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.
This delicate dessert pancake recipe from Hannah Glasse was very fashionable during the eighteenth century and might have been found on the Washingtons' table as part of a second course.
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.
Quire is a Middle English term meaning twenty-four or twenty-five sheets of paper of the same size and stock. It is used here to help the cook visualize the desired paper-thinness of the pancake. "[B]utter the Pan for the first Pancake; let them run as thin as possible," Glasse instructed. Her words were repeated verbatim in a Mary Randolph (1762–1828) recipe written some seventy-five years later.
This recipe is a modern adaptation of the 18th-century original. It was created by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.
3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
10 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling over pancakes
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for frying
5 tablespoons sherry
1 teaspoon orange-flower water
Stewed fruit or preserves for serving (optional)
Lightly whipped cream for serving (optional)
Sift together the flour, sugar, and nutmeg.
Beat the egg yolks until smooth and lemon-colored. Combine with the cream and melted butter, mixing together well. Gradually add to the flour mixture, blending thoroughly. Stir in the sherry and orange-flower water. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200°F.
When ready to cook the pancakes, melt about 1 teaspoon of butter in a small sauté pan set over medium to medium-low heat. Make a small test pancake to ensure that the pan is the right temperature and that the batter has the right consistency. The batter can be thinned with a little milk or cream, if necessary; it should have the consistency of pudding, falling in splats from a spoon.
Prepare one pancake at a time, using a scant 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Pour the batter into the hot pan, tilting it so the batter can run evenly over the bottom. Cook until slightly puffy and pale yellow, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until set.
Slide the pancake onto a plate, and sprinkle with sugar. Set aside in the oven to keep warm while preparing the rest of the pancakes, stacking and sprinkling sugar over each one.
Serve the pancakes plain in a stack, or serve them one at a time filled with stewed fruit or preserves, rolled (if desired), and topped with lightly whipped cream.
Research plus images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website, MountVernon.org.