Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

Old Cookbook Reveals: "Amazing Details of Washington's Dining Habits"

Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

Old Cookbook Reveals: "Amazing Details of Washington's Dining Habits"

Article excerpt

Canton OH, Special--With hundreds of servants at her command ... a person would think our first First Lady was a woman of leisure.

Not so ... according to a new historical discovery. A long out-of-print volume entitled, "The Martha Washington Cook Book" shows Mrs. Washington personally supervised her entire household staff ... and especially the kitchen and dining room servants.

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! …

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