FOOD HISTORY: Philadelphia Pepper Pot Soup

Philadelphia Pepper Pot Soup is a thick, hearty soup, flavored by peppercorns and containing tripe, frequently other meats, eg. chicken, veal, etc. plus vegetables. There are almost unlimited variations in the way it can be prepared. The soup had its beginnings during the American Revolutiionary War. In 1777, the Continental Army failed to repulse the British advances and they now occuped Philadelphia. George Washington set up his armie's winter headquarters in Valley Forge, 20 miles from Philadelphia. The winter of 1777 was paticularly harsh, especially for the 10,000-12,000 American soldiers who were freezing in their ragged clothes, torn, worn out shoes, and who never had  enough to eat. On December 29, because of the absence of food, especially meat, which almost caused a mutiny, General Washington asked his cook to make a soup, " that will warm and strengthen the body of a soldier and inspire his flagging spirit." This was a tall order for the cook who had very little at his disposal. The only things available were some kitchen scraps of meat and vegetables and peppercorns. Fortunately, a local butcher donated some tripe and the cook prepared his soup using these ingredients, adding a lot of pepper for flavor.This hot, peppery soup warmed and refereshed the soldiers who went on, eventually, to route the British. While it can't be said that," This is the soup that won the American Revolutrion", it's contribution to that event cannot be underestimated. The soup, however, was not an American invention. It had it's roots in West Africa. West Africans brought their okra thickened "gumbo" soup/stew  preparation techniques and seasonings to the Carribean Islands when they were brought as slaves. The name "gumbo"is derived from several Southern and Central African Bantu Tribes terms for okra; guingumbo, grugombo, gumbo, etc. The Carribean Islanders transmuted these African "gumbos' into a spicy soup they called "Callaloo". Callaloo is ubiquitous all over the Carribean and varies according to available local ingredients but usually includes sea turtle which gives the soup a gelatinous texture that would have been mimiced by the use of tripe in the Pepper Pot Soup. Since two thirds of the American Army, at that time, were foreign born and many of these were African-Americans, it seems clear that the cook responsible for Pepper Pot Soup must, surely, have depended on his African roots for his inspiration. Sometime after the American Revolution this soup migrated into Pennsylvania Dutch country where it soon became, and still is, a mainstay in the diet of people in this region of the U.S.