Archive for the 'presidents' Category

The History Dish: Washington’s Birthday

washingtoncakeWashington Cake: Dense, moist, and chock full of raisins.

Today we have a guest post from my intern, J.C. Paradiso! She’s a trained chef with her masters in Food Studies from NYU, and this “semester”, we’re working towards launching her own blog under the handle The Savage and the Sage. Look for it soon!

Presidents’ Day has never really resonated for me. If you are like me, a holiday just isn’t a holiday unless there is some kind of food involved. No food memories, no holiday.

I did some digging and realized that there is no holiday called Presidents’ Day. The holiday we celebrate is officially called Washington’s Birthday. 

At the time of his death in 1799, George Washington was largely considered the most important figure in American History. He was eulogized by Congressman and Revolutionary War General, Henry Lee, with the beautiful sentiment: “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen…”  Washington was a towering figure in the relatively newly minted American psyche; he was Pater Patriae, the Father of our Country. In the wake of his death, his birthday became an important celebration, including speechifying, fireworks, and “…taverns across the country filled with revelers celebrating the birth of the nation’s hero…” (source)

Washington’s birthday became an official holiday in 1879. In 1968 Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law to “provide uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays.” The official celebration was moved to the third Monday in February, nestled between Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays. By creating more 3-day weekends, Congress hoped to “bring substantial benefits to both the spiritual and economic life of the nation.”

While there may not be food associated with Presidents’ Day today, historically there are food traditions associated with celebrating George Washington.  Perhaps the most well known story about George Washington is that of Washington chopping down the cherry tree, which is now regarded as having been fabricated by his biographer, Parson Weems. That being said, according to The Presidents’ Cookbook: Practical Recipes from George Washington to the Present, George Washington apparently loved cherries, and all things cherry continue to have an association with Washington, like marzipan cherries and a chopped-cherry Washington salad.

By the early 19th century, there are recipes in cookbooks and memoirs of various versions of “Washington Cake.”  The origin of this patriotic baked good may have been an American imitation of a British practice to celebrate a nobleman’s birthday with a special cake.  According to The Market Book by Thomas F. De Voe, in the early 1800s, a woman named Mary Simpson, who claimed to have been a former slave of Washington’s, took in laundry “for several bachelor gentlemen” in a basement storefront on the corner of Cliff and John Streets in Manhattan. She would also sell homemade baked goods, eggs and dairy.  According to De Voe, “She never forgot her old master’s birthday…and she kept it most faithfully by preparing a very large cake which she called “Washington Cake,” (once a favorite of Washington,) a large quantity of punch, then a fashionable drink, and hot coffee…” She arranged these treats under a portrait of her old master, and was called upon by prominent members of the community who would “..praise her old master’s portrait and his many noble and heroic deeds…She said she ‘was fearful that if she did not keep up the day by her display, Washington would be soon forgotten.” (ED Note: JC and I both agreed this story dealt with some uncomfortable, yet fascinating, stuff. It’s an interesting perspective on slavery, written by a man living in a free state in the midst of the Civil War. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.)

So, what exactly is Washington Cake? While there are a few variations, the first published recipe for Washington Cake that I could find appeared in 1831 in The Cook Not Mad or Rational Cookery, A Frontier Cookbook. It called for “One pound of sugar, one of flour, half pound butter, four eggs, one pound raisins, one of currants, one gill of brandy, tea cup of cream, spice to your taste.” As was typical of the time, it contained no chemical leavening.

And you know what? The Cook Not Mad recipe for Washington Cake is pretty delicious–how could it not be with all that fat and all that sugar? The one caveat is that you really do have to like raisins, because this cake is FULL of them. 

***

Washington Cake
Adapted from The Cook Not Mad, 1831.

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour, sifted
2 sticks butter, plus 1 TBSP for greasing
4 eggs
3 cups raisins (or 1 1/2 cup raisins and 1 1/2 cups currants)
¼ cup brandy
½  cup cream
¼ tsp each: cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg (all finely ground)

1.Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan and set aside.

2.Cream together butter and sugar until mixture is light and fluffy and the color is light yellow, about 3 minutes on medium high speed.

3.Continue to beat mixture on medium high speed, adding in eggs 1 at a time. Add in remaining wet ingredients (brandy and cream).

