American women of all classes historically have shared one particular
common denominator: cooking. Prior to the second quarter of
the nineteenth century when mass-produced cast iron and steel
stoves were more available nationwide, cooking was a labor-intensive
chore done on an open fire in a fireplace. Wood or coal had
to be hauled into the house, and ashes removed daily. Worse
was the limited variety of food that could be cooked by this
method. Kettles of stews or soups were easy enough, but the
art of banking fires over Dutch ovens or piles of bricks or
stones for baking took considerable experience. Likewise, choosing
the types of wood that burned hotter or longer and then arranging
the fuels for consistent fires required great skill. Even when
successful, though, early American cooking was regarded with
disdain both at home and abroad. English novelist Frederick
Marryat wrote in the early nineteenth century that there were
"plenty of good things for the table in America; but 'God
sends meat, and the devil sends cooks.'"
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Daniel Delis Hill, Ohio State Press
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