George Washington’s Christmas Brunch, 1769

Betty Washington Lewis, painted by John Wollaston c. 1800
Betty Washington Lewis, painted by John Wollaston c. 1800

Happy/Merry Christmas/Hannukah/Holiday Season/Winter Solstice and a wonderful, hope-filled New Year. A big “Thank You” to each and every one of you for reading “Gherkins & Tomatoes.”

Seven years before the sonorous words of the American Declaration of Independence rang out in Philadelphia, George Washington ate the following Christmas brunch. Betty, the only sister of his who survived to adulthood, served a very English-American menu:

Holiday Egg Nog

Virgina Ham

Beaten Biscuits

Corn Pudding

Chicken and Oyster Pie

Pumpkin Chips

Cucumber Pickle

Honey Flummery

Plum Pudding

Mincemeat Pie

Filbert Pudding


Madeira Coffee


Recipes for Flummery appear in Scottish manuscript cookbooks dating to the fifteenth century. Here’s one to try, that might be close to the one Betty served. Martha Washington did not include a recipe in her manuscript cookbook, annotated and interpreted by Karen Hess.


Serves 4

1/4 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup orange juice
2 T. sugar
5 fluid ounces heavy cream
Zest of two oranges
1/4 cup clear honey
2 T. whiskey or brandy
5 fluid ounces whipped cream

Soak oatmeal in 3 1/2 cups cold water for 48 hours.

Stir the soaked oatmeal and then strain off the liquid into a saucepan. Discard the oatmeal.

Add the orange juice and sugar to the liquid, bring to the boil and boil, stirring continuously, for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture is very thick. Allow to cool until tepid and then stir in the double cream.

Pour the mixture into individual wine glasses and refrigerate. Allow to set approximately 1 hour.

When ready to serve, sprinkle with grated orange rind, pour the honey over the flummery, then the whisky or brandy. Top with whipped cream.

flummery-3An old recipe from Powys, UK:


Take one ounce and a quarter of Isinglass dissolved over the fire in a quarter of a pint of Water, then take a pint of Cream, and a pint of Milk, a grated Nutmeg and a few blades of Mace, half the rind of a Lemon peeled very thin sweeten it with Sugar to your taste, let them boil all-together five minutes, then strain it thro a fine cloth or sieve, let it stand to be near cold, before you fill your moulds or glasses.

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