Guides and Materials About Mr. Franklin
An Introduction
Ben Across the Curriculum
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Franklin’s Favorite Foods

As well as saying that “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”, Franklin consistently asked his wife Deborah to ship him barrels of apples while he lived abroad:

“Goodeys I now and then get a few; but roasting Apples seldom, I wish you had sent me some; and I wonder how you, that used to think of everything, came to forget it.  Newton Pippins would have been the most acceptable.” (letter from Benjamin Franklin in London, to Deborah in Philadelphia)

As with apples, Franklin had Deborah ship him barrels of cranberries both in England and France:

“Thanks for the Cranberrys. I am as ever Your affectionate Husband B Franklin” (Benjamin Franklin to Deborah, November 1770)

“I have lately received some Cranberrys from Boston … I will pick out enough to make you a few Cranberry Tarts”  (friend Jonathan Williams, Jr. to Benjamin Franklin, March 9th,1782)


“Squeamish stomachs cannot eat without pickles.” Benjamin Franklin

In 18th Century  France, potatoes were deeply unpopular.  However, French pharmacist Antoine Augustin Parmentier promoted the potato as a potential solution to French farming difficulties.  Franklin advised Parmentier to hold a banquet at Les Invalides with potatoes in every single dish, including desert.  Franklin attended, as guest of honor, and wrote a very favorable review:

“Receipt for the Bite of a Mad Dog”

“For the Bite of a Mad Dog, for either Man or Beast: Take six Ounces Rue clean picked and bruised, four Ounces of Garlick peeled and bruised, four Ounces of Venice Treacle, and four Ounces of filed Pewter or scraped Tin.  Boil these in the Space of an Hour, then strain the Ingredients from the Liquor.  Give eight or nine Spoonfuls of it warm to a Man, or a Woman, three Mornings fasting.  Eight or nine Spoonfuls is sufficient for the strongest; a lesser Quantity to those younger … Ten of twelve Spoonfuls for a Horse, or a Bullock; three, four, or five to a Sheep, Hog, or Dog.” (Published by Franklin in his Pennsylvania Gazette)


“We have the Pleasure of acquainting the World, that the famous Chinese or Tartarian Plant, called Gin seng, is now discovered in this Province, near Sasquehannah:  From whence several whole Plants with a Quantity of the Root, have been lately sent to Town, and it appears to agree most exactly with the Description given of it in Chamber’s Dictionary, and Pere du Halde’s Account of China.  The Virtues ascrib’d to this Plant are wonderful.” (Described in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1738.)

Franklin wished the Turkey had been chosen as the national bird, rather than the Bald Eagle.

“For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Brid and withal a true Native of America … He is besides, though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”  (Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to his daughter)

In addition, Franklin also experimented with killing animals by electrocution, because that made them so “uncommonly tender.”  This process was supposedly more humane than the existing slaughter methods, although risky:

“Two nights ago being about to kill a Turkey from the Shock of two large Glass Jars (Leyden Jars), containing as much electrical fire as forty common Phials, I inadvertently took the whole thro’ my own Arm and Body.” (Benjamin Franklin)

Printer’s Punch
Recipe from Poor Richard’s Almanack, June 1737

“Boy, bring a bowl of China here,
Fill it with water cool and clear;
Decanter with Jamaica ripe,
And spoon of silver, clean and bright,
Sugar twice-fin’d in pieces cut,
Knife, sive, and glass in order put,
Bring forth the fragrant fruit, and then
We’re happy till the clock strikes ten.”

Parmesan Cheese

“And for one I confess that if I could find in any Italian Travels a Receipt for making Parmesan Cheese, it would give me more Satisfaction than a Transcript of any Inscription from any Stone whatever.” (Benjamin Franklin to John Bartram, 1769.)

4 years later, in 1773, Franklin received a letter from Dr. Leith, who explained the process at length.



