The Jumbal: Cookies, Society, and International Trade

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Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture


In 1824, Mary Randolph published The Virginia House-Wife, the first authentically American cookbook, reflecting her years of training in food production and a hard-won reputation as a cook. In the book, she included a recipe for a proto-cookie, the jumbal. This baked good developed in Europe in the Middle Ages and became a baking staple in England by the early seventeenth century. Imbedded in the simple recipe is a story of the development of crop production and foodways. Its ingredients reveal a complex history of cultural exchange, labor systems, human bondage, colonialism, and the development of an elaborate system of trade involving five continents. Its baking provides insight into questions of social class, gender roles, and female agency. As recipes for jumbals passed hand to hand and generation to generation, and from Britain to America, they followed social traditions and aided in the creation of an important genre: the cookbook. This seemingly simple recipe for a cookie grants an unusual entrée into many aspects of life in the long eighteenth century.


Georgia Southern University faculty member, Christopher E. Hendricks authored The Jumbal: Cookies, Society, and International Trade.