Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Presidential Punch.

Today, October 4th …

Rutherford Birchard Hayes, the nineteenth president of the United States, was born on this day in 1822. His domestic policy at the most personal level included an alcohol ban at the White House, a decision made perhaps to attract the increasingly vocal temperance voters, or to appease his wife Lucy who was a devout prohibitionist, or perhaps both.

"It seemed to me, that the example of excluding liquors from the White House would be wise and useful, and would be approved by good people generally. I knew it would be particularly gratifying to Mrs. Hayes to have it done."

The policy was hardly popular, and wry jokes abounded: "It was a brilliant affair; the water flowed like champagne" said Secretary Evarts after one official function, and Republican Representative Garfield described another state dinner as going down “with coffee and cold water."

There is another tale that is repeated almost every time “Lemonade Lucy’s” name is brought up, although it is by no means certain who was the perpetrator and who the butt of the joke. The story is that in spite of the policy, orange cups filled with frozen alcoholic punch or sorbet came to be served at the White House unbeknownst to the Hayes’ (which would have required a very subversive White House chef indeed). It is said that the punch became a regular feature of official functions, and was known as the “Life-Saving Station” by the non-teetotal guests.

The alternative slant was given by Rutherford Hayes, after he had left the White House:

“The joke of the Roman punch oranges was not on us but on the drinking people. My orders were to flavor them rather strongly with the same flavour that is found in Jamaica rum, viz … . This took! There was not a drop of spirits in them! This was certainly the case after the facts alluded to reached our ears. It was refreshing to hear ‘the drinkers’ say with a smack of the lips, ‘would they were hot!’”

It is a puzzle as to what, exactly, that flavouring would have been. Rum essence?

In spite of the policy, “Lemonade Lucy” herself was viewed as a gracious hostess, and no doubt she excelled herself on her husband’s birthday. What would she have ordered? Perhaps Angel Cake, which was her favourite? One thing we can be certain of is that Roman Punch prepared by a standard recipe would not have been on the menu, for it was usually exceedingly alcoholic.

Recipe for the Day …

It seems appropriate to give one of the recipes from “The White House Cookbook”, first published in 1887 by F.L Gillette, and “affectionately dedicated” by the author “To the wives of our presidents. Those noble women who have graced the White House and whose names and memories are dear to all Americans.”

Roman Punch No.2
Make two quarts of lemonade, rich with pure juice lemon fruit; add one tablespoonful of extract of lemon. Work well, and freeze; just before serving, add for each quart of ice half a pint of brandy and half a pint of Jamaica rum. Mix well and serve in high glasses, as this makes what is called a semi or half-ice. It is usually served at dinners as a coup de milieu.

Tomorrow’s Story …

"A Solace of Ripe Plums."

Quotation for the Day …

I'd hate to be a teetotaller. Imagine getting up in the morning and knowing that's as good as you're going to feel all day. Dean Martin.

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