Franklin was outraged by the negative English opinions concerning American food that he encountered in London.  He took a patriotic pride in using “our own Produce at home” rather than being dependent on foreign imports.  He published a long treatise as “Homespun” extolling the virtues of American cooking and foodstuffs:

“Pray let me, an American, inform the gentleman, who seems ignorant of the matter, that Indian corn, take it for all in all, is one of the most agreeable and wholesome grains in the world; that its green leaves roasted are a delicacy beyond expression; that samp, hominy, succotash, and nokehock, made of it, are so many pleasing varieties; and that johny or hoecake, hot from the fire, is better than a Yorkshire muffin – But if Indian corn were so disagreeable and indigestible as the Stamp Act, does he imagine that we can get nothing else for breakfast? – Did he never hear that we have oatmeal in plenty, for water gruel or burgoo; as good wheat, rye and barley as the world affords, to make frumenty; or toast and ale; that there is every where plenty of milk, butter, and cheese; that rice is one of our staple commodities; that for tea, we have sage and bawm in our gardens, the young leaves of the sweet hickery or walnut, and above all, the buds of our pine, infinitely preferably to any tea from the Indies … Let the gentleman do us the honor of a visit in America, and I will engage to breakfast him every day in the month with a fresh variety.” (January 2nd, 1766, Benjamin Franklin)


“Rice is known to be one of the best Sorts of Food we have.  Some whole Provinces and even Kingdoms are nourished by it …” (B. Franklin, Poor Richard Improved, 1765)


“we have an Infinity of Flowers, from which, by the voluntary Labour of Bees, Honey is extracted, for our Advantage.  … Bread and Honey is pleasant and wholesome Eating. ‘Tis a Sweet that does not hurt the Teeth.  How many fine Setts might be saved; and what an infinite Quantity of Tooth Ach avoided! (B. Franklin, Poor Richard Improved, 1765)

Maple Syrup

“And from the Sugar Maple great Quantities may be made.  In the frontiers of Connecticut they are now much in the Practices of it.  A Friend, who has lately traveled in that Way, assures me, that … they make more than they can consume, and sell it at Eight Dollars and One Third per Hundred Weight” (B. Franklin, Poor Richard Improved, 1765)


“the Ears boil’d in their Leaves, and eaten with Butter are also good and agreeable Food.  The green tender Grains dried, may be kept all the Year, and mix’d with green Haricots also dried, make at any time a pleasing Dish.  … Ground into a finer Meal, they make of it by Boiling a Hasty pudding or Bouilli, to be eaten with Milk, or with Butter and Sugar; this resembles what the Indians call Polenta.” (B. Franklin, On Mayz, ca. April 1785, unpublished)



When Franklin was about 16, he met “with a book written by one Tryon, recommending a vegetable diet,” (Franklin, Autobiography) which he promptly stuck to, more or less, for the next three years, and which he returned to for brief spells throughout his life.  In addition, he repeats endlessly over the years his recommendation for moderation in eating:  “Be temperate in Wine, in eating, Girls, and Sloth, or the Gout will sieze you and plague you both” (Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1734)



The earliest document seen in which an American mentions tofu is a letter written by Benjamin Franklin (who was in London) to John Bartram in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 11, 1770. He sent Bartram some soybeans (which he called "Chinese caravances") and with them he sent "Father Navarrete's account of the universal use of a cheese made of them in China, which so excited my curiosity, that I caused enquiry to be made of Mr. [James] Flint, who lived many years there, in what manner the cheese was made, and I send you his answer. I have since learned that some runnings of salt (I suppose runnet) is put into water, when the meal is in it, to turn it to curds. [...] These ... are what the Tau-fu is made of."

Franklin sent seeds to John Bartram in the US in 1772 after seeing plants in Scotland. Bartram wrote Franklin that he had planted some seeds in a bright sunny place, others in the shade, and surprisingly it was the latter that produced.  Franklin had earlier sent a case of rhubarb root to Bartram (1770), with instructions on its use as a medicine.

Scotch Kale
“I send you also … some Seed of the Scotch Cabbage.” (Franklin, in London, to David Colden, New York, March 5, 1773) Terms of Use Credits