Almost immediately, the Civil War transformed the way Southerners ate, devastating fields and food transportation networks. The war also spurred Southerners to canonize prewar cooking styles, resulting in cuisine that retained nineteenth-century techniques in a way other American cuisines did not. This fascinating book presents a variety of Civil War-era recipes from the South, accompanied by eye-opening essays describing this tumultuous period in the way people lived and ate. The cookbooks excerpted here teem with the kinds of recipes we expect to find when we go looking for Southern food: grits and gumbo, succotash and Hopping John, catfish, coleslaw, watermelon pickles, and sweet potato pie. The cookbooks also offer plenty of surprises. This volume, the second in the American Food in History series, sheds new light on cooking and eating in the Civil War South, pointing out how seemingly neutral recipes can reveal unexpected things about life beyond the dinner plate, from responses to the anti-slavery movement to shifting economic imperatives to changing ideas about women’s roles. Together, these recipes and essays provide a unique portrait of Southern life via the flavors, textures, and techniques that grew out of a time of crisis.
“This book demonstrates the serious history that lies in cookbooks and recipes. Through this welcome collection of primary sources, we confront firsthand the politics, privations, and horrors of that time in recipes for ‘Secession Pudding (excellent),’ ‘Preserving Meat without Salt,’ or an ‘Antidote’ (to counteract an alleged Northern tactic of poisoning soldiers’ liquor). Introductory essays frame the culinary culture of the South, and the glossary and extensive notes provide sure guidance for further research.”
—Cathy Kaufman, President, Culinary Historians of New York