My review of The Hamilton Cookbook: A history rich dive into living, eating, and entertaining in Colonial America during the late eighteenth century. I was provided a free, advance copy of this cookbook for this review. All opinions are mine.
As a self-taught home chef and an avid reader, I have an ever growing collection of cookbooks. I like to read them from cover to cover, often using them for inspiration. Cookbooks have helped shape and define my own cooking methods. So today we are going to venture into the world of cookbook reviews, starting with The Hamilton Cookbook by Laura Kumin.
Laura Kumin, the creator of Mother Would Know, has used her researching skills to dig into the past and shine a light on the fascinating history of what food was like during America’s colonial period. Ms. Kumin took the time to lay the groundwork for who Hamilton, who his friends were, and their likes and dislikes.
She also included the implications of the time period. People had it much more difficult in the days before food processors, electric mixers, and temperature controlled gas ovens and ranges. As we pay little attention to our large capacity fridge/freezer combos, they struggled with food storage and safety.
While some parts were a little dry, as all history can be, it showed me that there is probably a lot more that I can learn about Hamilton and his time period than she can fit into this book. Lucky for me, the book is well structured and the research is well cited. Ms.Kumin provided additional resources in the book for me to dig into on my own.
This eighteenth century history lesson served as a great predecessor to the second section of the book – the historical recipes. They have been adapted for use by the average home chef, to work well in an up-to-date kitchen environment.
Bringing Old Recipes Into A Modern Kitchen
I love that she took the time to not only adapt and test the recipes, but she also included photographs of the original recipes as they appeared in cookbooks of Hamilton’s time period. One of the first thing you will notice about these original, historical recipes is that they lacked precise measurements. There are no cooking times or temperatures provided. They really drew on the existing knowledge of a cook. Knowledge that you wouldn’t have unless an experienced cook took the time to teach you first hand.
You’ll also see that the old recipes were printed quite tightly together, leaving no room for explanation or tips outside of the few lines it took to provide a rough outline.
However, on the opposite page of these recipes, Ms. Kumin included her up to date adaptation. The structure is one I am more familiar with and includes recipe specific notes. She included what she learned during the recipe testing process and occasionally how not to repeat her mistakes. Two features I always want to know before I try a recipe for the first time.
With the recipes Ms. Kumin provided, you could create an entire menu for an authentic Hamilton inspired party. She has you covered from breakfast through the main meal, including drinks and desserts. On the top of my list of things to try are the West Indian Pepper Pot Soup, Bread Pudding, Lamb Stew, Salamagundy Salad, and Lemon Syllabub.
The Hamilton Cookbook really does an excellent job of illustrating how far cooking has come, how our food preferences have evolved, and how much easier we have it in the 21st century. I am definitely grateful to live in a world of step by step photos and “hands and pans” videos to help further drive my culinary education.
To get your hands on a copy of The Hamilton cookbook and lean more about the world of eighteenth century cooking, click on the Amazon link below.
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