I should start by acknowledging that there are plenty of people happy to wax nostalgic over building a country on slave labor.
I'm sure whoever wrote this shit thought they were writing a moving tribute to the women who had to be separated from their own families to care for someone else's. Self-delusion has to be an inherent part of the American character, though, for a country loudly proclaimed to be built on equality and still struggling nearly two and a half centuries later with qualities like basic fairness.
Let's move on to the sweeter part-- the good intentions. (And dessert!) I'm not sure whether the cake featured on the cover actually matches any of the cake recipes in the book, but I did find a recipe for a different flag cake in case you want a vintage flag cake recipe rather than one you could find in seconds with a Google search.
Admittedly, the blueberry and strawberry decoration scheme is likely to be pretty much the same as anything else you'll find online, but this flag cake recipe is waaay more likely to contain bourbon than one you'd find through a "flag cake" search. (It also has raw egg yolks in the icing, so you'll just have to hope the alcohol wins its independence from the salmonella.)
Some of the recipes actually seem like they could be authentic to the early days of the nation.
A recipe that contains nothing but beans and cornmeal, one that requires hours of work to end with the great reward of a ball of boiled beans and cornmeal, definitely seems like food created for frontier-types with limited options. The end note suggests the recipe is from the Cherokees, a group that may well have been better off if they hadn't helped the newcomers figure out survival strategies.
A lot of the recipes are clearly modernized, though.
I love that the sourdough bread recipe calls for commercial yeast in the starter and in the bread dough too. The recipe wouldn't have been particularly helpful to either the Gold Rush miners OR to home bakers hit by yeast shortages in the past few months.
The book has quite a few German recipes, reminding me why I rarely get too nostalgic for my grandmas' cooking. At least they never made German Cabbage Pie.
I can definitely live without cabbage creamed with caraway seeds and baked over a shell of sweet roll dough.
The book works pretty well as a representation of America over the years-- of its different types of ingenuity from frontier outposts to industrial processing, of its immigrant makeup, of its senseless cruelty and of those who could still repay cruelty with kindness. A cookbook is always more than a cookbook-- and that's part of the reason I love them. (That, and the Jell-O recipes...)