This Independence Day, you could stuff your face with burgers and hot dogs like you do every year, or you could go insanely anachronistic with some dishes TJ, Benny Franklin, and Big G. Wash would've devoured. We combed crazy-old recipes for some examples of what Americans were eating around 1776, and let's just say pork was not the only "other" white meat. To find out all you ever needed to know about 18th century boozing and eel pickling, peep our authentic 4th of July guide below.
Welsh Rabbit Being a regular tease, Welsh rabbit (or rarebit) is an old UK appetizer that contains zero rabbit. America was an early adopter of this imposter, which is just the right dish to lead your true-to-the-times menu. (Our recipe comes from the official site for Colonial Williamsburg -- and calm down, they were still eating this stuff in the 1700s.) So first, crank your broiler to preheatin' mode. Slosh a cup of beer, two teaspoons of mustard powder, a quarter of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce in a saucepan, and get that stuff boiling. Slowly whisk in one-and-a-half cups of grated cheddar cheese, making sure you melt everything before you add more. Add two tablespoons of butter, whisk until it's not lumpy, sprinkle in some salt, and set it aside.
Put four to six tomato slices on the rack of the broiler pan, and keep 'em there until they're lightly browned. Pour the cheese over some pieces of toast, slap on the tomato slices, and then broil until the cheese is nice and bubbly. Commence snacking.
Pickled Eel Before George Washington got shipped off to give the redcoats hell, he was enjoying some pretty interesting dishes at home. On one of the many pages of Martha's cookbook (a family heirloom that some historian types later unearthed and released to the masses) is a how-to for pickled eel. You get things started by grabbing a half-pint each of water, white wine vinegar, and white wine not-vinegar. Then, add "some salt" and one or two "branches" of rosemary, and set that sucker to boil. Next, you're going to grab your closest eel and throw it in there "till it is enough". (Martha Washington was very helpful.)
Cool that concoction down, and then let the eel sit for three days. Once you're ready to serve, rub it in a lil' vinegar and oil, throw some parsley/onion/pepper/salt on that piece, and squirt some orange juice on top.
Boiled Pigeons When they weren't nomming on eels or ox tongues, early Americans also partook of a dish that would probably give you every disease from urban history: pigeons. A cookbook of the times by Hannah Glasse has some relevant recipes, so if you just happen to have some dead, plucked, and skinned pigeons lying around, here's a way to serve them to your friends and family. (Don't tell them what they're eating -- it'll be a fun surprise!)
Boil each bird by itself for 15min, then boil a "handsome square piece of bacon". Stew up some spinach and place the pigeons on top of it, with the bacon in the middle. Garnish with parsley, and you're set. OR put one pigeon in the middle, the rest around him, and some spinach between each one. Slap some bacon on top of each, sit back, and watch tape the reactions.
Sunderland Pudding For dessert, go with a pudding that sounds a little bit like Donald Sutherland, but unfortunately doesn't come with a majestic white beard. In American Cookery, the first 'Murican-penned cookbook printed in the U.S., Amelia Simmons offered a super simple how-to. Just whip six eggs (and half the whites) before adding in half a nutmeg, one pint of cream, four spoonfuls of fine flour, and a little salt. Butter up the pan, and then bake for one hour. She also says you should eat it with "a sweet sauce", without offering any specifics. Because, like Martha Washington, Simmons was one smug recipe writer.
Stone Fence (or Stone Wall) Back in the day, our forefathers liked to get their cocktail on with plenty of drinks you don't hear about nearly enough anymore, like the Rattle-Skull and Blackstrap, which probably went out of style the same time peg legs did. One of their basics was the Stone Fence, also called the Stone Wall, which is just rum with some cider to take the edge off. Mix one up for yourself as the fireworks go off, or, if you're super lazy and not all that committed to historical accuracy, just grab a Sam Adams and call it a day.