‘Pompkin’ pie and other pies from history — baked up by the Bancroft

What did pumpkin pie taste like in 1796?

Well for starters, it was called pompkin pie, according to the Bancroft Library’s copy of American Cookery, one of about 900 cookbooks in Bancroft’s collection. The modest-looking volume, published in 1796, is extremely rare — it’s the first known cookbook written by an American. It came to the library within the past decade. 

In honor of Thanksgiving, the Bancroft baked this pie and two others from recipes from their collection, and held a tasting. On the tasting panel were David Faulds, curator of rare books and literary manuscripts at Bancroft, and four students of various majors, all avowed pie fans. 

In addition to the pompkin pie, the panel tasted a sweet potato pie that traces back to What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, from 1881 — copies of which are held at both Bancroft and the Bioscience and Natural Resources Library.

Written by a former slave and plantation cook who moved from Mobile, Alabama, to San Francisco, it is thought to be one of the first cookbooks written by an African American.

And they tasted a quince pie from a recipe that comes from the family cookbook of the very first first lady, Martha Washington. According to the panel, it looked gray and horrible — but tasted a lot better than it looked. 

The panel’s findings on the pies and copies of the recipes can be found on the library website — see link below. 

Learn more on the library website