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.
Excerpted from Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen by Rae Katherine Eighmey. Copyright © 2014 by Rae Katherine Eighmey. Excerpted by permission of Smithsonian Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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.”
MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE
“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.”
AMERICAN FOOD ROOTS
“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.”
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
“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.”
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
“(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.”