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.
“…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
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.
Stewed Peas and Lettuce
After her husband’s death, in December 1799, Martha Washington supervised some of the planting at Mount Vernon. On February 11, 1802, she noted in her almanac that she had “sewed peases . . . under the wall in the lower garden.”
Hannah Glasse’s combination of vegetables and herbs makes another appetizing addition to a spring menu. “If you find the Sauce not thick enough,” Glasse suggested, “shake in a little more Flour, and let it simmer, then take it up.”
One of the most valuable tools in the Mount Vernon kitchen was Martha Washington's copy of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy...By a Lady. Martha's copy is in the Library at Mount Vernon. Hannah Glasse's (1708–1770) The Art of Cookery...was first published in 1747. It was a bestseller for a century after its first publication, dominating the English-speaking market. It was published in America from 1805.
Mrs. Washington may have owned a number of cookbooks, but her 1765 edition of Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery and a manuscript cookbook (now at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania) are the only ones known to survive. The manuscript book (under the title Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery) is a very early compilation of 16th and 17th century receipts and came into Martha's possession at the time of her marriage to Daniel Parke Custis who died in 1757.
This recipe is a modern adaptation by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.
4 cups fresh or frozen green peas
About 1 head soft-leaf lettuce, such as Bibb or Boston, cored and thinly sliced (about 4 cups loosely packed)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
2 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth (preferably homemade)
1/4 teaspoon dried chervil
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried winter savory
1 medium onion, peeled
1. Combine the peas and lettuce in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the butter, salt, pepper, and mace, and stir to combine. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
2. Combine 2 tablespoons of the flour with the broth. Stir into the peas, along with the chervil, marjoram, thyme, and winter savory. Bring back to a simmer.
3. Stick the cloves in the onion, and add to the simmering peas. Cover and continue simmering for about 15 minutes, until the peas are tender. If you find the broth needs to be thicker, spoon about 3 tablespoons of the hot broth into a small bowl, and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir the flour and broth back into the stewed peas, and simmer for about 3 more minutes, until thickened. Remove and discard the onion.
4. Season the peas with additional salt and pepper, if necessary, and pour into a serving dish.
Research & images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website, MountVernon.org.