What the Presidents Ate: George Washington


It is said that George Washington had wooden teeth, and they were on display in a museum somewhere. They told us that in elementary school. Actually, his dentures were carved from a hippo horn.

Supposedly, he needed these dentures because he used his teeth to crack so many walnuts. He was nuts about nuts, and carried a handful at all times, according to a French visitor. He was also reportedly very fond of fish.

Another thing he loved was ice cream. According to records of his presidency, he blew $200 during the summer of 1790 on ice cream alone. Washington was a man of prodigious appetites.

Washington’s favorite cook was a slave on his Mount Vernon, Virginia, estate known by the name of Hercules. But Hercules could only cook for Washington six months of the year during his residence in Philadelphia as president, because a city law required any slave who resided in the city to be freed after six months. The president skirted this law by periodically sending Hercules back to Mount Vernon.

In 1766, Betty Washington Lewis hosted her brother, George Washington, his wife, Martha, and his mother at Betty’s Fredericksburg, Virginia, estate for Christmas dinner. Here is the menu:

Holiday Egg Nog
Virginia Ham
Beaten Biscuits

Corn Pudding
Chicken and Oyster Pie
Pumpkin Chips
Cucumber Pickles


Mincemeat Pie
Filbert Pudding
Honey Flummery
Plum Pudding


Following is a contemporary recipe for fried cucumbers, taken from The Thirteen Colonies Cookbook by Mary Donovan, Amy Hatrak, Frances Mills, and Elizabeth Shull (New York: Praeger, 1975).


“You must brown some Butter in a Pan and cut the Cucumbers in thin Slices; drain them from the Water, then fling them into the Pan, and when they are fried brown, put in a little Pepper and Salt, a Bit of Onion and Gravy, and let them stew together, and squeeze in some Juice of Lemon; shake them well, and put them under your Mutton.” — Eliza Smith, The Compleat Housewife, 1742