Chris‘s Thursday entry on “Food from the White House” brought to mind one of the best pieces of ammunition in my historical foodie arsenal, and that is my copy of The Original White House Cookbook, 1887 Facsimile Edition.
Since I write a historical series that features a lot of food and eating, I’m constantly on the lookout for old and traditional American recipes, menus, methods of preparation, and this book has been an absolute godsend on all counts. The first White House Cookbook was published in 1887, authored by Hugo Ziemann, Steward of the White House at the time, and one Mrs. R.L. Gillette, and dedicated to “the Wives of Our Presidents, Those Noble Women Who Have Graced the White House”.
This book is not only chock full of individual recipes suitable for a family dinner, it also includes menus for State Dinners and buffets for 1000. And believe me, everything is made from absolute scratch, for there were no prepared and packaged ingredients to be had in 1887. Foods and menus are also seasonal and regional, too.
Here’s a sample cake recipe:
WASHINGTON LOAF CAKE - Three cups of sugar, two scant cups of butter, one cup of sour milk, five eggs and one teaspoonful of soda, three tablespoonfuls of cinnamon, half a nutmeg grated, and two cups of raisins, one of currants and four cups of sifted flour.
Mix as usual and stir the fruit in at the last, dredged in flour. Line the cake-pans with paper well buttered. This cake will take longer to bake than plain; the heat of the oven must be kept at an even temperature.
(as for what that oven temperature is, your guess is as good as mine - D.)
Not only do we have over 500 pages of Nineteenth Century recipes, Dear Reader, we also have pages and pages of health tips, such as how to remove warts, treat sunstroke, and make a liniment for chilblains, as well as a section of “Facts Worth Knowing”.
FYI, here’s a Fact Worth Knowing : A heavy chalk mark laid a finger’s distance from your sugar box and all around will surely prevent ants from troubling.