I was out for drinks last week when the conversation inevitably turned to the horrors of Tinder dating and Molly shared that she was in a real “Grover Cleveland”. My mind immediately turned to every bizarre fetish tested by swingers in cul-de-sacs across the Midwest. I know there are some weird characters in Washington, but what the hell is “Grover Cleveland” ing? Well put the chains away folks, it is when you date (or just hook up) with someone and they go silent, only to return much later with an offer of a re-do (which is a terrible idea 99% of the time). Grover Cleveland is the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms, vowing to return as he packed up the White House in 1889 and making good on his promise in 1893.
If we look at President Cleveland's personal life, scandal was indeed his bread and butter. Before he was elected, it was widely publicized that he had a son out of wedlock; indulging the public with a standard affair scandal. He then went and did what only Woody Allen has done since: marry his “adopted daughter”. The President‘s former New York partner in law, Oscar Folsom, had a daughter, Frances or “Frank”, who call Grover “Uncle” from an early age. The President doted on the young girl, babysitting when he could and, when her father died, he supported her emotionally. When asked why he was single, he would laugh and respond that he was “waiting for his bride to grow up” and when she turned 21 (he was 49), he finally robbed that cradle and proposed. Rumor had it that Frances’ mother was expecting the proposal herself. Awkward.
The fascination with the relationship and the young bride took hold of the public and gave Frank the highest celebrity status since First Lady Dolley Madison. Only forty guests received hand-written invitations from the President to the wedding, which was held in the Blue Room. The masses stalked outside trying to catch a peek. The menu was suitably elegant, with dishes like turtle soup, foie gras, and a layered cake with fresh roses surrounding. When they left for their honeymoon, the press followed and never stopped following them until the end of Cleveland’s second term.
President Cleveland’s palate was not nearly as adventurous as his love life. He was a man of simple tastes who was no fan of elaborate French menus but ate them to indulge the Washington social circuit. He had his cook from Albany (who fed him while he was Governor) on hand and Rose, his sister, as hostess before his young bride took over. An absolute favorite of his was Frank’s freshly baked brown bread. Her handwritten recipe was found tucked away in a drawer somewhere in the White House during the Kennedy administration and has found much acclaim since its rediscovery. You may think brown bread is boring, but I assure you there is nothing better straight out the oven and slathered in marmalade. Though we have made some adjustments, the original recipe isn’t far off from a loaf of perfection. The marmalade comes from a wife of a New York Congressman in 1890. Thick cut rind makes for a more interesting bite but for the love of all things good, be sure to remove all of the white pith.
Frances “Frankie” Cleveland’s Brown Bread
One bowl Indian meal (cornmeal)
One bowl rye flour
One bowl sour milk (buttermilk)
One large cup molasses
One teaspoonful soda
One tablespoon salt
Steam two and a half hours, and bake from twenty minutes to one-half hour, depending upon the heat of the oven.
1 “bowl” = 8 ounces by modern standards
I substituted wheat flour for rye flour (same amount)
The easiest way to steam is to use an empty coffee can (or for aesthetic purposes a flower pot without a hole in the bottom). Grease the can then fill with batter to 2/3 high and secure wax paper over the top of the open side of the can. Place the can in a water bath and into a 375 F oven to steam. Let it steam for an hour then remove the wax paper and remove from water bath to brown the top.
By Mrs Chas Tracey (Wife of Representative from New York), “Statesmen’s Dishes” 1890
Take five dozen moderately tart oranges- be sure they are not bitter, and cover them with cold water over night. Next morning turn the cold water off, and cover them with water as hot as can be borne by the hand; then take off the rind and as much of the white inter-lining as possible. Quarter half of them and slice the other half, taking out all of the seeds. Take the rind of the three or four of them, remove the white and cut in small pieces, and put them in with your fruit. Then for eight pounds of the fruit take seven of white sugar, and let the whole simmer on a slow fire, skimming frequently, till it comes to a boil, then boil for twenty minutes.