George Washington’s Virginia plantation, Mount Vernon, served as the backdrop for many scrumptious dinners, cooked by Washington’s slave cooks. Just reading this menu* makes my lips twitch and my fingers itch for my wooden spoons. Note that even at the relatively late date of 1790 and independence from England, there’s a soup called King’s Soup … .
It took our forebearers a long time to cease thinking of themselves as English. At least when it came to the table.
An Onion Soup Call’d the King’s Soup
Oysters on the Half Shell
Broiled Salt Roe Hering
Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding
Roast Suckling Pig
Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing
Round of Cold Boiled Beef with Horse-radish Sauce
Cold Baked Virginia Ham
Baked Acorn Squash
Baked Celery with Slivered Almonds
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Spiced Peaches in Brandy
Plums in Wine Jelly
Fruits, Nuts, Raisins
Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats doesn’t include the following recipe for onion soup, which may, or may not be authentic. But, like Hannah Glasse’s onion soup, it’s thickened with egg yolk.
George Washington lived in Philadelphia from 1790 – 1792 and the following people worked in his kitchen:
Samuel (“Black Sam”) Fraunces, steward and chef
Hercules, slave cook
Richmond, slave, Hercules’s son, kitchen scullion and sweep
Katy Lefferts, kitchen maid
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 qt. milk
1/2 teaspoon mace
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
Over medium heat, fry the onions in the butter until golden, add salt and milk. Bring to a simmer. Stir in the mace. Let soup cook for 30 minutes on low heat. When onions are dissolving in the milk, stir about a cup of the hot liquid into the beaten egg. Then slowly pour the mixture into the hot soup, stir gently, and let soup simmer 5 more minutes. Serve by placing a crouton (toasted bread) in the bottom of each of four bowls, pour the soup over, and garnish with the chopped parsley.
*From The American Heritage Cookbook and Illustrated History of American Eating & Drinking (1964).