For Immediate Release
January 9, 2012
Digital images available
Melissa Wood (703) 799-5203
“Visitors to Mount Vernon have long enjoyed seeing the Washingtons’ dining rooms, kitchen, gardens, orchards, and slave quarters,” said curator Susan P. Schoelwer. “Unlike the anonymous pots and pans found in most historic houses, this exhibit offers a rare, intimate look at a specific 18th-century kitchen, thanks to the actual pots and pans, kettles and canisters lovingly preserved by several generations of Martha Washington descendants.”
Hoecakes & Hospitality: Cooking with Martha Washington features more than 125 fascinating objects amassed from Mount Vernon’s collections, other institutions and private lenders. Among the highlights are the Washingtons’ dinner bell, heart-shaped waffle iron, a vente-sized mug of Chinese porcelain, coffee mill, three-foot olive jar, presidential dinner invitations and other kitchen items. In addition to displaying Martha Washington’s cookbook, the exhibition will feature George Washington’s account of the food staples used by the household. Few 18th century domestic utensils survive today; most wore out from service and were discarded since they had little monetary value. Martha Washington’s descendants carefully preserved many objects from Mount Vernon’s kitchen because of their association with George and Martha Washington.
In the exhibit, visitors will learn how the first “first lady” managed to feed hundreds of guests – in a world without refrigerators, microwaves or running water. The Washingtons were known as taste setters for the new nation. Guests at the Washingtons’ dinner table varied from foreign dignitaries like the Marquis de Lafayette, to Abigail Adams, to artists including Charles Willson Peale. Recipe cards featuring the modern versions of Washington favorites will be available for visitors to take home and try in their own kitchens.
Even though Martha Washington oversaw all aspects of food production and service at Mount Vernon, it was the slaves who were toiling in the fields and kitchen to provide the meals. Mount Vernon’s dinner tables would have remained empty without their labor. The exhibition takes a closer look at the slaves who worked in Mount Vernon’s kitchen and includes a detailed timeline of the cooks’ 16-hour day. On display will be a reproduction livery coat, waistcoat, and breeches that Mount Vernon’s enslaved waiters wore when serving dinner.