Chapter 1

Lower Sorts Recipes


As a guest in the home of a common working family in the eighteenth century, you would not have found many nice things. The first thing you might have noticed was that there were very few chairs and places to sit. Being a guest, you might have been given a seat at mealtime, but children usually stood to eat their food. Meals would have been served in wooden bowls. Wooden or horn spoons were used to scoop the food from the bowls. Many poorer families shared a common drinking cup. Typical meals consisted of what families could grow themselves, along with small amounts of meat. We know that many poorer families, as well as enslaved people, had kitchen gardens in which they grew the foods to supplement their meals. Bacon and hams, which could be preserved in salt, were found in almost every household in the 1700s. These meats were considered a staple of an English person’s diet, including the poor.

Because they were imported to the colonies, sugar and spices were more expensive than they are today. Although a poorer man might not have had the money to spend on these luxuries, he could still purchase a small amount and use them sparingly. When a receipt (another word for recipe) called for sugar, honey or sorghum syrup, which were less expensive than sugar, were often used as a substitute.

The receipts here may have been used for meals in a common family’s home. Jacob, an enslaved child in William Brown’s household in Children’s Lives at Colonial London Town: The Stories of Three Families may have eaten some of these foods.

This project was developed through a Teaching American History Grant partnership between Anne Arundel County Public Schools, the Center for History Education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and Historic London Town and Gardens.