04 August 2010

Back from the mountains, Martha Washington and Mount Vernon

Back from the mountains! Painting our cabin took a tad longer than expected and we still have a few things to do but it looks better than it was, luckily! Originally painted by its previous owner an (horrid) bright green, we decided to blend the exterior with the landscape and chose "Streambed" for its new colour. I myself think it more as wild sage...

Anyone who has had the pleasure of choosing a make over colour for their home knows it can be a challenge depending not only on the palette offered by the store but also by its sale people.
In our case, it took 3 men to calculate the amount of paint required to cover the walls of a 16 x 20 cabin or 320 sq. feet...
Even keeping in mind 3 windows and a door, 2 x 14.5 pitches and 2 heights of 8 ft, I never came to the 280 sq. feet they advise me...
Guess who had to go back down the mountain to buy more paint...
Not to sound too critical but we ladies sometime knows better...

"To calculate square footage, multiply the width by the height of each wall and then add the figures together. Next, calculate the area of all surfaces that will not be painted, such as windows, fireplaces, and the like. Again, multiply width times height and add the figures together. Then, subtract this number from the first number. Finally, add 10% so you will have some paint left over for touch-ups or repairs in the future.

To calculate how many cans of paint you will need, divide your final number by the spread rate of the paint.

" There you go!

But then I am only a woman...


Coming back to the many amenities of civilization - the cabin has a generator, a solar pump for our 306 ft deep well, no electricity or running water and as for the loo, it can be a challenge at times - we always seem to have lots of mail to deal with and then (or not) a few parcels.
In this instance once again the USPS reminded me not to put them on my Christmas list... One parcel is AWOL, a second was delivered at a neighbour's box... However my copy of Martha Washington's cook book arrived safely! Wow!

I had the pleasure of discovering the First Lady's kitchen and herb garden a long time ago and never forgot it. A step back in the past and yet amazingly all the necessary requirements of a much more modern but efficient kitchen. I loved its tiled floors, the large working tables and the spacious yet cozy feeling the kitchen exuded.

I soon learned Martha Washington made sure every dish was prepared exactly as called for in her personal cookbook given to her at the time of her first marriage to Daniel P. Custis in 1749.

As a wedding gift, her mother-in-law presented Martha with a personal copy of the Custis family cookbook. Handwritten by an unknown hand in old English, the recipe book containing over five hundred recipes had been in the Custis family for generations. This was a family heirloom dating back to the early 1600s and the recipes dated apparently from Elizabethan and Jacobean times, some say the golden age of English cuisine.

The First Lady kept and used her family cookbook for more than 50 years. In 1799, she presented the book to her granddaughter, Eleanor Parke Custis as a wedding gift when she married Lawrence Lewis. It was handed down from mother to daughter until 1892 when the Lewis family presented it to The Historical Society of Pennsylvania where it still resides today.

The above cake was a favourite of the family and often served at dinners presided by Washington and the First Lady.

"Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth. Then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream and put the whites of eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well worked. Then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manner then put in the Yolks of eggs and 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine and some fresh brandy.

Translated for us:

In making Martha Washington's famed cake, Mount Vernon's curatorial staff followed Mrs. Washington's recipe almost exactly. Where the recipe called for 5 pounds of fruit, without specifying which ones, 2 pounds of raisins, 1 pound of currants, and 2 pounds of apples were used. The wine used was cream sherry. Since no pan large enough was available to hold all the batter, two 14 layers were made and stacked (note: the original was one single tall layer). The layers were baked in a 350 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Should be iced with a very stiff egg-white based icing, flavored with rosewater or orange-flower water."

Obviously I cannot justify baking such a large cake but a smaller scale version sounds lovely!

The book is a wonderful way to step back in times gone by and since I love History and Cooking, I went one step further and found a copy of the First American Cookbook produced in 1796!


Worth reading, and bound to find a place on your bookshelves if you are anything like me!

Please note I was not remunerated in any way for this post and simply wanted to share my opinion!

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