Christmas Dinner at Mount Vernon, 1790

Mount Vernon

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

Boiled Rockfish

Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding

Mutton Chops

Roast Suckling Pig

Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing

Round of Cold Boiled Beef with Horse-radish Sauce

Cold Baked Virginia Ham

Lima Beans

Baked Acorn Squash

Baked Celery with Slivered Almonds

Hominy Pudding

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Cantaloupe Pickle

Spiced Peaches in Brandy

Spiced Cranberries

Mincemeat Pie

Apple Pie

Cherry Pie

Chess Tarts


Plums in Wine Jelly


Indian Pudding

Great Cake

Ice Cream

Plum Pudding

Fruits, Nuts, Raisins

Port, Madeira

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

An Onion Soup Call’d the King’s Soup

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
4 Croutons
Chopped parsley

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).

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