Food and farming were of paramount concern to the early American colonists. While many of the original settlers had small farms and grew the majority of their food, there was no guarantee that they would have enough to sustain themselves. If and when crops failed, a family would have little choice but to buy or barter their provisions from others. Indeed, the very first Jamestown settlement experienced a meager harvest and would have starved (in fact, many did) had it not been for the local natives providing for them. Ditto for the passengers of the Mayflower, from whence we obtain our modern Thanksgiving; initially, it was giving thanks for not starving to death.
Although a variety of sources are used for this section, the bulk of the material comes from the following publications:
A New Booke of Cookerie by John Murrell, 1615
American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, 1798
The Frugal Housewife by Sussannah Carter, 1803
A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Rundell, 1807
The New-England Cookery by Lucy Emerson, 1808
The Book of Household Management by Isabella Beeton (1859)
Much of the commentary is in the author's own words, so please excuse the spelling...also, there is some bias towards England over the colonies, as several of these books were written there and then brought over to the New World by settlers...