If George Washington had eaten here…


America’s first President was also known for his sweet tooth. George Washington’s typical breakfast was hoecakes, three small mush cakes (Indian meal) swimming in butter and honey.

America’s first President was also known for his sweet tooth. Presidents Day falls during the week of George Washington’s birthday. And in celebration of the man himself, Susan McLellan Plaisted spent a couple of hours making mush cakes in a log cabin at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown.

Plaisted, a food historian, says that we know from a written account what George Washington liked for breakfast when at home in Mount Vernon.

“We know that it was three hoe cakes […] or Indian Mush cakes. His stepdaughter described them as being small and swimming — that’s her words — in butter and honey.”

The cakes have four main ingredients: cornmeal, yeast, egg and water. Plaisted fries them on a three-legged pan called a spider over hot coals on the hearth.

George Washington was an early riser. He got up with the sun, read and wrote until around 7a.m., then had his traditional breakfast with three dishes of tea — hold the milk. Mercer Museum visitor Cynthia Miller writes historical novels, including one about Thomas Jefferson, and did her best to describe the taste of the hoe cakes.  “You have the mushiness of the corn, but it’s absolutely a honey cake. And I can totally see why George Washington would eat this because you have this very sweet, it’s almost like a honey pastry for breakfast.” It may have been too much of a good thing for George Washington, who suffered tooth pain throughout his adult life.

George Washington’s typical breakfast was “hoecakes,” described by his step-granddaughter, Nelly Curtist Lewis, as “three small mush cakes (Indian meal) swimming in butter and honey.” A modern adaptation of the recipe can be found here.


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