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Effects of the American Revolution

In 1775, the Continental Congress decreed that no imports would enter the American colonies, nor would any exports move from America to England. Some historians state that this had a profound effect on the agriculture of America, while others state that there was no effect as the domestic market was strong enough to sustain American agriculturists. The dispute lies in the fact that the American economy was highly diverse; there was no standard form of currency, and records were not consistently kept.

As game became scarce and a moratorium was placed on mutton consumption, cattle husbandry increased.By the declaration of the American Revolution, with George Washington as its military leader, a number of dietary changes had already occurred in America. Coffee was quickly becoming the normal hot drink of the colonies and a taste for whiskey had been acquired among many of those who could produce it. In fact, in 1774, the first corn was grown in Kentucky specifically for production of American Bourbon whiskey.

This step may have established this American spirit in American culture, just as the country was going to war with England. In addition to whiskey coming into favor, a shift began in the consumption of cider over beer.

Colonists opted to grow less barley as it was easier to ferment apple cider than to brew beer. Another reason for this change would have been the lack of imported hops needed to brew beer.

As the American colonies went to war, they needed soldiers, supplies, and lots of them. Soldiers needed uniforms and, as all shipping into the colonies had ceased, wool became an integral commodity to the war effort. During the Revolution the consumption of mutton ceased almost entirely in many areas, and in Virginia it became illegal to consume except in cases of extreme necessity.

Game had begun to become scarce in the region east of the Mississippi river. This could have been from over-hunting, or the game could have been driven westward as the colonial population increased. Fortunately, Irish and Scottish immigrants had been importing cattle into the American colonies during the early part of the 18th century. Consequently, when game was becoming scarce and mutton had a moratorium placed upon it, cattle were available to take their place as a protein source. This change increased farmers' profit from animal husbandry.

Cattle raising had begun on a small scale during the French-Indian War, but when the American Revolution came, farmers were able to increase their cattle holdings and increase the presence of beef in the American diet. In addition to beef production, the cattle also increased the production of milk and dairy products like butter. This may have contributed to the preference of butter over pork fat, especially in the northern colonies.

With the arrival of English soldiers by ship, and naval battles on the seas, areas used for salt water fishing became perilous, and lay dormant for much of the war. In addition, many of the fishing vessels were converted into warships. Before the war, there was often talk about the excess of lobsters and cod off the shores of New England. This seemed to change during and after the war, due to the vast numbers of ships and artillery entering the ocean waters. Once lobster harvesting and cod fishing was reestablished, most fishermen found that the lobster and cod had migrated away from the shores.

Where Americans had a historic disdain for the refineries of French cooking, that opinion, at least in a small part, began to change with the American alliance with the French. In the first American publication of Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery Made Easy, the insults toward French dishes disappeared. A number of Bostonians even attempted to cook French cuisine for their French allies, sometimes with comedic results when entire frogs were put into soups rather than just their legs. Nonetheless, the alliance supported a friendship with France that later resulted in a large migration of French cooks and chefs to America during the French Revolution.

The American diet was changed through this friendship as well as due to the changes forced through boycott and hostilities with England.  After a time, trade did resume with the West Indies but was limited to necessities. Items that sustained the war effort in America were traded, with crops such as rice from the Carolinas shipped out and coffee beans imported in order to brew America’s new beverage of choice.

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