4.Fold flour, by hand, into cake batter in three batches.  Add in spices. Add in raisins and mix well to fully incorporate all ingredients.

5.Transfer batter to loaf pan and cook for about 80 minutes, or until a cake tester (or knife) inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

6. Let cake sit for 15 minutes before removing it from pan.

The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining: How to Make and Drink Whiskey

I am officially a published author!

Although my own book isn’t coming out until 2015, I’ve contributed an essay and a recipe to my buddy Colin at the Kings County Distilling.  He’s got a new book out, The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining: How to Make and Drink Whiskey, which includes the story of how he got started in the business, how to make your own moonshine, and a host of recipes by “the country’s hottest mixologists and chefs.” I think I probably fit into a third category of “random shut-ins with interesting jobs,” but I think you will enjoy the recipe I contributed for Martha Washington’s Cherry Bounce, a cherry infused whiskey. And I think you will enjoy this book.

Official blurby:

A new generation of urban bootleggers is distilling whiskey at home, and cocktail enthusiasts have embraced the nuances of brown liquors. Written by the founders of Kings County Distillery, New York City’s first distillery since Prohibition, this spirited illustrated book explores America’s age-old love affair with whiskey. It begins with chapters on whiskey’s history and culture from 1640 to today, when the DIY trend and the classic cocktail craze have conspired to make it the next big thing. For those thirsty for practical information, the book next provides a detailed, easy-to-follow guide to safe home distilling, complete with a list of supplies, step-by-step instructions, and helpful pictures, anecdotes, and tips. The final section focuses on the contemporary whiskey scene, featuring a list of microdistillers, cocktail and food recipes from the country’s hottest mixologists and chefs, and an opinionated guide to building your own whiskey collection.

Buy it here: The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining: How to Make and Drink Whiskey

History Dish: Martha Washington’s Ale and Apple Fritters

fritter1One little fritter.

Fried. Apples. Beer. This recipe appealed to me for obvious reasons. But, interestingly, it also goes along with the medieval theme of my last dinner party. Read on for Mrs. Washington’s link to Queen Elizabeth.

The History

Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats, the source for this recipe, is not a collection of Martha’s own recipes: they were transcribed by an unknown person in the 17th century and were given to her during her first marriage to Daniel Custis in 1749, perhaps as a wedding present.  Widowed at 25, she was Martha Custis until she met George, and together they raised Martha’s two children from her previous marriage; and later, two orphaned grand-children. Interestingly, Martha gave birth to no more children during her marriage to George.

The cookbook was passed down to one of the Custis grandchildren and the recipes themselves had likely been a family heirloom for generations before. Food historian Karen Hess writes “Many of the recipes must have seemed old-fashioned to Martha…the cuisine of the manuscript is that of Elizabethan and Jacobean England.” That’s the 1550s-1620s, which means many of these recipes are considered to be part of a late-medieval mode of cooking.

Put yourself in Martha’s shoes and imagine trying to make dinner from a 200-year-old cookbook. So who can say if Mrs. Washington ever cooked any of the recipes in this manuscript, but some of them definitely seem a bit more modern than others.  Take, for example, the two recipes for apple fritters: one combines nutmeg, clove, ginger, mace, cinnamon, saffron and rosewater–a startling amount of spices much more reminiscent of the Forme of Cury than a modern recipe.  But the other fritter only calls for nutmeg, cloves, and mace–and a little cinnamon sugar strewn on top. Simpler, its likely a later addition to the recipe collection.

The more modern fritter recipe also contains ale, probably added to make the batter light with yeast and carbonation. A beer-battered, fried apple sounded pretty fucking good to me, so I decided to give this recipe a shot.

fritters2Cut yr apples about yay big.

The Recipe

To Make Fritters

Take a pint of very strong ale, put into it a little sack & warm it in a little scillet; then take 8 youlks of eggs & but 2 whites, beat them very well; yn put to them a little flowre & beat them together, yn put in yr warme ale; you must put noe more flowre to ye eggs after ye ale is in. Yr batter must be noe thicker then will just hang on ye apples. Season batter with ye powder of nutmegg, cloves, and mace; then cut your apple into little bits & put them into ye batter; yn set on ye fire a good quantity of tryed suet or hoggs lard, & when it is very hot drop in yr apples one by one with yr fingers as fast as you can. When they are fryde, lay ym on a cleane cloth put over a cullender, yn lay ym on trencher plates, & strow on ym sugar & cinnamon.

