Week 24 of Dave Raymond’s American History course, you’ll be covering “The Lost Cause: Reconstruction” Most know what President Grant did during the War Between the States, but few know about his White House experience and what he ate there, like Apple Pancakes.
The time of “reconstruction” in America after the War Between the States only tore the nation further apart. The wealthy of the South were suddenly impoverished and the poor were swiftly lifted up to a high social and economical status they had no knowledge of. After President Johnson was impeached Union General Ulysses S. Grant became president. Grant and his wife came from plain backgrounds and were extremely inexperienced in matters of society, so their years in the White House are now legend for their foolish extravagance and unusual guests. Because the social strata in America shifted so quickly and strangely during Reconstruction one commentator during Grant’s presidency reported, “Nice people, questionable people, and people who were not nice at all [were commonly seen at White House functions]”.
Grant’s wife Julia strived to present a refined air to Washington society and quickly grew frustrated with Grant’s choice of White House chef: his old quartermaster from the army. Grant preferred the simple cooking and limited menu the chef had to offer but Julia fired the quartermaster and hired an Italian chef to bring refinement and flavor to White House dishes. Their daughter Nellie’s wedding was the most extravagant culinary event the White House had ever seen, with crabs, beef tongue, woodcock, nesselrode pudding, and a huge wedding cake only a part of the menu that was served. It was a striking contrast the the slow starvation of the beaten south and the unrest the country was in. But although Grant was swept up in the excitement of Washington society he preferred the plainest of cooking; well-done beef, rice pudding, coffee, and apples. Grant was particularly fond of apples and especially enjoyed them fried with bacon or in pancakes with a slice of ham on top.
Grant’s Apple Pancakes
- 2 apples
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp. butter, melted
- 1/8 c. sour cream
- 1/8 tsp. baking powder
- 1/8 c. milk
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 c. flour
- Peel and dice apples. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Boil on high heat until apples become mushy (about 5-8 minutes) then drain and mash with potato masher or fork. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, melted butter, sour cream, milk, baking powder, vanilla, and flour. Fold apple mixture into pancake mixture with spatula until combined.
- On a large griddle melt 1-2 tbsp. butter. Drop in scoops of batter and fry like pancakes, until golden on both sides and cooked. Serve warm with bacon or ham.