After participating in Fourth of July festivities at the Washington Monument on a blistering hot day, Zachary Taylor ate a large bowl of cherries and drank a pitcher of iced milk and suddenly fell ill with a terrible stomach ache. Within five days he was dead.
At the time, the United States was embroiled in the bitter conflict over slavery and many people believed that President Taylor had been poisoned. Today, most historians agree that Taylor died from cholera or acute gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract.
If Taylor were here with us today, he'd no doubt steer away from anything prepared with cherries. That's totally understandable, but it's no reason for us to do the same, especially when there are so many fabulous recipes for preparing fresh summer cherries, like this one for Cherry Cobbler from Emeril Lagasse:
6 cups tart red cherries, pitted
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a saucepan combine filling ingredients and cook, stirring until bubbling and thickened. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish. Meanwhile, stir together flour, sugars, baking powder, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until it is crumbly. Mix together egg and milk. Add to flour mixture and stir with a fork just until combined. Drop topping by tablespoonfuls onto filling. Bake for 25 minutes until browned and bubbly.
A LITTLE HISTORY: Before he became president, Zachary Taylor fought in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, and the second Seminole War before achieving fame in the Mexican-American War. On February 23, 1847, General Taylor led his troops against General Santa Anna at the Battle of Buena Vista. When "the smoke finally cleared," Taylor's force of 6,000 had defeated a Mexican army of 20,000 and "Old Rough and Ready" was a national hero!
Credit: Oil Portrait of Zachary Taylor by Joseph H. Bush, 1849 (White House Historical Assocation)