Ale & Apple Fritters
Adapted From Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats

1 large egg + 2 yolks
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ale (I used Guinness, it’s what I had on hand)
1 tablespoon brandy
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp mace
1/8 tsp clove
4 med-large cooking apples
Oil for frying

In the microwave, warm beer one minute on high. With a fork, whisk together eggs, flour and salt. Add beer and brandy, and mix until blended. Add spices. Set aside in a warm place from 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and pair the apples, slicing them into one-inch chunks. Heat oil for frying: you can use lard in a cast iron pan, like the original recipe suggests, or vegetable oil in a FryDaddy, like I did.

Put apple pieces into the batter, mixing them to coat. Drop into hot oil using your fingers or a spoon. Fry until golden brown, turning once. Remove into a colander lined with paper towels, over a plate. Allow to cool slightly, then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Toss fritters in the colander to coat, then serve.

fritters3Strown with cinnamon and sugar!

The Results

The results were unexceptional. Technically, the recipe came out well: the apples slices were cooked, the coating thin but crispy. But the fritter batter was almost flavorless, and there was no satisfying contrast between the apples and the coating.  There was nothing interesting going on with the taste or the texture. Perhaps I should have fried them in lard.

I’m disappointed since it seemed like this recipe had a lot of potential.  What do you all think? How can this fritter recipe be improved?

The Gallery: Thomas Jefferson’s Ice Cream

After the revolution, Jefferson spent a number of years in France before becoming President.  In this time, he amassed an amazing culinary collection that would influence his dinner table for the rest of his life.  One of the dishes he enthused about was ice cream; not only did he buy an ice cream maker while abroad, but the Library of Congress also holds the vanilla ice cream recipes that Jefferson jotted down in his own hand.

***
1780s – Thomas Jefferson’s Handwritten Recipe
ICE CREAM.
2. bottles of good cream.
6. yolks of eggs.
1/2 lb. sugar
mix the yolks & sugar. put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of Vanilla. when near boiling take it off & pour it gently into the mixture of eggs & sugar. stir it well. put it on the fire again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent it’s sticking to the casserole. when near boiling take it off and strain it thro’ a towel. put it in the Sabottiere then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. put into the ice a handful of salt. put salt on the coverlid of the Sabotiere & cover the whole with ice. leave it still half a quarter of an hour. then turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes open it to loosen with a spatula the ice from the inner sides of the Sabotiere. shut it & replace it in the ice open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides when well taken (prise) stir it well with the Spatula. put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee. then put the mould into the same bucket of ice. leave it there to the moment of serving it. to withdraw it, immerse the mould in warm water, turning it well till it will come out & turn it into a plate.
***

 

Below, an adaption of this recipe for the modern kitchen.  And if you’ve always wanted to know how to make ice cream from scratch, sign up for my class at the Brooklyn Brainery a week from today, on Sunday, September 4th.  I’ll go through the process step by step and talk about the origins and science of ice cream making.  See you there!

***
Basic Ice Cream Recipe
Inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s recipe, with some modern instructions pulled from “Martha Stewart’s Easy Ice Cream

6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 quart heavy cream (for a lighter ice cream, use 2 cups cream and 2 cups milk)
1 vanilla bean (or, other flavoring of your choice)
Additional mix-ins

1. In a glass bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended.
2. Add split and scraped vanilla bean to 1 quart of cream; bring to a boil, then pour slowly into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
3. Cook egg and cream mixture over a double boiler, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard thickens slightly and evenly coats back of spoon (it should hold a line drawn by your finger).  Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl set over ice, or place in refrigerator, until chilled.
4. Churn in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding mix-ins like nuts or fruits in the last few minutes. Transfer ice cream to a resealable plastic container and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

 

The History Dish: George Washington’s Breakfast

George Washington’s breakfast: Three corn meal pancakes and three cups of tea.

“He rose before sunrise, always wrote or read until seven in summer or half past seven in the winter.  His breakfast was then ready–he ate three small mush cakes swimming in butter and honey, and drank three cups of tea without cream.”

