President 13: Millard Fillmore [July 9, 1850 – March 4, 1853]
“The whole country is full of enterprise. Our common schools are diffusing intelligence among the people and our industry is fast accumulating the comforts and luxuries of life. “
-6 December 1862
Millard Fillmore, our last Whig President, was a scholar and a master snacker, both attributes I can truly appreciate in a man. He also had an intensely practical nature, which was reflected in both his politics and home life. Case in point: it was during his tenure that the White House was outfitted with a proper hotel-sized iron stove. The cooks had been cooking over an open flame since the Colonial era. As we know all too well, with every change comes staunch resistance and rumor has it the cooks were less than thrilled with the new system. In their defense, it had an extensive series of pulleys and drafts to monitor temperature, which did not come with the standard “how to” manual. After as much frustration as an attempt to construct an IKEA wardrobe, the President himself marched down to the Patent Office and requested instructions. He then gave a tutorial on how to use the damn thing. Once the cooks got used to it, it was love and they never looked back.
President Fillmore and his first wife, Abigail, were also quite the academic pair and made significant additions to the White House library. They met in their home state of New York where Abigail was his teacher. He had been training to be a clothes maker but decided he wanted to pursue law instead. This turned out to be a very long and poverty stricken road, during which Abigail continued working to make ends meet and became the first First Lady to hold a job after marriage. I am guessing it was a lot of porridge and cabbage soup during these years. Their hard work eventually paid off and Fillmore’s practice took off in 1832. They brought their love of books and music to Executive Mansion and, after his term and Abigail’s death; Millard retired to the libraries at the University of Buffalo, where he had been the University’s first chancellor.
You would think Fillmore’s palate would be fitting of his Presidential salary and the brand new appliances he had installed, but alas his tastes were pretty standard. He just feasted on the practicality of it all. When it did come time to eat, he appreciated the lite bite. President Fillmore’s favorite snack was… wait for it… pickled spicy eggs. This project has been all about delving into the past, with some tasty throwbacks and some questionable creations. I think this recipe really brings us to that crossroads. Pickling has come back with vengeance, being named the food trend of last year and appearing on menus across the country. This comeback has really been centered around pickled veggies but, its 2016 so we might as well take it one step further. I guarantee these pink spicy pickled eggs will solicit a strong love or hate response from your taste buds. I fear mine was the latter though some of my human guinea pigs loved them. I will say that adding a bit of heat, with a deviled Sriracha center, does help numb the experience a bit.
Spicy Pickled Eggs- adapted from Volume 1- Famous White House Recipes
12 hard-boiled eggs
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup beets , peeled and sliced
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon mace
1 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 cup mayo
1 tsp Sriracha (or to taste)
Smoked paprika for garnish
Peels the eggs and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Place the remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until beets are tender. Place the eggs into two 1-quart jars. Pour beet mixture over eggs. Cover jars tightly and place them in a cool, dark place for at least 2 days [aka the fridge].
My additions instructions:
Instead of boiling fresh beets, I used 2 cans of sliced beets and added it straight to the saucepan and brought to a boil with the remaining ingredients (except for the eggs).
After the two days in the fridge, I deviled the yolks with some Sriracha mayo. I thought it would make them spicy enough to numb my mouth. It didn’t quite work but did make them more tolerable.
Tomato Marmalade- adapted from the Virginia Housewife, 1824
Gather full grown tomatoes while quite green [3 lbs- any color] ; take out the stems, and stew them till soft; run them through a sieve [optional], put the pulp on the fire [aka stove] seasoned highly with pepper, salt and pounded cloves [use two]; add some garlic [use three cloves]; and stew all together till thick: it keeps well, and it excellent for seasoning gravies, etc.
Add 1 chopped onion and 2 stalks celery to the mix. It gives it a heartier feel.
I didn’t stew my mixture for very long (about five minutes). I like a big of crunch but this is up to you.
Serve on slices of the toasted baguette with goat cheese and a balsamic glaze. This is great for parties and cheap as chips.