of oysters, in that freedom which we only feel when at home.
11th mo. 8th. … [dined again with friends] First rock fish, next mock turtle, ducks, ham and boiled turkey, with plenty of vegetables, and after these were removed, we had floating island, several kinds of pies with oranges and preserves. When we were well satisfied, left the men to their pipes and went up stairs to our chat. …
11th mo. 10th.—This morning most of the family busy preparing for a great dinner, two green turtles having been sent by Forbes & Stevens, of New Providence. … we concluded to dress them both together here and invited the whole family in. … We had a black women to cook and an elegant entertainment it was—having three tureens of soup, two shells baked besides several dishes of stew, with boned turkey, roast ducks, veal and beef. After these were removed the table was filled with two kinds of jellies, and various kinds of puddings, pies, and preserves; and then almonds, raisins, nuts, apples and oranges. Twenty-four sat down at table. I admired the activity of the lusty cook, who prepared everything herself, and charged for a day and a half but three dollars.
12th mo. 6th. … Little Billy Morris last night had convulsions and continued in them for several hours, but today he is recovering fast. The cause proved to be from eating too many raw cranberries, many of which he swallowed whole. People here are not half attentive to children’s food, they eat too many highly seasoned and rich things themselves and the dear babes partake with them. After dinner … out sleighing, which I found much more agreeable than expected. …
12th mo. 25th.—Our Christmas dinner consisted of a fine saddle of venison, with other things.
The excerpts do not appear in either of our books; rather, they represent new material from our ongoing research. They are from Ann Head Warder’s journal which appeared in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1894), Volume 18, pages 54, 55, 57-58.