Skip to main content

The recipes were adapted from historical cookbooks used by Martha Washington at Mount Vernon and other 18th century elite women.

The kitchen at Mount Vernon (MVLA)
The kitchen at Mount Vernon (MVLA)

An inventory of the mansion and outbuildings prepared in 1799 following George Washington's death devotes three pages to the contents of the kitchen. Stew pans, platter covers, an egg boiler, Dutch over, cake pans, coffee pots, waffle irons, trivets, and cleavers are only a few of the nearly 200 utencils and pieces of equipment found there.

Explore the collection online

The Mount Vernon kitchenware was preserved by Martha Washington's descendants and several pieces can been seen today in the restored kitchen and museum on the estate at Mount Vernon.

The Art of Cookery

Martha Washington's copy of The Art of Cookery is part of the special collections at the Washington Library (MVLA)
Martha Washington's copy of The Art of Cookery is part of the special collections at the Washington Library (MVLA)

One of the most valuable tools in the Mount Vernon kitchen was Mrs. Washington's copy of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy; Which far exceeds any Thing of the Kind yet published... By a Lady. Martha Washington's original copy is part of the special collections in the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon.

Washington Library

This popular cookbook first appeared in 1747 and went through many editions. Although the name Hannah Glasse was associated with the cookbook, it was thought to be a pseudonym for Dr. John Hill of London. Whoever the author, The Art of Cookery is a fascinating compendium of receipts of all kinds and also includes household hints, tips for marketing, and a calendar of seasonal foods.

Mrs. Washington probably owned a number of cookbooks, but her 1765 edition of The Art of Cookery and a manuscript cookbook in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania are the only ones known to survive. The latter under the title Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery was edited and annotated in 1981 by Karen Hess and was published by the Columbia University Press. It is a very early compilation of 16th and 17th century receipts and came into Martha's possession at the time of her marriage to Daniel Parke Custis who died in 1757.

Modern Adaptations for a Modern World

Most of the recipes you'll find here are interpretations of those prepared in Martha Washington's kitchen, using ingredients available to the 18th century cook but using 21st century methods of preparation and cooking.

View Recipes