Monroe: March 4, 1817 – March 4, 1825
Party’s over folks. The Dolley Madison era is gone.
Elizabeth Monroe, who married James, our fifth president, at age seventeen, was as beautiful as she was formal and detached. Sure, she looked great in paintings, but she made little effort to connect with folks in town and focused more on her French lessons. Customarily, high society could count on the First Ladies to attend events and parties. Elizabeth decided she would rather stay home, carefully selecting smaller groups to endure her serious, yet regal, occasions.
This lady did; however, have style. The Monroes were tasked with picking out new furniture for the Executive Mansion, as it was still being rebuilt from the Burning of Washington when President Monroe entered office. Though remembered as a straightforward no-frills kind of guy, the president did appreciate the symbolic importance of his new home. They decided to go with a regal French aesthetic, creating a formal opulent environment similar to the courts they had become accustomed to abroad (President Monroe was formerly the Minister to France). Some of the “Napoleonic style” mahogany furnishing are still in the White House Blue Room. They debuted their new look at a New Year’s Eve open house in 1818, when even those upset about Elizabeth’s awkward nature were too nosey not to go.
Most of the menus were French (at least they were consistent) with an American twist. She appreciated her husband's Virginia roots and worked in some Southern fare. Here is one of his favorite breakfast favorites, shared with Martha Washington.
Baked Tomatoes and Eggs a La Monroe
We, the people, are entitled to delicious and easy brunch options. I would argue that the libations are the most essential part of the brunch experience anyway. This recipe, one of Monroe’s favorite breakfast dishes, is more impressive than a simple scramble and easier to make than a benedict. Just be mindful not to overcook the yolk.
• 1 unpeeled tomato
• 2 teaspoons grated cheese
• 2 pats butter
• 2 rounds toast
• 2 eggs
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Parsley (optional)
Cut the tomato in half, and scoop out the center of each half, to make a little nest. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drop one egg gently on each half. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper and grated cheese. Put a pat of butter on each egg, and bake in oven until eggs are done. Serve on rounds of toast.
Adapted from Martha Washington’s Rules for Cooking: Used Everyday at Mount Vernon (those of her Neighbors: Mrs. Jefferson, Mrs. Madison, Mrs. Monroe, 1732)
• Bake at 8 mins at 425 for a runny yolk
• These are best served with candied bacon! The easiest way to candy bacon is to:
- Cook bacon in a heavy skillet until it is getting a tiny bit of color but still transparent
- Drain bacon on paper towels and remove the fat from the pan
- Put bacon back in pan and sprinkle each slice with a tsp of light brown sugar
Cook on low, turning once. When the sugar is melted and the bacon is brown, remove from pan and serve
Past Presidential Recipes: