Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Washington's Favorite Foods

The presidential inauguration coming up on January 20th
affords a good opportunity 
to explore two of my favorite January (or any time) pursuits: history and food.
And there's no better place to begin than with the first of the eight
American presidents born and bred in Virginia: George Washington.

I thought it would be easy to find information on Washington's 
inaugural party fare, but back then, it seems presidents 
didn't get big dinner parties and galas just for being sworn in.
An article in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, posted at
says that George Washington dined alone 
at a boarding house the night of his inauguration
since Martha hadn't yet arrived in Washington.
There's no extant record of what Mr. Washington
might have eaten to celebrate his big day.
photo courtesy of morguefile.com

However, thanks to www.mountvernon.org and potomaclocal.com
we do know what some of Mr. Washington's favorite foods were.
First of all, he liked hoecakes with lots of butter and honey.
Hoecakes are another name for a cornmeal flat bread, also called a johnny cake.
Some accounts refer to these as pancakes,
but they weren't light and fluffy pancakes like we have today.
Washington also favored fish, freshly caught from the Potomac River.
I didn't find any information that specified the type of fish,
but since the waters were in Virginia, shad was probably on the menu.

Washington also enjoyed pickles, string beans, steak and kidney pie,
and his wife's whiskey cake.
And yes, he liked cherries, especially cherry pie.

The most unusual dish eaten by Washington is mushroom ketchup,
which was very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries in America.
There are no tomatoes in this ketchup recipe, 
and the consistency is very thin, more like a gravy.
The recipe is here:

So here's another reason to celebrate in January: American democracy.
Cook up some shad or steak, douse it with mushroom ketchup
and finish the meal with some of  Martha Washington's whisky cake or cherry pie.
Given Washington's list of favorites,
I'll just be going for the cake and pie.

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