Friday, January 18, 2013

James Monroe: Cry Babies and Chicken Pudding

The colonial electorate chose another Virginian 
to be the 5th U. S. president: James Monroe.
If anyone is counting, that makes four Virginians out of the first five U. S. presidents.
James Monroe was born on a tobacco plantation 
in Westmoreland County, Virginia,
but James Monroe's own family home is called Ash Lawn-Highland 
and is near Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Albemarle County.
Monroe's history is less known than some U. S. presidents,
but no less fascinating.

James Monroe's service to the country began long before he became president.
I was surprised to learn that as an 18-year-old soldier,
he had crossed the Delaware with George Washington,
and later survived the frozen winter at Valley Forge.
His time at Valley Forge must have been a real test of his physical and mental strength
considering that he had been wounded 
during the Revolutionary War's Battle of Trenton (New Jersey) months before.
I'm sure at some point, he must have longed for the comfort of family and home.
But as all people must, he endured to fulfill his destiny.

In his government service as congressman and later president,
Monroe is responsible for what is known as "the Monroe Doctrine" 
which essentially drew a line in the sand to warn Europe and Russia 
that they were not allowed to establish colonies in the Americas.
Monroe also negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803
which expanded the boundaries of the United States westward.
James Monroe image 

All in all, he had a distinguished career. 
And as soldier, congressman, senator, diplomat, and president,
what did he like to eat?
The Ash Lawn website tells us that Monroe shared Jefferson's affection for 
French foods and wines, but that his heart belonged to the Virginia foods of his youth.
According to The President's Cookbook, cited on The Food Timeline,
Monroe loved spoonbread, chicken fried with rice,
chicken pudding, tomatoes and eggs, and a molasses cookie called 'Cry Babies.'
Everything in that list sounds like typical Southern fare,
but that chicken pudding dish, that is a  mystery.

So I Googled chicken pudding 
and found a recipe on this site for Southern Living Magazine.
Basically, it involves a whole chicken, cooked for an hour 
with carrots, celery, onions, salt, pepper, and butter.
Remove the chicken, strain the broth,
 and add flour and lard to form "one large hoecake."
After baking the hoecake, tear it up, mix it with the boned chicken,
and pour a broth and egg mixture over all. Bake.
And that my friends, is a long way to go to get chicken pudding.

Fortunately, the Ash Lawn site shares some easier Monroe family recipes:
"Cream Jumbles," a cookie confection 
made with of sugar, butter, cream and flour,
then rolled thin (or dropped) and baked in small rounds or other shapes.

The site also provides a recipe called "Minted Fruit Cordial"
that sounds like the perfect drink for a summer day.
It's a combination of water, grape juice, orange juice, 
the juice of several lemons and limes
chopped mint and sugar.

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