Times and tastes definitely change, but some of the Founding Fathers' favorite foods were undeniably gross. True, 18th century America was full of disgusting food; it's not like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and other storied leaders had much say in what ended up on their dinner tables. They probably liked the taste of this cuisine, too. Modern appetites have changed, though, and no one would blame you if you wanted to stay far, far away from these menus.
Reading about the food of the Founding Fathers can make you feel a little queasy. George Washington reportedly loved slurping down greasy peanut soup, while Thomas Jefferson had a taste for bone-filled shad. Alexander Hamilton probably had stale bread for breakfast. And then there was the always-innovative Benjamin Franklin, who was an early adopter of tofu – though he called it "cheese."
Colonial American food was certainly... something. You might be curious to taste some of these dishes, while others sound so strange and disgusting you'd never want to even see or smell them. Regardless of how much they intrigue or repulse you, these foods give an interesting insight into the dietary habits of storied figures from history.
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George Washington Had Sliced Tongue For Breakfast
According to a man who dined with George Washington in 1794, the President had some culinary habits that might gag a modern diner:
"Mrs. Washington made tea and coffee for them; on the table there were two small plates of sliced tongues and dry toast, bread and butter, but no broiled fish, as is generally the custom."
Tongue is eaten in many parts of the world, but it sounds uniquely unappetizing on dry toast.
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Thomas Jefferson Dined On Baked Shad
Apparently Thomas Jefferson adored shad. This fish has a strong, hearty flavor that puts many people off. It's also so full of bones that it is difficult to filet. In fact, an old Native American legend says shad is just a porcupine that fell into the water and turned inside out.
Pungent, bone-filled fish might not sound like the tastiest dish, but eating shad is still a Virginia tradition.
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John Adams Served His Guests Turtle Soup
John Adams threw lavish dinner parties, complete with any number of bizarre sounding puddings and other dishes. Perhaps the oddest dish to modern eyes is turtle, but it was incredibly popular for some time, likely due to the plentiful presence of turtles around Philadelphia.
So, what does a turtle taste like? Some people compare the flavor of its meat to shrimp, chicken, or even veal, depending on the cut. Others say it tastes dirty and mushy.
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Benjamin Franklin Preferred Electrocuted Turkey
Benjamin Franklin's fondness for turkey is well documented – in fact, he recommended it be the national bird. He also liked eating the fowl, though his manner of preparation was a little unusual. Franklin thought slaughtering turkey with electric currents made for especially tender meat, though he sometimes injured himself in the process:
"Two nights ago being about to kill a Turkey from the Shock of two large Glass Jars (Leyden Jars), containing as much electrical fire as forty common Phials, I inadvertently took the whole thro’ my own Arm and Body."