Or something like that. The Fourth of July is upon us and everyone will be dressing their potato salads, grilling their hot dogs and adding blue and red sprinkles to everything that will stand still. I thought it might be interesting to eat something that was actually eaten during the time of our Declaration of Independence – something not cut into the shape of a flag or topped with redi-whip. I bring you the humble hoecake.
Ok, don’t get excited. The daily breakfast of General George Washington is something to clamor about, but I’ll give you the recipe, promise. I know, it’s hard to contain the excitement for corn meal and honey, but a bit of back story first.
His devoted wife, Martha, actually had been married before she wed the General. George himself had no kids but he doted like mad on Martha’s children. His step-granddaughter, Nellie, lived at Mount Vernon and recalled the ritual that began the General’s day; he ate three of these hoecakes, drown in butter and honey, with three cups of tea (no cream, thank you) each morning.
If it was good enough for the Father of our Nation, by golly, it’s good enough for me. Start your Fourth off right with Washington’s favorite breakfast. Happy Fourth everyone!
Nellie Custis’ Hoecakes (modernized, as found at MountVernon.org)
8 3/4 cups white cornmeal
1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
Optional: You may want to add salt to the batter
Shortening or other cooking grease
1. In large container, mix together 4 cups white cornmeal, 1 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast, and enough warm water to give the mixture the consistency of pancake batter (probably 3-4 cups). Cover and set on the stove or counter overnight.
2. In the morning, gradually add remaining cornmeal, egg and enough warm water to give the mixture the consistency of pancake batter (3-4 cups). Cover and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Add cooking grease to a griddle or skillet and heat until water sprinkled onto it will bead up.
4. Pour batter, by the spoonful, onto the hot griddle. (Note: since the batter has a tendency to separate, you will need to stir it well before pouring each batch.) When the hoecake is brown on one side, turn it over and brown the other. Serve warm with butter and honey.
*Painting of the construction of Mount Vernon, as found at MountVernon.org