President Abraham Lincoln (1861 – 1865) is one of the most studied and analyzed figures in all of American history, so it’s not surprising that we know quite a lot about his food preferences and habits. Several books have been written about Mr. Lincoln’s culinary tastes (I myself own two of them!) so it’s something of a challenge to synthesize a few interesting facts and recipes from all of this published information, but I’m going to give it a shot.
It’s said that Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln had a hard time getting him to remember to eat at all. When she did discover foods that he truly enjoyed, she made sure that they were available whenever he wanted them. For the most part, his food tastes were simple. He loved fresh fruit, particularly apples. One of his favorite meals was simply fresh fruit and nuts, cheese and crackers.
While debating Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln amused the audience with a childhood story about his mother’s gingerbread men. Gingerbread men remained one of Lincoln’s favorite treats throughout his life.
“Once in a while my mother used to get some sorghum and ginger and make some gingerbread. It wasn’t often, and it was our biggest treat.” Abraham Lincoln
Gingerbread Men Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg and vanilla; mix well.
- Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed.
- Press dough into a thick flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate four hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured work surface. Cut into gingerbread men shapes with 5-inch cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.
- Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are set and just begin to brown. Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely. Decorate cooled cookies as desired. Store cookies in airtight container up to 5 days.
Yield: 24 gingerbread men
President Lincoln had a particular passion for oysters just about any way they were served. Oysters were served at Lincoln’s second inaugural dinner along with poultry, tarts, jellies, and terrapin stew (stew made from turtles). An interesting footnote to that dinner is that it hilariously evolved into a food fight because there wasn’t enough food to go around! The Washington Evening Star reported, “The floor of the supper room was soon sticky, pasty and oily with wasted confections, mashed cake, and debris of foul and meat.” What a sight that must have been!
Other foods that Mr. Lincoln particularly enjoyed were bacon, corn cakes, and chicken fricassee with herbed biscuits.