Tuesday, September 3, 2019

From Garden to Table at Mount Vernon - Cauliflower in White Sauce


Martha Washington (1731-1802) - From the Garden to the Table 

While George Washington oversaw most aspects of managing Mount Vernon's  pleasure gardens & grounds, Martha Washington oversaw the Kitchen Garden (The Lower Garden), allowing her to keep fruits and vegetables on the table year round.

The Kitchen Garden at Mount Vernon

“…impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nece]ssary in the House keeping way — as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.” – Martha Washington, 1792

Inside the Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Outside The Kitchen at Mount Vernon

In the matter of eating & drinking George Washington was temperate. For breakfast he ordinarily had tea & Indian cakes with butter & perhaps honey, of which he was very fond. His supper was equally light, consisting of perhaps tea & toast, with wine, & he usually retired at nine o'clock. Dinner was the main meal of the day at Mount Vernon, & usually was served at two o'clock. One such meal is thus described by a guest:  "He thanked us, desired us to be seated, & to excuse him a few moments.... The President came & desired us to walk in to dinner & directed  us where to sit, (no grace was said).... The dinner was very good, a small roasted pigg, boiled leg of lamb, roasted fowls, beef, peas, lettice, cucumbers, artichokes, etc., puddings, tarts, etc. etc."   The General ordinarily confined himself to a few courses & if offered anything very rich, he would protest, "That is too good for me." He often drank beer with the meal, with one or two glasses of wine & perhaps as many more afterward, often eating nuts, another delicacy with him, as he sipped the wine.

Cauliflower in White  Sauce

A favorite vegetable during the colonial period, cauliflower was grown in the gardens of many gentlemen, including those of George Washington. This recipe was adapted by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump from Maria Rundell's A New System of Domestic Cookery.


11/2 cups whole milk

1 cup water

2 large heads cauliflower, cored, outer leaves discarded, and quartered

11/2 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)

3/4 teaspoons ground mace

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

11/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

11/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/3 cup heavy cream


In a large saucepan, bring the milk and water to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat, and add the cauliflower. Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is just tender. Drain the cauliflower thoroughly, discarding the cooking liquid.

Return the cauliflower t the saucepan, and add the broth, mace, white pepper, and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes, occasionally turning the cauliflower in the broth, until it is nearly tender but still firm.

Add the butter, stirring until it melts and is combined with the broth.

Sprinkle in the flour, and continue to stir until it is ell combined with the broth.

Stir in the cream until well blended, and then simmer for about 3 minutes, until the cauliflower is fork-tender and heated through.

Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve warm.

Research plus images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website, MountVernon.org.