The Collections staff recently made changes to some of the rooms in the Mansion to celebrate the arrival of spring. As we know, the Washingtons welcomed numerous guests to Mount Vernon. George Washington sheds light on this fact in a letter to his mother, Mary Ball Washington, where he likens his home to a “well resorted tavern.” The Washingtons and the staff went to great lengths to graciously accommodate guests. A glimpse of what the tables, kitchen, and Washington Bedchamber would have looked like on the advent of spring has been created.
This table is set for a more intimate gathering. Six diners share stories of their day and feast upon the bounty provided by the Mount Vernon estate. They toast to their host’s good health as they drink American-brewed ale from delicate ale glasses. There is a slight chill in the air, so the cooks have prepared a beef and veal soup with warm rolls, following Hannah Glasse’s recipe from The Art of Cookery. Mrs. Glasse’s recipe is complemented by freshly caught herring in a mustard sauce and roasted doves. Mushrooms, beans, and carrots are welcome additions to the table, replacing root vegetables served during the winter. The second course, thick almond custard, is consumed from the covered pôts-de-crème displayed on the delicate silver salver on the sideboard.
As always, the kitchen staff is hard at work. Lucy and Nathan started preparations for today’s meals at 4:30am. Breakfast is served at 6:45am, dinner at 3:00pm and tea at 6:30pm. Recently caught shad and rockfish provide savory bases for stews and gravy. Peas, onions and lemons are welcome additions to the kitchen, fresh from the kitchen garden and greenhouse. The bread dough, prepared the night before, is kneaded and shaped with the rolling pin in anticipation of today’s dinner.
The heavy bed clothes and bed warmers have been removed as spring produces warmer nights. The Washingtons have less use for thick throws and carpet rugs as the nights grow warmer.