By Lori Perkins
As the world opens up post-pandemic, The Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan’s oldest private home, hosted an ice cream social outdoors on the historic site’s grounds to commemorate the time President George Washington had held his first cabinet dinner there on July 10th, 1790. The first U.S. cabinet meeting was attended by the president and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox and the Hamiltons, as well as John and Abigail Adams, who was a compulsive diarist, so she gave us all the details we have today, which included George Washington’s love of ice cream.
The event at the mansion drew a crowd of about 70 people who were indulged in ice cream made for the event which, in addition to vanilla bean and chocolate, included an original flavor of strawberry with basil, lemon curd and shortbread cookies (delicious, BTW).
Alexis Coe, author of You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington, and an expert on George Washington and American history, gave a brief presentation on some of Washington’s most charming/amusing habits (he loved his dogs and horses and gave them names like his dog Sweetlips and his horse Nelson.) She explained that Washington’s passion for ice cream was well-documented (there is a hand-written bill for $200 worth of ice cream from the 1700’s that would have been about $5800 today, which she believes was paid to cover dessert at the first cabinet dinner). Coe also explained that ice cream was expensive and a luxury because sugar had to be imported from the West Indies and the volume of cream and ice needed to serve many people was not easy to find and accommodate.
Shiloh Holley, Executive Director of the Morris-Jumel Mansion, explained that the ice cream social event was inspired by an educational event the mansion has held to teach children how to make colonial ice cream. A DIY ice cream making event is open to the public on Monday, July 19th from 9:00-10:30 p.m. and will also feature a presentation on the history of colonial ice cream.