Madison: March 4, 1809–March 4, 1817
I am now proud to say I have two Dolleys (second being Dolly Parton, albeit with a different spelling) that top my list of “if you could invite anyone to dinner” guests. Both known for their sociable disposition, fighting spirit, and a love for all things bedazzled, they would be seated either side of Darwin, ensuring laughter filled the room through dessert.
Dolley Madison was the center of the Washington social calendar and the full force behind Mr. Madison. Born a Philadelphia Quaker, her tastes were quite the opposite of the simple life she grew up in. When she became First Lady, she embraced the role wholeheartedly, party planning to her heart’s content. She had helped Thomas Jefferson host some of his parties during his tenure, and like him, absolutely detested rigid formal customs. Her “White House Wednesdays” were a crowd favorite, and were attended en masse. In fact, some of her gatherings had nearly 500 guests and were aptly nicknamed the “squeezes.” Those invited for dinner noticed that she sat at the head of the table while her husband occupied a seat in the middle, giving her full view over the guests. Her ability to make people feel comfortable allowed Federalists and Democratic-Republicans to tolerate each other, at least for an hour or two, and made her a true partner for her husband.
As the British encroached on D.C. in 1814 (during the War of 1812), the Madisons made it clear they weren’t leaving. The day before the Burning of the White House on August 24, she hosted a dinner party to make her point. Though jolly and lighthearted, I think she would agree with Dolly, “if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”
Party Girl Favorites
Nibbles: Fish Croquettes
Here is Dolley’s recipe for croquettes, which are very “in” at the moment. I suggest you serve them up with an aioli or a tartar sauce.
Chop any kind of fish fine. Add mashed potato, one hard-boiled egg, pepper, and salt. Roll into balls size of eggs, brush with yolk of an egg and fry very brown.” – Dolly Madison
From: “Martha Washington’s Rules for Cooking: Used Everyday at Mount Vernon (those of her Neighbors: Mrs. Jefferson, Mrs. Madison, Mrs. Monroe, 1732)”
I used cod, which is delicate and really works well. I also added a bit of Cajun seasoning for flavor
Roll the croquettes in a beaten egg then panko before frying. The added texture of the panko will take it to the next level.
The oil should be at 375 F but if you don’t have a way of measuring, put in a tester.. if it floats to the top, you are good to go.
If you are using tuna or mackerel (any stronger tasting fish really), try substituting the Cajun seasoning for a sprinkle of curry powder. Serve with a basic garlic aioli. Meow.
Beauty: Dolley’s Homemade Lip Salve
Any party girl knows it is essential to keep your pout hydrated. Rubbing pig’s lard—as suggested below in her recipe—on them will surely attract the carnivore in the room; however, the thought is not a pretty one. I suggest substituting coconut oil. Instead of using alkanet root for color, I suggest using a drop or two of food coloring instead. Pucker up.
Take a half a pound of hog’s lard, put it into a pan, with one ounce and a half of virgin wax; let is stand on a slow fire till it is melted; then take a small [tin] pot, and fill it with water and put therein some alkanet root; let it boil till it is of a fine red colour, then strain some of it, and mix it with the ingredients according to fancy, scent it with the essence of lemon, pour it into small boxes, and smooth the top with your finger. Apply to the lips.