Tuesday, July 2, 2019
After participating in Fourth of July festivities at the Washington Monument on a blistering hot day, Zachary Taylor devoured a large basket of cherries and downed two pitchers of iced milk and suddenly fell ill with a terrible stomach ache. Five days later, he was dead.
At the time, the United States was embroiled in the bitter conflict over slavery and many people believed that Taylor had been poisoned. Today, most historians agree that he died from cholera or acute gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract.
Either way, if Taylor were here with us today, he'd no doubt steer away from anything prepared with cherries. That's understandable, but it's no reason for us to do the same, especially when there are so many fabulous recipes for preparing fresh sweet and sour summer cherries, like this one for Cherry Cobbler from Emeril Lagasse or this one from tinynewyorkkitchen.com :
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, 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, 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 Henry Bush, 1849 (White House Historical Assocation)
Monday, July 1, 2019
As a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, John Adams was one of the fiercest advocates of the Declaration of Independence. Contrary to popular belief, the declaration wasn't signed by all of the delegates on July 4, 1776. Instead, it was initially approved on July 2, 1776. The delegates then continued debating and slightly revised it the following day and formally adopted it on the Fourth of July. Most historians agree that the Declaration wasn’t signed by all the delegates (with a few holdouts) until nearly a month later, on August 2, 1776.
Nevertheless, on July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abigail, describing these momentous events. This, in part, is what he wrote:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival...It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
Although no one knows what the delegates ate on those momentous days, biographers say that Adams was fond of Green Sea Turtle Soup, Indian Pudding and other simple foods of his New England youth. Gooseberry Fool, a traditional eighteenth century British and early American dish, was another Adams family favorite.
As an example of how national foodways change over time, gooseberries were abundant in John's day, but aren't widely available in the United States today. So, if you can't find gooseberries in your local grocery store, you can use blueberries or raspberries. Either way, this delicious, nutritious, and refreshingly sweet little treat would make a great addition to your Fourth of July festivities this week!
If you'd like to whip up some Gooseberry Fool today, here's a simple and simply delicious recipe to try from epicurious.com
3 cups pink or green gooseberries (or blueberries)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup well-chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup crème fraîche
1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar
Pull off tops and tails of gooseberries and halve berries lengthwise. In a heavy skillet cook berries and granulated sugar over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until liquid is thickened, about 5 minutes. Simmer mixture, mashing with a fork to a coarse puree, 2 minutes more. Chill puree, covered, until cold, about 1 hour, and up to 1 day.
In a bowl with an electric mixer beat heavy cream with crème fraîche until it holds soft peaks. Add superfine sugar and beat until mixture just holds stiff peaks. Fold chilled puree into cream mixture until combined well. Fool may be made 3 hours ahead and chilled, covered.
Credit: Declaration of Independence, painting by John Trumball