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Tag Archives: Mary Ball Washington

This and That

John and I enjoyed a cup of peach cider on the porch this afternoon. With the light fall breeze waving the back door to and fro, the respite was peaceful. Holding the warm mug and savoring the tart, yet sweet, flavors was made better only by the ginger snaps I dunked in the mug.

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English colonists introduced gingerbread to America. “We ate gingerbread all day long,” wrote the Virginia diarist William Byrd in 1711, referring to a day he spent training for the local militia. Germans who emigrated to Pennsylvania added Lebkuchen to the American gingerbread repertoire; Moravians in North Carolina rolled gingerbread dough paper-thin to make delicious crisp cookies; and Swedish settlers brought along their recipes for pepparkakor, which are the cookies we now call gingersnaps.

Eighteenth-century Americans also developed a fondness for soft, cakelike gingerbread. Mary Ball Washington, George’s mother, created such a confection, studded with raisins and orange rind, in her kitchen. When General Lafayette paid her a visit in 1784, she served him some, accompanied by a mint julep—and the gingerbread cake came to be known as Lafayette Gingerbread.

The Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia serves a delicious ginger cake. I have fond memories of walking the streets with a mug of cider in one hand and one of those cookies in the other. Served warm, they are fragrant, as well as delicious.

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Cider was most often drunk by all ages during the eighteenth century.

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One recipe/receipt gives these simple instructions for Hot Spiced Cider.

“Pour a gallon of cider into your kettle. Drop two cinnamon sticks and eight cloves into cider. This may be heated hearth side. You may wish to add one quart of scuppernong wine for extra flavor.”

As I inhaled the flavors from my cup, I realized that the combined smell of fruit and spices would have also beckoned everyone to the fireplace in every one room cabin.

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Good things in life don’t change, but we need to remember to choose them. A safe harbor of fellowship can be found on a porch or around a fireplace; the century doesn’t matter. It’s the people we are making the memories with who are the most important. My Nanna taught me the added bonus of dunking ginger snaps to savor cider or hot tea.

Author Beverly Lewis says, “Growing up around Amish farmland, I enjoyed the opportunity to witness firsthand their love of family, of the domestic arts – sewing, quilting, cooking, baking – as well as seeing them live out their tradition of faith in such a unique way.”

Hope you can taste that cup of cider or tea now, and don’t forget the ginger snaps.