Such heaped-up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tenderer oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and shortcakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes. And then there were apple pies and peach pies and pumpkin pies; besides slices of ham and smoked beef; and moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums, and peaches, and pears, and quinces; not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens; together with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty much as I have enumerated them, with the motherly teapot sending up its clouds of vapor from the midst — Heaven bless the mark! I want breath and time to discuss this banquet as it deserves, and am too eager to get on with my story. Happily, Ichabod Crane was not in so great a hurry as his historian, but did ample justice to every dainty.
-The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving
[This Legend of Sleepy Hollow feast was originally posted in 2014. I’ve since updated photos, included references for those hoping to do their own reading and updated the historical recipes based on recent research]
Every Halloween brings a retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in which lanky schoolteacher Ichabod Crane is pursued towards the bridge by the Headless Horseman.
First published in 1820, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was included in The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent, a collection of 34 essays and short stories.
To recreate the feast Ichabod partakes in at the Van Tassels, we need to take a step back in history to explore the food that would have been served, not only in 1790 when Sleepy Hollow was set but also in the region. New York State’s Hudson Bay, where the town of Sleepy Hollow is located, has a history of Dutch colonization dating back to the seventeenth century.
If you’re interested in following up with your own reading, two books provided insight (links will lead you to Amazon).
- Food in Colonial and Federal America walks the reader through the availability of foodstuffs and discusses the cultural differences by region.
- The Sensible Cook is an English translation of the favourite 1600s cookbook, ‘De Verstandige Kock’. The author also includes additional ‘modern’ variations from the Dutch colony in the US, providing additional insight and access to recipes likely used during Ichabod Crane’s time.
Four American cookbooks printed during the 1700s and early 1800s were also referenced, providing additional insight into the era. All of the following are available online through websites like Gutenberg.org.
- The Complete Housewife by Eliza Smith. The first American printed cookbook in 1742. (links to a digital version from University of Michigan)
- American Cookery by Amelia Simmons in 1796 (links to a digital version on Gutenberg.org)
- The Art of Cooking Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse in 1805 (links to digital versions on archive.org)
- and The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Child in 1829.
The recipes that follow are adaptations from all these books and hopefully help you present as authentic a meal for your Sleepy Hollow themed feast in the 21st century.
To help guide you through creating these recipes for your Sleepy Hollow party, you can also download a planning timeline to ease the process. I’ve created this feast twice, and while it is possible over two days, there are elements to some recipes that can be prepared in advance.
Ready to create the recipes for your Sleepy Hollow party? Click through the menu below for the recipes inspired by Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
The Authentic Sleepy Hollow Menu
preserved plums, peaches, pears, quinces
milk and cream