Abigail Smith Adams called the Presidential experience a “splendid misery” in her letters, referencing the exciting ascent to political power (John Adams was Vice President under Washington) and the continuous troubles that followed. It’s lonely at the top eh? I’d still give it a try.
Uprooted from Philadelphia for the last four months of his Presidency, they were the first family to live in the Executive Mansion in Washington, which was still being finished on their move-in day. It was drafty, without proper heating, and had only one functioning staircase. In short, no one wanted to come over. Abigail did the best she could to make it a home and cleaned the White House herself (hanging the laundry in the East Room). She also cooked the meals. A distinct New England vibe marked their style of hosting with lots of basic hearty fare, though it’s what filled their cups that seemed to be far more relevant to their day-to-day lives. Numerous letters reference the President’s habit of drinking cider first thing in the morning. Now before you start with the whole “sounds like me in college” thing, America was convinced of its medicinal powers. Enter letter from…
JULY 26. 1796. TUESDAY. “In conformity to the fashion I drank this Morning and Yesterday Morning, about a Jill of Cyder. It seems to do me good, by diluting and dissolving the Phlegm or the Bile in the Stomach.” – John Adams
Yum; Too much information Prez. Keep in mind, plain ole water wasn’t safe for consumption and who wants to drink tea all day? We aren’t a bunch of Brits. Cider, which has made a glorious comeback in recent years, was also cheaper and easier to make than beer. It was a staple in many households and really should be again. Though I don’t plan on replacing my entire water intake with cider, I do plan on drinking a lot more it. Find this tipple from Poppy Cannon, typical of tastes of the times:
A New England Cider Cup
Add 1 quart sweet cider to 1 pint sparkling water, 1/3 cup sherry, ¼ cup cognac, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, and the peel of ½ lemon, cut into thin strips. Add sugar to taste. Then stir the mixture with ice until thoroughly chilled. To be fancy, as this drink deserves, you may abandon Adams’ tankard and serve in punch cups or champagne glasses, dusted with a dash of nutmeg. A delightful party drink. Makes 12 servings.
Poppy Cannon & Patricia Brooks “The Presidents’ Cookbook”
*Skip the sparkling water if you want a stronger treat. Carbonated water had just been invented in the UK so it would have been a real treat anyhow. Go strong or go home.
Instead of using strips of lemon peel, use a grater to create a pulp. It will disperse better throughout the drink.
Depending on whether or not you go for a sweet cider, cut the sugar out.
For more, check out the previous week’s entry: Martha Washington’s Crab Pies.