Friday, February 17, 2012

George Washington's Favorite Drink: Chocolate

Chocolate Pot & Caudle Cup
President's Weekend and what better way to celebrate than with the George Washington's Favorite Drink: Warm Chocolate Cream.

George Washington definitely liked his chocolate. A favorite breakfast for him was cornmeal hoe cakes with honey and butter, washed them down with Warm Chocolate Cream, according to a new cookbook, Dining with the Washingtons, by the staff at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate. The cookbook offers updated versions of typical recipes from the period and a glimpse into the first president's favorite foods.

Dining with the Washingtons, Historic Recipes, Entertaining, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon, edited By Stephen A. McLeod

Chocolate was a favorite drink at Mount Vernon in George Washington's lifetime. Washington's first recorded order for chocolate was for 20 pounds of the product, which arrived from England in 1758. He continued to buy chocolate throughout his life, in quantities as small as one pound and as large as the 50 pounds purchased three months before his death in 1799. (Source: Pleasant Living Magazine)

Chocolate was a typical breakfast beverage, not only at Mount Vernon but throughout British North America. It was made by grating a small amount of chocolate into boiling water, milk and water, or wine and water, and later adding sugar (See recipe below from Dining with the Washingtons).

 In a letter to his wife in Scotland, tutor John Harrower at Belvidera Plantation wrote that breakfast with his employer usually consisted of warm bread and either coffee or chocolate. In 1794, a friend wrote to George Washington requesting two or three bushels of chocolate shells "such as we've frequently drank Chocolate of at Mt. Vernon, as my Wife thinks it agreed with her better than any other Breakfast....". Martha Washington's daughter-in-law admitted to one of her daughters that "the more simple food I have is best" and went on to say that "I breakfast on Chocolate....".

Special ceramic forms were used to serve this beverage. Among the 309 pieces of white and gold French china acquired in 1790 for the presidential mansion were 12 chocolate cups and saucers, which were brought to Mount Vernon upon Washington's retirement. The Washingtons purchased three sets of tea china and six chocolate cups in 1793, further evidence that chocolate, although popular, was not served as often as tea. A covered, two-handled chocolate or caudle cup, probably intended as a display piece, survives from the "States" service given to Martha Washington in 1796 and is exhibited in the museum at Mount Vernon.

In addition to enjoying cocoa, the Washingtons often made a healthful tea from the shells (hulls), which they served to guests.

Recipe from Dining with the Washingtons:

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