Thursday, February 24, 2022

Plants to Food - Washington's Mt Vernon - Mushroom 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.

Mushroom Sauce

Mary Randolph (1762–1828) wrote in her 1824 cookbook The Virginia Housewife recommended this as a “very good sauce for white fowls of all kinds.”

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.


6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound fresh mushrooms (preferably cremini), rinsed, stemmed, and cut into thick slices (about 6 cups)

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon ground mace

2 cups heavy cream

2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


1. Melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms, salt, and mace. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are very tender.

2. Combine the cream with the egg yolks. Gradually blend into the mushrooms, stirring continuously over medium-low heat, until the sauce just reaches the boiling point and begins to thicken. Watch carefully, as the sauce scorches easily.

3. Stir in the lemon juice, continuing to stir until heated through.

4. Pour the sauce into a sauceboat, and serve hot.

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