“Amazing Details of Washington’s Dining Habits”
by Guy Coalter,
Special Features Writer
Canton OH, Special - According to a new historical discovery, a long out-of-print volume entitled, “The Martha Washington Cook Book” shows Mrs. Washington was intimately connected with the work of her household, especially in the kitchen and dining room.
Martha made sure every dish served at Mount Vernon… as well as in the first Presidential “White Houses” in New York and Philadelphia… was prepared exactly as called for in her personal cookbook.
The family cookbook was given to Martha at the time of her first marriage.
In 1749, beautiful seventeen-year-old Martha Dandridge married Daniel Parke Custis. As a wedding gift, the Custis family presented Martha with a family cookbook entitled Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats.
Handwritten by an unknown hand, there is evidence the recipe book had been in the Custis family for generations. It is quite likely this was a family heirloom dating back to the early 1600s. In all, there were over five hundred classic recipes, dating largely from Elizabethan and Jacobean times, the golden age of English cookery.
Later, Martha Custis became a widow and in 1759 she married Col. George Washington. Washington was to become the Father of our country and its first President. Martha, of course, became our very first, “First Lady.”
Martha kept and used her family cookbook for over fifty years. In 1799, she presented the book to her granddaughter, Eleanor Parke Custis as a wedding gift when she married Lawrence Lewis.
The cookbook was handed down from mother to daughter until 1892 when the Lewis family presented it to The Historical Society of Pennsylvania where it still resides today.
In 1940, the Society gave permission to historian Marie Kimball to study the manuscript and prepare a cookbook entitled, “The Martha Washington Cook Book.” Although now long out-of-print, an Ohio publisher was recently commissioned to reprint a limited edition of this rare and amusing piece of Americana.
Accordingly, a limited number of copies are being made available to the public at this time. Each volume is numbered and when the present printing is exhausted, there is no contract to print more. These cookbooks could very easily become valuable collectors items.
“The Martha Washington Cook Book” includes facsimile copies of several actual pages from the one-of-a-kind original manuscript. Then, Mrs. Kimball chose over 200 delicious unique recipes from Martha Washington’s personal cookbook and completely modernized them so you can easily prepare them in your own kitchen!
The original recipes were written for a huge household including numerous servants. Many called for dozens of eggs and gallons of one thing or another. Marie Kimball “trimmed” each recipe to quantities of ingredients for a family of six.
You’ll get dozens of delicious recipes for Soups, Fish, Meats, Meat Pies, Poultry and Game, Sauces, Eggs - Mushrooms and Cheese, Fritters and Pancakes, Pastry - Pies and Tarts, Cakes, Creams and Jellies, Puddings, Preserves, and Beverages.
Perhaps more interesting for us history buffs is the detailed description of the kitchen and dining habits in the George Washington household. Martha sat at the head of the table with her husband at her side to the right. And either Martha or George always carved the meats to be served!
You’ll absolutely love dozens of other interesting details of this historical dining room. It is now obvious that credit must also be given to the many enslaved people who were also responsible for creating, planning, cooking, preserving and supervising the preparation of the meals for the Washington household, right along side Mrs. Washington.
“The Martha Washington Cook Book” is a beautiful perfect bound book you will be proud to display on your coffee table, bookshelf, or where ever you keep your very best books.
Your friends and neighbors are guaranteed to be envious… and you are guaranteed to be completely satisfied with your cookbook.