The country’s foundation wasn’t the only thing developed in the Greater Delaware Valley during the 18th century – take a good look at the early American cookware, such as that housed at the Delaware County Historical Society and you might get an appreciation for appliances.
From 1600 to 1899, cookware, also known as treenware, was mostly made of wood. In fact, most dining occurred from one piece of board placed in the middle of the table and flatware was relegated to your fingers.
Eventually, everyone got their own board, which transformed into plates over time and knives were the first utensil, followed by spoons then forks.
Among the collection of authentic and reproduced items housed at the Delaware County Historical Society are a toaster, a strainer, a ladle, a trivet and a mortar and pestle, along with recipe books of long ago, instructing on how to make clay cake, oyster croquettes or boiled pudding with transcendental sauce.
These recipes are featured in “1883 Delaware County Recipes,” a book compiled by a Delaware County housekeeper and there’s also 1834’s “Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats.”
That featured instructions on how to make gooseberry pudding, ice cream, whipt cream, Queen Cake, New Year’s Cake, and even pound cake.
In the 1883 version, the recipes listed ingredients, but no directions, as these were intended to be passed from mother to daughter through experiential learning.
Housewives were expected to make three to four meals a day and she had to have enough food to last all winter – all without refrigeration.
While their methods may have differed from cooking today, some items remain similar, such as the teapot, ladle and others.
The colonial cookware is housed at the Delaware County Historical Society Museum, Library & Research Center. The museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; 1 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The museum’s telephone number is 610-872-0502. Parking is free on the society lot behind the building or across the street in the municipal lot.
Membership in the Delaware County Historical Society ranges from $10 for students, $27 for individuals to $250 at the patron level. It includes free admission to the society’s Chester museum and library at 408 Avenue of the States, the society newsletter and preferred reservations and discounts for lectures and events. To join, please visit www.padelcohistory.org or call 610-359-0832.
Shown are some of the items, both authentic and reproduced, that demonstrate colonial cooking at the Delaware County Historical Society.