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In the 18th Century, people didn't have grocery stores or restaurants. In fact, most of the food people consumed came from their own farms; many families had gardens and livestock on their land. The Washingtons were no exception to this. They also benefitted from the Potomac River and the fish that swam in its waters. 

George Washington made sure that there was enough wheat, vegetables, and fish to provide for his family, servants, and enslaved. Washington also fished enough to sell at markets. This means that the people living and working at Mount Vernon were able to eat a variety of foods during a time when diversity of foods was scarce. 

Dining at Mount Vernon

Dining at Mount Vernon typically occurred twice a day: there was breakfast in the morning at 7am, and dinner in the afternoon at 3pm. Tea or coffee would be served after dinner as well. 

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Enslaved Cooks

While two meals doesn't initially seem like a lot of work, it was for Nathan and Lucy, the enslaved cooks. Their jobs started at 4:30am and lasted well after sundown. 

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Ingredients for Dinner

Many of the ingredients on the Washington's table came from their plantation and were harvested by enslaved field workers and gardeners.

The Life of a Field Worker

Fun Fact

Washington's favorite breakfast was hoecakes. But unlike today, Washington ate hoecakes with honey, not maple syrup.

Why Honey?

Discover the Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Colonial Recipes

Many recipes have changed since the 1700s. Food preparations involved farm harvests and locally-sourced ingredients. Check out this recipes page to learn more about cooking methods from Washington's time.

What did the Enslaved eat?

While the Washingtons ate generous amounts of rich and delicious foods, their enslaved workers were not gifted the same luxury. Their daily rations were 1 quarter of cornmeal and 5 to 8 ounces of salted fish. However, the enslaved community did not let this stop them from eating better foods. 

Food for the Enslaved

Storing Food

Mount Vernon didn't have any refrigerators to store food. Instead, food was preserved with salt and kept in a smokehouse. Watch a video explaining how Washington stored and kept food for long periods of time.

Washington's Smokehouse

Washington's Fisheries

Washington had three fisheries on the Potomac River. These fisheries helped feed the people on the estate. The fisheries also helped Washington earn a profit, since he sold fish in Alexandria and other port cities.

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This page made possible through the generous support of Battelle