Puritans' Foods and Eating Habits

Puritan Beliefs on Food

For the austerity of the Puritan religion, Puritans might be mistaken to avoid pleasures of eating. While drunkenness and gluttony were condemned, enjoying foods was certainly not a sin. Their advocacy of food is shown in Puritan preacher Thomas Watson's sermon "Man's Chief End is to Glorify God" in which food is described as a God's bounty for nourishing and sweetening life, and thus a reason to glorify him. John and Karen Hess interpreted in a book "Taste of America" that their love of food was a "subliminal replacement for the other joys" that were restrained in the society.
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What Did They Eat?

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Grains like rye and wheat were Puritans' staples. Corn, which Native Americans introduced to settlers, saved them from starvation in early colonial days. Wheat bread was more popular than corn, however, due to the remained English habits - Puritans made bread with expansive wheat flour and other grains including cornmeal.

Among various kinds of vegetables, squashes, especially pumpkins, were necessary elements of the tables. Asparagus, lettuce, carrots, cabbages, peas, and beans were also parts of Puritan diet.

Meats were gained from hunting, fishing, and livestock which they brought from England. Puritans hunted rabbits and deer, and raised pigs, chickens, sheep, and cows. Northeast American streams provided variety of fish such as cod, sturgeon, mackerel, herring and salmon.

The Scarlet Letter

In Chapter 2 and its second paragraph, a description about ladies gathered around the scaffold on which Hester would stand to be punished suggests that English eating habits remained among Puritans.

"They were her countrywomen; and the beef and ale of their native land, with a moral diet not a whit more refined, entered largely into their composition."

How Did They Eat?

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Meal Pattern

The heaviest meal in colonial America was breakfast, not dinner. Because candles and oil lamps did not provide enough light to eat comfortably, Puritans ate the most around noon and lightly at afternoon before bed. It was also inferred to be influenced by their agricultural lifestyle in which they got up early and went to bed early. They did not eat lunch and instead had a light supper between breakfast and dinner.

How Did They Cook?

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Thanksgiving Tradition

  • The American Thanksgiving also has its origin in the faith practices of Puritan

  • Sanctioned only the Sabbath, fast days and thanksgivings as religious holidays or “holy days.”

  • Happy events such as the sudden ending of war, drought or pestilence, might inspire a thanksgiving proclamation.

  • The classic Thanksgiving menu of turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and root vegetables is based on New England fall harvests. In the 19th century, as the holiday spread across the country, local cooks modified the menu both by choice (“this is what we like to eat”) and by necessity (“this is what we have to eat”)

Works Cited

"The Scarlet Letter Wiki." Wikia. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.

Greenwood, Melanie. "What Kinds of Food Did Puritans Eat? | EHow." EHow. Demand Media, 28 Mar. 2011. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.

Charles, Aaron. "Puritan Food Habits & Religion." People. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.

Umphlett, Ashely. ": Puritanism: The Inside Scoop (Of Food, Obviously.)." Umphlett's Independent Study. N.p., 14 Sept. 2013. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.