The Eating and Drinking Habits of Our Founding Fathers

The Eating and Drinking Habits of Our Founding Fathers

Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither was the US. It took Thomas Jefferson seventeen days to write the Declaration of Independence and six months for the Second Continental Congress to gather everyone’s signatures. Our Founding Fathers weren't running on air and adrenaline that entire time. They needed food and drink to keep themselves fueled during their quest to secure the country’s freedom.

1776 wasn't the most advanced of times, so it's easy to assume that our Founding Fathers drank rank water and ate hard biscuits, cold chowder, and other pitiable foodstuff. But it might surprise you to learn that most of the Founding Fathers were huge foodies. Let's delve into the curious eating and drinking habits of our Founding Fathers.

You Get What You Get

Today, we can transport food freely around the globe. That's why you can buy Californian avocados at the grocery store despite living in Texas. Our Founding Fathers didn't have that luxury. They ate what was local. For George Washington, who owned three fisheries, this meant eating a lot of fish. Farm staples were also common. Ben Franklin was a fan of apples, cranberries, rhubarbs, and kale.

But some had more lofty interests. Thomas Jefferson was obsessed with French food. He brought grapevines from France back to the US just so he could make his own wine. Like Franklin, he also enjoyed herbs, fruits, and vegetables. However, he detested meat, and described it as a mere "condiment to the vegetables that constitute my principal diet."

A Sweet Tooth

The eating and drinking habits of our Founding Fathers were surprisingly diverse. But every Founding Father had one thing in common: a guilty pleasure. For some, that was sweets. John Adams loved his wife's apple pandowdy. James Madison was obsessed with ice cream. John Jay carried chocolate around in his pockets and shaved it into hot milk whenever he wanted a treat.

Seven Gallons of Alcohol

In 1776, people were scared that water was bad for their health. Can you blame them? Most rivers back then were more trash than actual water. Instead, the colonists guzzled alcohol. Adults partook in beer, ale, cider, and wine multiple times a day. Children drank something called "small beer." On average, colonists drank seven gallons of alcohol per year.

How did the Founding Fathers compare? George Washington spent over seven percent of his presidential salary on booze. On one notable night out on the town, he ordered 114 bottles of wine and seven bowls of punch for him and his friends. He drank so much brandy and wine that his dentures were stained black.

Don't count John Adams out. He once tried to smuggle 500 bottles of French Bordeaux into the states without paying tax. Thomas Jefferson had to bail him out.

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