According to James Fenimore Cooper, in "The American Democrat" (1838):
Americans are the grossest feeders of any civilized nation known, As a nation, their food is heavy, coarse, ill prepared and indigestible, while it is taken in the least artificial form that cookery will allow.
The predominance of grease in the American kitchen, coupled with the habits of hasty eating and of constant expectoration, are the causes of the disease of the stomach so common in America. Grease was apparently ubiquitous in
Most foods, especially vegetables, were overcooked. Spices were available, but were sometimes expensive and were rarely used out of habit. Thus, American food tended to be bland. Imagination was infrequently applied to meal planning, so that meals lacked variety. In addition, the lack of effective or available refridgeration meant that food spoiled easily. Sometimes, the attempts of housewives and professional food producers to cover the taste or appearance of spoiled food led to more dangerous consequences than the original food itself. Dyes and flavorings were often harmful or even fatally poisonous.
Americans generally ate quickly and in a sloppy fashion. Since all the food was placed on the table at the same time, the person who ate most quickly (or had the longest and pushiest arms) received the most food. Napkins were rarely used, and few tablecloths lasted long without being irrevocably stained.
Americans in the Northeast tended to eat their meals later than those in the South and West. Working people ate according to their work schedules. Those with more control over their mealtimes generally had breakfast between 7:00 and 8:00 am, lunch (called ãdinnerä) between 12:00 and 4:00 pm, and a relatively light supper between 6:00 and 10:00 pm. Some New Englanders maintained the British custom of teatime, although the American version was around 6:00 pm, instead of the British version at around 4:00pm.
Among the more common breakfast foods were potatoes, beef, eggs (soft-boiled, then poured into wine glasses), toast, hot biscuits, hot cakes (pancakes), corn bread (in the South and West) and coffee or tea. Dinner, the largest meal of the day, consisted of similar foods, but in larger portions. Other dishes often joining the dinner table were porridge and seasonal vegetables and fruits. Dessert, which followed dinner, could be pie, rice or other pudding, custard or ice cream, Fruit was often the last course. At New England tea, that beverage (and coffee) were accompanied by ices, creams and jellies, preserves, pickled oysters, cakes, candies, fruits, or wines. Supper was similar to dinner, but on a smaller scale.
During meals, coffee and tea, water or cocoa were consumed in large quantities. The most popular alcoholic beverage was whiskey, especially in the South and West. Whiskey was inexpensive and readily available in most communities and during social gatherings. Cider, which was previously consumed widely, lost some of popularity. Other drinks, alcoholic and otherwise, were produced in the country or imported, but in smaller quantities and for higher prices.