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  • Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen
  • Written by Rae Katherine Eighmey
  • Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9781588344557
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  • Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen
  • Written by Rae Katherine Eighmey
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9781588344601
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Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen

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A Culinary View of Lincoln's Life and Times

Written by Rae Katherine EighmeyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Rae Katherine Eighmey


List Price: $21.95


On Sale: February 04, 2014
Pages: 224 | ISBN: 978-1-58834-460-1
Published by : Smithsonian Books Smithsonian
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Synopsis|Excerpt|Table of Contents


Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen is a culinary biography unlike any before. The very assertion of the title--that Abraham Lincoln cooked--is fascinating and true. It's an insight into the everyday life of one of our nation's favorite and most esteemed presidents and a way to experience flavors and textures of the past. Eighmey solves riddles such as what type of barbecue could be served to thousands at political rallies when paper plates and napkins didn't exist, and what gingerbread recipe could have been Lincoln's childhood favorite when few families owned cookie cutters and he could carry the cookies in his pocket. Through Eighmey's eyes and culinary research and experiments--including sleuthing for Lincoln's grocery bills in Springfield ledgers and turning a backyard grill into a cast-iron stove--the foods that Lincoln enjoyed, cooked, or served are translated into modern recipes so that authentic meals and foods of 1820-1865 are possible for home cooks. Feel free to pull up a chair to Lincoln's table.


From the Introduction:

The best parts of these journeys through time are the fabulous flavors I’ve rediscovered. Even though ingredients and mixing and cooking methods may be essentially the same, the flavors are not. Wonderful, unexpected tastes and textures from the recipes of the past—molasses lemon cake, apple ketchup, beef à la mode, and so many more—have surprised me time and time again. I am delighted with the dishes I’ve found from this adventure in the land of Lincoln: corn dodgers, almond cake, pumpkin butter, slow-cooked barbecue, and many more.

So, please, pull up a chair at my kitchen table. Its old round oak top is littered with notes; photocopies from agricultural journals, newspapers, grocery account ledgers; and stacks of old cookbooks. Herndon’s Informants and biographies of Lincoln are here, too, along with my ring binder filled with pages of once neatly typed recipes now covered with penciled corrections and spatters of batter, the results of sampling and experimentation. Although this is a culinary exploration of Lincoln’s life, not a cookbook, I’ve adapted the period techniques and recipes for cooking in today’s kitchens and noted the sources. There is value in seeing the original recipes as historic documents, but I believe that value is outweighed by the enjoyment of preparing and eating foods that come as close to these culinary-heritage dishes as our stores and stoves can bring us. A biscuit made with soured milk and baking soda is a world of difference from one that pops out of a refrigerated tube. It profoundly changes the perception of what a biscuit can be.

I want readers to enjoy these foods. I’ve spent years figuring out how to make them from the scanty descriptions, incomplete measurements, and nonexistent instructions. In some cases, I’ve had to develop the recipe from just a description: you’ll see “Re-created from period sources” under the titles of those dishes. For the recipes described as “Adapted from period sources,” I’ve simply standardized the measurements to those used in today’s kitchens, clarified the ingredients and put them in proper order, and written the method for preparation.

This book is organized generally as a biography following Abraham Lincoln’s life from his childhood through his presidency. In some of the chapters, I describe my process for unraveling the historical clues to get to the flavors and textures. In others, I delve more deeply into Lincoln’s biography and show how food brings new considerations to an understanding of his life, marriage, and time as president. All of the chapters have recipes at the end so you can undertake these explorations in your own kitchen. I promise these dishes are unlike anything we eat today. Delicious, evocative, and well worth the small efforts to prepare.