–Nelly Custis Leiws, Washington’s step-granddaughter
(as republished in The Founding Foodies by Dave DeWitt)

I have a very specific obsession with menus; it’s not just the historic recipes I’m fascinated with, but the order in which people ate them, the occassion,  and the time of day.  I hope that by consuming foods in the same way, I can understand something about another way of life.  After I read the above qoute about George Washington’s morning routine, it prompted me to step into his shoes and consume his breakfast.

Last night, I texted my boyfriend:  “This will seem like a strange reqeust, but I need to get up at 6am.  Im trying to emulate george washington.”

To which my boyfriend promptly responded: “K sweets.  Sounds like a good idea. He was pretty.  Bad ass.”

The qoute from Washingotn’s step-grandaughter came from The Founding Foodies by Dave DeWitt, a new publication on early Americans who affected what we eat today.  Washington was a really badass farmer:  he turned a huge profit each year, likely due to the fact that he was always ready to try a new technique or a new trade, adding a grist mill and a distillery to his property late in life.  Having  visited his home two years ago, I enjoyed enivsioning him awake in the early hours of the morning, quietly reading, thinking, or penning letters, then sitting down to breakfast.

I set my alarm for 5:45 and slept through it.  Luckily, boyfriend Brian had set his and physcially rolled me out of bed at 6.  I have trouble getting up in the morning, which is unfortunate because I actually love the mornings.  Quiet and restful, being up before everyone else settles my mind, and gives me a headstart on the day.  I installed myself at the kitchen table, wrote a few emails, and read: World’s Largest Stove Destroyed–By Fire; A Feast for the Eyes; and The Ladies of the 17th Century Were Way More Hardcore than You.  Then, it was time to attack my breakfast.

Unlike Washington, I do not have slaves.  I cleaned my own kitchen, brewed my own tea, and mixed up my own batter for mush cakes:


Indian Mush Cakes, from Directions For Cookery, In Its Various Branches By Miss Leslie.  Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & Hart, 1840.

I scaled this recipe down, mixing 2 cups cold water with 1 1/3 cups cornmeal.  I used a sifter to add the cornmeal to the water, while whisking constantly.  This ended up being a great technique, as it did a good job preventing lumps.   Last, I added 1/3 cup whole wheat flour and a pinch of salt.

When bubbles start to appear, it’s time to flip!

The batter was quite thin, so I decided to use a small, non-stick skillet.  Butter went in the skillet, followed by enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan.  When bubbles began to appear on the surface, I flipped it (with confidence) and cooked the other side until brown.  Then, with a plate stacked high, I tucked slivers of butter in between the layers and covered the whole thing over with warm honey.

I had been concerned about the lack of leavning in the pancakes, but although they weren’t light and fluffy, they weren’t dense either.  They had a great, rugged texture, and pretty much anything “swimming” in butter is gonna taste pretty good.

We don’t really know if Nelly Custis’ account of Washington’s breakfast is factual, or if she just said it to make him sound more austere and awesome, unlike Ben Franklin, who “…ate an inordinate breakfast, four dishes of tea with cream, and one or two buttered toasts, with slices of hung beef…” (his own words).  But I have to admit, I’m feeling pretty bad ass right now (alot like this). I sat and munched my mush cakes, thinking about George, and how different his mornings may have been.  I have to admit, he may be displacing Thomas Jefferson as my favorite founding father.

Menus: Washington’s B-day at Niblo’s Saloon, Broadway

Eaten on this day in 1851 at Niblo’s Saloon.  I think my favorite dishes are the Chicken Sallad and the Beef Tongues, both served in “gelee”; the Pigeons and the Widgeons; and (no party is a party without) Charlotte Russe.  I don’t know which would have been my favorite ornamental piece; probably the Fruits of Industry.

Cocktail Hour: A Toast to the Presidents!

Simon Ford of Liqour.com adovocates the celebration of President’s Day with Classic Cocktails:

“Franklin Roosevelt guzzled Martinis, Richard Nixon drank Cuba Libres (you have to love the irony) and Gerald Ford enjoyed the odd Gin & Tonic. Woodrow Wilson, president during the enactment of Prohibition, stashed away supplies so that he could mix his favorite libations in secret while the rest of the nation settled for bathtub gin and moonshine.

I think it’s fair to say that the proper way to celebrate Presidents’ Day (and the long weekend) is with cocktails. Here are a couple of historic drinks to get you started. Cheers!”

Read the full article here, and mix up a few classic cocktails appropriate to the Presidents.

Origin of a Dish: Macaroni and Cheese

An American classic.

Macaroni and Cheese is largely thought of as a modern dish, thanks to the “Kraft Dinner,” introduced in 1937 and used as rations during WWII.  But good ‘ol Mac n’ Cheese  has a much longer history.  In fact, I’ve already cooked up two different versions of this classic dish on this blog: a simple, 19th century version I ate during the Tenement Diet, and a more decadent recipe using neufchatel cheese during the Kellogg Diet.
Macaroni was possibly invented by the Romans, and was served with cheese sometime in the Medieval era (source).  The first documented occasion on which Macaroni and Cheese was served in America was at the White House in 1802, during Jefferson’s presidency. A guest at one of Jefferson’s dinner parties recounts his first experience with the dish (source):
“…A pie called macaroni, which appeared to be a rich crust filled with onions or shallots, which I took it to be, tasted very strong, and not very agreeable. Mr. Lewis told me there was none in it; it was an Italian dish, and what appeared like onions were made of flour and butter, with particularly strong liquor mixed in them.”
The earliest known American recipe for macaroni and cheese appears in The Virginia Housewife, first published in 1824.  This is the recipe that we shall attempt today.
It seemed decadent to boil the macaroni in milk, but I gave it a whirl to stay true to the recipe.  While the pasta was cooking, it smelled sweet like a rice pudding; however, upon tasting it, I could discern no noticeable difference.  I think that this step could be left out, if you desire.
I used a Queso Blanco, an un-anged, simply made Mexican cheese.  I choose it for it’s similarity to farmer’s cheese, and other fresh cheeses used in the 19th c.

***
Macaroni and Cheese
from The Virginia Housewife: or, Methodical Cook By Mary Randolph, 1838 ed.
1/2 lb macaroni
1 quart whole milk
12 oz sliced farmer’s cheese, queso blanco, or queso fresco
1 stick unsalted butter
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bring one quart milk and an equal amount of water to a rolling boil.  Add macaroni and cook, uncovered, until al dente, about 6 1/2 minutes.
2. Drain in a colander. While still in the colander, sprinkle pasta with about a 1/2 tsp salt, shake to combine, then sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp more (or to taste).
3. Our about 1/3 of the pasta into a casserole or baking dish.  Cover with 1/3 of the cheese and butter.  Repeat, ending with a layer of cheese and butter on top.
4.  Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
***
My roommate and I took two bites and then made frowny faces at each other.  I don’t think this is the best incarnation of Mac and Cheese.  It tasted like buttery noodles.  And then…something was OFF with the cheese I bought.  It had an odd bitter/fishy taste. I don’t know if was the brand of cheese, or if the cheese was bad.  But I would take Kraft over this any day.

The Gallery: Eating What the Presidents Ate

Left: Wine Jelly.
Recently, I’ve been reading The First Ladies Cookbook: Favorite Dishes of all the Presidents of the United States. It was printed sometime around 1976, in the history-loving fervor surrounding our bicentennial. I’m always a little suspicious of historic books printed in this era, as the research often seems a tad sketchy. But TFLC (as it shall hereby be known) seems fairly trustworthy, and has footnoted its references. I always appreciate a good footnote.

I learned a few interesting facts after glancing over the introduction, “Notes on Early American Cookery.” It speaks of the early housewife, who regulated “…the temperature (of) the Dutch oven so that she would not have a ‘sad cake…’” Meaning: a cake that was baked unevenly, so that it was tragically lopsided and irrevocable burnt. A sad cake! Aw.

I also discovered a thing or two about Gelatin: “Gelatin was made from calves’ feet, or from a product called isinglass, taken from the swim bladders of fishes…In the elaborate molded desserts they gave a meaty or fishy flavor to the pudding.” Jee-sus.

Additionally, I found out Thomas Jefferson was not only quite the gourmand, but also a consummate host. I’ve added this new knowledge to my list of reasons to love Jefferson–in fact, thinking of him makes my heart flutter.

Being a widower, Jefferson would occasionally call upon the aid Mrs. Dolley Madison, the wife of his secretary of state. She seems like she was a real firecracker–she saved all those paintings and popularized ice cream!

