Saturday, March 1, 2014

Hercules: The President's Cook

The story of Hercules, our first president's cook. To quote:
General George Washington (1732-1799), first president of the new United States of America, was well aware of the importance of his cook. He brought his own cook from his home at Mt. Vernon to run the kitchen of the presidential residence in Philadelphia in 1790. Known by the single name of Hercules, he was reputed to be the very best cook in America, one who could not only produce the most elaborate dishes, but also insist on perfect order among his large staff and spotless cleanliness in his kitchen. Washington spoke proudly of the "labors of Hercules" when the first exquisite dishes were set on his table each night. Even on his days off, Hercules set himself apart, dressing with such impeccable style that he was recognized and saluted by name as he sauntered down the Philadelphia streets.

Only one thing set Hercules apart from his lofty counterparts in the great houses of Berkeley Square in London: Hercules was a slave, and President Washington owned him. (Read more.)

1 comment:

The North Coast said...

How deeply indecent it was that a man whose talent and skills would command a high salary and probably make him a successful restauranteur in a free market economy, had to bear with the degradation of slavery.

While a free man could have just walked away in a dispute, this man had to bear with the humiliation of field labor as a "punishment"-something no free employee of comparable position and talent would have been subjected to. I'm glad Hercules escaped and must say that Washington deserved to lose this prize employee.

Only so much credit is due Washington for freeing his slaves in his will- it's easy to be "giving" when you aren't going to be around to miss what you're giving away. Washington and the other slave-owning founders still have a lot to answer for, for allowing the vile institution to continue even one day after declaring independence from the mother country, especially when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette banished slavery in France of their own volition.