During the Revolutionary War, food was often at the center of the clash between the American colonists and the British. From the Boston Tea Party to coffee riots, Americans used food to express their anger at the British. Others stocked up on rum and Madeira wine, including George Washington, who ordered 1,900 bottles of wine after taking over the Continental forces. The conflict created food shortages, which some enlisted men combated by eating unusual foods. Troops fried up flour mixed with water, which they called firecake, and ate unappetizing foods like ox liver and sheep's head.
Americans used food to declare their independence, rejecting certain foods associated with the British and replacing them with homegrown alternatives. Instead of British tea, the revolutionaries drank raspberry leaf tea. Unusual colonial American foods like beaver tail and eel pie began to mix with familiar foods. For example, new recipes like cranberry tarts and pumpkin pie grew more popular. The American Revolution also introduced new delicacies, such as ice cream, which Thomas Jefferson tried for the first time in France. When the Founding Fathers weren't telling dirty jokes, or visiting red-light districts, they could be found eating and drinking these foods.
Americans used every part of their animals during the Revolution, including their blood. Hannah Glasse's 1805 cookbook contained a recipe for blood pudding. She recommended mixing cornmeal with boiled milk or water, and then stirring in blood. After mixing, Glasse recommended adding hog's lard and treacle.
She advised cooks to boil the blood pudding for up to seven hours before eating it.
Americans during the Revolution used every part of the animal. Joseph Plumb Martin, a private from Connecticut, recorded some of the unusual foods he ate during the conflict. Martin boiled "an old ox's liver," but eating the meat gave him a terrible stomachache. After taking medicine, Martin “discharged the hard junks of liver like grapeshot from a fieldpiece.”
During the Revolution, Martin also ate "a sheep's head," refusing to let it go to waste, and "an ox's milt, or spleen," which made him throw up.
Just after the American Revolution ended, Thomas Jefferson went to France. While there, Jefferson may have tasted ice cream for the first time. The dessert became a favorite of the Founding Father, who popularized his own recipe for ice cream.
As president, Jefferson served ice cream at least six times. In 1802, a Massachusetts Congressman wrote, "Ice cream very good, crust wholly dried, crumbled into thin flakes." Another dinner party guest marveled at the "balls of the frozen material inclosed [sic] in covers of warm pastry, exhibiting a curious contrast, as if the ice had just been taken from the oven."
Americans ate firecake out of necessity. The recipe called for flour and water - and nothing else. When General Washington's men spent a winter in Valley Forge, ration shortages meant many turned to firecake. Soldiers would mix their flour ration with water and bake it in an iron kettle. Without yeast or leavening, firecake was dense and tasteless.
Even worse, weevils and maggots were a constant problem during the conflict. If maggots got into the flour stores, men simply cooked them up with the firecake, not complaining about the extra protein.