Friday, August 13, 2010

George Washington's Cook


Hercules, a slave at the Mount Vernon plantation, who had been George Washington’s long time cook was summoned to Philadelphia in November 1790 to become now President George Washington’s personal cook. Hercules was a self taught culinary artist, “as highly accomplished a proficient in the culinary art as could be found in the United States,” according to those who sampled his cooking. Washington was well pleased with Hercules and allowed him to make extra money by selling leftovers from the presidential kitchen. This extra money Hercules spent on expensive luxuries and fine clothing. “…his linen was of unexceptional whiteness and quality, then black silk shorts, ditto waistcoat, ditto stockings, shoes highly polished, with large buckles covering a considerable part of the foot, blue cloth with velvet collar and bright metal buttons, a long watch-chain dangling from his fob, a cocked-hat and gold-headed cane completed the grand costume of the celebrated dandy…of the president's kitchen.”

In November 1796, during a visit of the president and his entourage to Mount Vernon, Hercules’ son was caught stealing. Washington suspected that father and son were planning to runaway. When Washington returned to his presidential duties in Philadelphia, the once renowned Hercules was left behind at Mount Vernon reduced to the status of a common laborer on the farm. On February 22, 1797, George Washington’s sixty fifth birthday, Hercules made his bid for freedom, escaping from Mount Vernon forever.

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