A guest at one of Jefferson’s dinner parties recounts his first experience with Macaroni:

“…A pie called macaroni, which appeared to be a rich crust filled with onions or shallots, which I took it to be, tasted very strong, and not very agreeable. Mr. Lewis told me there was none in it; it was an Italian dish, and what appeared like onions were made of flour and butter, with particularly strong liquor mixed in them.”

What was this strong liquor? I need to seek out a recipe contemporary to this account; I’ve become very curious about the evolution of macaroni and cheese in America. After all, “He stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni.”
One of Jefferson’s favorite recipes was Wine Jelly, which is exactly what it sounds like: booze-flavored Jell-o. I think I’m going to try out the recipe, although I will probably use unflavored gelatin for simplicity’s sake, instead of extracting isinglass from the swim bladders of fishes.
Right: Turban of Chicken.
Below: “Sausage Rolls.”
Other presidential favorites: Martin Van Buren loved Huguenot Cake, an apple torte I’ve been jonesing to bake. Grover Cleveland was fond of “Turban of Chicken, Cleveland style,” a molded pate-style ring made from mushrooms and mushed chicken pieces. And Benjamin Harrison’s favorite dish? Pigs in a blanket. Who can blame him?

Travelogue: Mt. Vernon

The Whiskey Distillery at Mt Vernon.

On day two of my travels in our nation’s capitol, I piled in the car with my friends Bryan and Katie, and made the drive to George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon.
It was a spectacularly beautiful fall day, and there was no where I would have rather been that driving along the Potomac with the windows down. The three of us lunched at the Mt. Vernon Inn, which offers “…six intimate dining rooms, two with fireplaces, all with colonial charm, colonial servers, and delicious regional and colonial cuisine.”

I had the “Colonial Turkey Pye,” (the “y” makes it old timey) which was ok, but unimpressive. I think the vegetables were from a frozen bag mix, and it had a giant Ritz cracker hat. Bryan had a cup of peanut soup, which I had tried before at the cafeteria at Gettysburg. I had liked it at Gettysburg, but here it tasted like warm peanut butter. Gross.
The main disappointment was that the menu had foods that could have been eaten in the 18th century, like roasted chicken and corncakes, but the foods weren’t at all different from what we eat today. There wasn’t even an effort to use spices appropriate to the 18th century. It’s dull; I never understood why “historic” restaurants never make the effort to offer interesting, delicious historic food.
We spent a few hours touring the grounds, and took a fairly boring tour of the Mansion itself. The house sees a high volume of visitors each year, and the staff handles this by scooting a continuous line of tourists along a velvet-roped route through the interior of the building, while reciting the interpretation for each space on a continuous loop. You would enter the room at the beginning of the interp, and leave approximately when it would start repeating. It was weird. One fact did catch my attention: Washington died suddenly of an inflammation of the throat, that suffocated him in 36 hours. I got a little freaked out when I felt a cold coming on a few days later.
Next, we went to Mt. Vernon’s second site which features a reconstruction of Washington’s Gristmill and Distillery. I had been looking forward to visiting the recently opened distillery for awhile, and it really was a treat. A knowledgeable interpreter talking us through the distilling process while we toured a truly beautiful building. I learned that in the 18th century, whiskey was made from rye, with a little corn. It was not aged; the entire distilling process took only two weeks before it was casked and sold. The liquor was clear, and our guide described it as tasting surprisingly sweet. Mt. Vernon will begin selling its whiskey sometime in the next year, and I am excited to try it when they do.
The gristmill was also neat, as gristmills are. Every time I stand before a spinning water wheel, and all those gears and grindstones, I’m impressed by human ingenuity. Who thinks of these things??

Looking down from the second floor of the gristmill, to the stream below.
I picked up a little souvenir treat for myself: a 5-ounce block of American Heritage Chocolate, a product of the Historic Division of Mars, that is made from an authentic Colonial recipe. I’m going to use it to make “Chocolet Puffs,” a receipt from a 18th century manuscript that is one of the earliest instances of chocolate being used in another manner than for drinking. If the recipe turns out well, they will be sold at The City Reliquary’s 1st Annual Haveymeyer Sugar Sweets Festival on Saturday. But more on that tomorrow.
See more images from my trip below.