At President Lincoln's table. From chicken fricassee to Kentucky burgoo: some early White House favorites
Those interested in the history of food and its preparation are usually curious about the menus of the famous. Much has been written about the culinary abilities of Martha Washington and of her husband George's favorite foods, but what of the tastes of our other national idol, Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday also comes in February?
One can tell by looking at this lean, hollow-cheeked man that eating was probably not a priority of his. And it is true that President Lincoln cared little about his meals and often lost his appetite entirely because of concern and criticism during the Civil War.
But like Martha Washington, southern-born Mary Todd Lincoln was an admirable hostess well suited to her position as a President's wife - and wife she was, first and foremost. Mrs. Lincoln made sure her husband began his day with a basic breakfast of eggs and toast, eaten at an early hour.
When the Lincolns entertained at State dinners, the food was elegantly served on Haviland china, each piece bearing the American coat of arms.
When they dined alone, however, they ate rather simply, usually between 5 and 6 p.m.
One of their favorite meals was Chicken Fricassee.
Since they both were born in Kentucky, though under very different circumstances, it seems likely that the southern influence would have been reflected in the Lincolns' choices too - so instead of fricassee, they might have occasionally opted for Kentucky Burgoo, a thick, but still soupy, stew.
Originally made with squirrel or other wild game, the preferred way to make it now is with three kinds of meat. The recipe used here is a modern version.
For a special occasion, like Mr. Lincoln's birthday, Mrs. Lincoln would probably have requested the cook to make a spice cake, of which he was particularly fond. The Lincoln's Favorite Chicken Fricassee 2 frying chickens, cut up Salt and pepper 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon mace Sweet marjoram 1/2 pint cream 2 tablespoons butter, rolled in flour
Remove skin from the chicken pieces. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, mace, and a sprinkling of marjoram. Place seasoned chicken pieces in a stew pan. Pour in cream and add the butter, which has been rolled in flour. Cover pot tightly and set on medium-low heat, and simmer gently until chicken is very tender, but do not boil. Stew for 1 hour. Serve hot.
Serves 6 to 8. Kentucky Burgoo 4-5 pound stewing hen 1 pound beef stew meat, cut in 2-inch cubes 1 pound boneless shoulder of lamb 3 quarts water 1 pound small white potatoes, halved 1 pound small white onions, halved 2 cups chopped carrots 3 cups chopped celery 2 medium green peppers, chopped 1 10-ounce package frozen lima beans 1 10-ounce package frozen green peas 2 cups whole-kernel corn, drained 2 cups stewed tomatoes 1 cup tomato pur'ee Salt and pepper to taste 11/2 teaspoons dry mustard 1/4 teaspoon liquid red pepper sauce Dash cayenne 1/2 cup chopped parsley
Combine meats and water in Dutch oven. Cover. Cook over low heat 2 to 3 hours or until tender. Remove meats. Skim off excess fat. Remove skin from chicken. Separate from bones. Cut up coarsely. Return meat to pot. Add vegetables and salt. Simmer until flavors are well blended and vegetables tender, 2 to 3 hours. Add remaining seasonings. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.
Serves 12 to 14. Cracklin' Bread 3/4 cup salt pork, finely diced 2 cups cornmeal 11/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 3/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup buttermilk 1 egg, well beaten 2 tablespoons salt pork scraps (cracklings)
Using a skillet, without added fat, fry salt pork until it is crisply browned. Drain fat and cracklings together. Into a bowl sift cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, egg, and fatty cracklings. Grease an 11-by-7-inch baking pan and bake mixture in 400 degree F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with burgoo. Spice Marble Cake 2 cups sifted cake flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup shortening 1 cup sugar 2 eggs, well beaten 2/3 cup milk 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon cloves 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 2 tablespoons molasses
Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and beat thoroughly. Add sifted dry ingredients and milk alternately in small amounts, beating well after each addition. Divide batter into two parts. To one part, add spices and molasses. Drop by tablespoons into greased 8-by-8-inch loaf pan, alternating light and dark mixtures. Bake in a 350-degree F. oven for 1-1/4 hours, or until firm to the touch. Spread butter frosting on top and sides of cake. Butter Frosting 1/2 cup butter 3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted 4 tablespoons cream or evaporated milk 1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream butter. Add remaining ingredients and continue creaming until mixture is well blended and fluffy. Cover top and sides of cake.