Come along. We’ll see what directions food can take us as we travel to capture the flavor of Lincoln’s times.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Abraham and Mary Lincoln
Chapter 2 - Lincoln's Gingerbread Men
Chapter 3 - Life on the Indiana Frontier
Chapter 4 - Journeys of Discovery
Chapter 5 - Bacon and Black Hawk
Chapter 6 - Courtship and Cake
Chapter 7 - Eating Up Illinois Politics
Chapter 8 - "Salt for Ice Cream"
Chapter 9 - Piccalilli: Of Fruits and Vegetables
Chapter 10 - Talking Turkey
Chapter 11 - At the Crossroads of Progress
Chapter 12 - Inaugural Journey Banquets
Chapter 13 - Summer Cottage, Soldier's Bread
Chapter 14 - Cakes in Abraham Lincoln's Name



The answer to questions of whether or not President Abraham Lincoln cooked, and what he ate, are answered in this upbeat culinary study of the life and diet of our 16th President. Sifting through countless vintage cookbooks for research and inspiration, Eighmey (Soda Shop Salvation) offers 55 recipes tailored for the modern-day kitchen. Prioritizing taste and texture, she provides original solutions for obscured dishes (such as horminy) and substitute ingredients (baking soda achieves the same function as the oft-requested pearl ash in order to enable cakes to rise); enabling any reader to recreate these historic meals. Some recipes, such as pumpkin pie and strawberry ice cream are virtually unchanged, while others, like the many cakes popularized after Lincoln's death are a rather curious riffs on what we'd now call a spice cake. Readers may also be surprised at Lincoln's breadth of tastes and culinary experiences. Lincoln, who had a number of jobs prior to becoming President, enabled him to travel throughout the nation's midsection including New Orleans, which brought him in contact with a wide variety of people and their native cuisines. Academics of all stripes will appreciate Eighmey's diligence and insight. (Feb.)


Just when you think every aspect of Abraham Lincoln’s life has been exhausted, award-winning author Eighmey (Soda Shop Salvation; Food Will Win the War) stumbles across an anecdotal story of the president walking home to help cook dinner. Inspired, she ­examines Lincoln’s life with a culinary lens. Using Lincoln family documents, period newspapers, cookbooks, and other resources, Eighmey carefully paints a picture of the Lincoln family’s diet and customs. In addition to the thorough research used to re-create the president’s culinary world, Eighmey adapts 55 period recipes for today’s kitchen. While some foods (for instance, wild game, honey, and corn bread) are fairly obvious, others, such as New Orleans chicken curry, may come as a surprise. Lincoln may not have eaten all the dishes included here, but the author has successfully detailed the culinary world he moved in and thus given us a personal look at one of history’s greatest figures. ­VERDICT Food and history enthusiasts will enjoy this well-­written and lighthearted peek at ­Lincoln.—Lisa Ennis, Univ. of Alabama at ­Birmingham

“A fantastic new book, Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen by Rae Katherine Eighmey, sheds light on our 16th president’s culinary habits from his childhood through his time in office—and includes more than 50 period recipes that’ve been updated for a modern kitchen.”

“Eighmey's new book, Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln's Life and Times, looks at our 16th president's life through the extraordinary stories of what he ate, cooked and served, along with recipes modified for the modern kitchen.”

“Throughout the narrative, she often puts herself in Lincoln’s XXL shoes. She gamely swings an 8-pound sledgehammer to whack hominy into pieces when her food processor can’t properly shatter the hard kernels to the authentic size. She schemes over roasting a turkey on an open hearth. She measures Lincoln’s 1860 Royal Oak cast-iron stove, then fashions iron plates from a camping supply store and wire racks into a makeshift oven of the same dimensions.”

“Eighmey has taken the scant recorded facts about Lincoln and food and spun an engaging story of what Lincoln’s culinary life might have been like. She presents the facts and grounds the speculation in solid research. And her delight with her subject is infectious. Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen is as much fun to read as it clearly was for the author to write.”

“From the gingerbread men of Lincoln’s pioneer childhood, to barbecue and biscuits on the campaign trail, to the elegant French cuisine of White House banquets, this unique taste of history will be enjoyed by foodie readers.”

“It’s the long interludes between the recipes that are interesting and make this a bona fide food biography and history.”

“(Scholars have yet to unearth Lincoln's original notes for the Gettysburg Address: "Four s'mores and seven beers ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new ration ...")”

“Eighmey too, is a practiced storyteller, providing fresh insights and recipes for history buffs and curious cooks alike.”

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