Presidents’ Day, a federal holiday celebrating the birth of two revered United States presidents, is always celebrated on the third Monday of February. Our first president, George Washington, as well as the great emancipator, President Abraham Lincoln.
Wouldn’t it be fun to step back in time and celebrate Presidents’ Day with foods of the era? Even better, favorite foods of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln?
After all, birthday celebrations should include favorite recipes of the guest or guests of honor.
Thankfully, archives of these two men have records and even recipes they loved and are easily made today. Keep reading for a menu we’ve put together of their favorite foods.
History of Presidents’ Day
President George Washington was born on February 11, 1731, and President Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809.
In 1879, by an Act of Congress, Washington’s birthday became a United States federal holiday. While President Lincoln’s birthday never became such, “nearly half of the state governments have officially renamed their Washington’s Birthday observances as ‘Presidents’ Day’, ‘Washington and Lincoln Day’, or other such designations.”
President George Washington
From the Mount Vernon archives, we find, “George and Martha Washington welcomed thousands of guests to Mount Vernon, and were well known for their boundless hospitality, frequent and memorable parties, and for the wide variety of culinary treats served.”
President Abraham Lincoln
We are fortunate to have a record of some of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite recipes through the book, “Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen.”
“Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen is a culinary biography unlike any before. The very assertion of the title–that Abraham Lincoln cooked–is fascinating and true. It’s an insight into the everyday life of one of our nation’s favorite and most esteemed presidents and a way to experience flavors and textures of the past. Eighmey solves riddles such as what type of barbecue could be served to thousands at political rallies when paper plates and napkins didn’t exist, and what gingerbread recipe could have been Lincoln’s childhood favorite when few families owned cookie cutters and he could carry the cookies in his pocket. Through Eighmey’s eyes and culinary research and experiments–including sleuthing for Lincoln’s grocery bills in Springfield ledgers and turning a backyard grill into a cast-iron stove–the foods that Lincoln enjoyed, cooked, or served are translated into modern recipes so that authentic meals and foods of 1820-1865 are possible for home cooks. Feel free to pull up a chair to Lincoln’s table.”
Presidents’ Day Menu
Celebrate with friends and family the favorite foods of these two great leaders.
Birthday Celebration in Honor of
President George Washington and
President Abraham Lincoln
Washington’s Green Peas Soup
“The name comes from the Paris suburb of St.-Germain-en-Laye, where young peas, a rarity in the early eighteenth century, were sown in boxes for early-spring cultivation. The addition of onions and spinach provide a traditional French touch, making this soup a flavorsome beginning for a spring menu.”
Washington’s A Ragoo of Asparagus
“Adapted from Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, the recipe for this tasty, easy-to-prepare ragout combines asparagus with several other vegetables that were grown at Mount Vernon.”
Washington’s Corn Fritters
“George Washington’s papers contain many references to corn, a popular vegetable that was enjoyed fresh during the summer, or dried for winter use, ground into meal for breads, or made into mush. This recipe, virtually identical to most modern versions, is adapted from one in the Mary Custis Lee Papers at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond.”
Lincoln’s Chicken Fricassee
“Several biographies of Mary Todd Lincoln recount a story that President Lincoln was not eating well during the war, and his wife asked the White House cook if he had a recipe for old-fashioned chicken fricassee. He did, he made it and Lincoln ate it. This is the ultimate comfort food — chicken seasoned and simmered in cream or milk. Some recipes call for adding a strip of lemon peel or mushrooms to the simmering sauce. This recipe is adapted from “Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen” by Rae Katherine Eighmey. Saleratus biscuits are especially good with this dish.”
Lincoln’s Favorite White Almond Cake
“There are several Lincoln-era versions of this white almond cake. This adaptation is from an 1828 recipe, which advises the cook to allot two days to make the cake as the almonds need to be blanched, peeled, and pounded into a paste the day before baking. With modern kitchen equipment and ingredients, this cake is ready in an hour or so. The original recipe called for both sweet and bitter almonds. The former are the almonds we buy today. Poisonous bitter almonds are no longer sold. However, pure almond extract is made from those nuts, treated to be safe.”