What Types of Food Did the Settlers Eat?

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When the settlers arrived in America, they brought their own cooking traditions with them, but they had to adapt them to the harsh living conditions of the new colonies. They went without supplies from England, such as sugar and butter, for months and even years, so they incorporated foods and cooking methods learned from Native Americans.

Protein

  • The sources of protein for the settlers was anything they could hunt or fish. They learned techniques from the natives to improve their chances of getting these foods. Still, settlers often went without meat or fish for months in the warmer weather since it could not be stored safely. Some homes eventually had a cold storage room that fresh meat could be stored in winter for short periods of time. Another technique was salting the fish or meat so it would not go bad.

Vegetables

  • The vegetables eaten were anything that the settlers could grow themselves. This was sometimes difficult since the settlers had to adapt their farming techniques to grow food in a climate that was very different from that in England. They learned to grow native foods, such as Indian corn, and depending where they lived in the colonies, grew other vegetables, such as potatoes and other root vegetables, beans and fruits. These foods were preserved by pickling, salting or drying, depending on the food.

Grains and Beverages

  • Breads, cooked over an open fire in the home, were commonly served at breakfast but also made appearances at meals throughout the day. Sometimes oatmeal was served, either an oat-based one in northern areas or a cornmeal-based in southern areas. Cornmeal also was used in breads and muffins. Some colonists brewed small amounts of barley into beer, but mostly the settlers drank water, which wasn't considered to be that healthy. Milk was not usually for drinking but for making into cheese and butter, so even children drank ale when it was available.

Meals

  • Most settlers rose early in the morning and started chores right away, having only a drink of ale at first. Breakfast was served a little later, after the first chores were done. The main meal of the day, called dinner, was served at what we know as lunchtime. It included a couple of meats and side dishes, plus desserts, such as custards or cakes. Supper, served in the evening, was a lighter meal that consisted mainly of leftovers from dinner.

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