Sunday, January 20, 2013

Zachary Taylor: Creole Food

Virginia can claim Zachary Taylor, the twelfth U. S. president,
as a native son, but just barely.
Taylor was born in Barboursville, Virginia,
which is northeast of Charlottesville,
but soon after his birth, his family moved to the western frontier--
present day Louisville, Kentucky.
Over the years, Taylor owned plantations in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana. 
It was in Louisiana that he developed a love of Creole cooking.

daguerrotype photo of Zachary Taylor
 from wikimedia commons

According to The Presidents' Cookbook
cited on the web site The Food Timeline,
one of his favorite Creole dishes was calas tous chauds, 
an unusual rice fritter often served with coffee for breakfast. 

As written, the French name is a bit of a mystery;
it isn't in any of my French language sources.
I do know that tous means "all" and chaud means "warm" or "hot,"
so that's probably as close as I'm going to get to a translation.
If anyone can enlighten me, please do.

To prepare, dissolve a cake of yeast in 1/2 cup of water 
and soak 2 cups of cooked rice in the yeast mixture overnight.
The next morning, add 2 beaten eggs, 4 cups of flour, 
and assuming it's not a misprint,
a whopping 4 tablespoons of salt. 
Dough is left to rise, then it's fried and served with syrup.
I must admit I'm intrigued about how that all comes together,
but with 4 tablespoons of salt, I can't say it sounds that appealing.
The full recipe is on The Food Timeline web site.

As for other foods Taylor enjoyed, 
we know he liked cherries--
a preference which may ultimately have proved his undoing.
On July 4th, 1850, by all accounts a viciously hot and humid day,
President Taylor attended a fundraiser for the Washington Monument
and other Independence Day celebrations (
He walked along the Potomac River and upon his return to the White House,
consumed vast quantities of iced water 
and cherries in an attempt to cool off (

Some accounts say he drank a whole pitcher of iced milk; 
one account says he ate cherries and cucumbers.
Whatever he ate, he fell deathly ill and died five days later. 
Theories include gastroenteritis, cholera, and arsenic poisoning; 
however, a 1991 exhumation found no evidence of poisoning.

Historian Samuel Eliot Morison, in Oxford History of the American People,
cited on, attributes Taylor's death to iatrogenic causes;
that is, death by medical treatment.
Morison says the doctors attending Taylor filled him with
copious amounts of "ipecac, opium, calomel [mercury choloride], and quinine."

Yeah, that would probably do it.

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