Though the Colonists who came to the Thirteen Colonies brought with them much of the culture of their homelands, it was subject to many changes as a result of the social and physical forces they encountered. Let's take a moment to consider cultural ecology, a theory used in Anthropology which...
Though the Colonists who came to the Thirteen Colonies brought with them much of the culture of their homelands, it was subject to many changes as a result of the social and physical forces they encountered. Let's take a moment to consider cultural ecology, a theory used in Anthropology which essentially states that culture develops in response to the environment. For example, people who live in an area with a lot of native fruits might be more likely to have a fruit-centered cuisine. With that in mind, we can say that the Colonists brought with them cultures developed in response to the environments of Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands.
So how did these Colonists have to adapt when they came to places radically different from their homelands? Most of the people who came to settle in the North American colonies were from Great Britain, and though they shared a language in the New World, the environment played a big part in shaping life from colony to colony. In fact, the environment is so significant that we group the Thirteen Colonies into three based upon their regional environments and resulting culture.
In the north, the New England colonies had poor soil, but many miles of coastline and thick forests. Here, whaling, fishing, importing, and forestry (cutting lumber) were major industries. Because the soil was difficult to farm and the winter lasts so long, many agricultural goods were shipped in from other colonies. Architecture of this region reflects the natural abundance of timber and sloping roofs which prevent snow from piling up. Food of the time relied heavily on wild game and fish, though wheat and corn were imported for bread-making. Religious tolerance was nearly nonexistent in the New England colonies, and culture was dominated by Puritan values.
The Middle Colonies had much better soil than in New England, in addition to coal mines and some forests. Mining for coal and iron ore, to be used or exported, was a major industry in the Middle Colonies. Parts of the Middle Colonies also developed into the "breadbasket" of America, a region where wheat crops are grown plentifully. As such, bread was a staple of Middle Colony cuisine. The Middle Colonies were far more religiously tolerant than colonists in the north, and people of a variety of national and religious backgrounds settled here without any one really "taking over."
In the South, it was much warmer and often wetter than in the New England and Middle Colonies. The natural environment made it easy for settlers to establish farms and plantations, growing cotton, sugar, tobacco, and indigo. People who came to settle in the Southern Colonies were very profit-minded and wanted to develop a wealthy life in their new country by raising and selling the aforementioned cash crops. As such, Southern culture placed a lot of value on a family's wealth and how long they had been in the new world. The South was generally religiously tolerant, but Baptist Christianity became the predominant faith here. The cuisine of the region reflects a hard-working agricultural life and is full of high-energy ingredients like bacon fat, wheat flour, and corn meal.
In sum, the environment had a lot of influence on the development of the cultures of the Thirteen Colonies.