Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Give Andrew Jackson a Tattoo!

Now and then an article pops up about surprising people in history who have had tattoos. Always included on those lists are Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Teddy Roosevelt.

Supposedly Roosevelt had his family crest tattooed on his chest, Polk had a Chinese symbol meaning "eager," and Jackson had---I kid you not---a tomahawk inked on his upper thigh.

Now, I don't want to call bullshit on all of these, because they're...possible? I guess? Especially Roosevelt because I could totally see him having a tattoo. The problem is that I haven't actually been able to find any proof other than the same articles repeating the same "general knowledge" without actually giving any sources. I'm inclined to believe that TR did not, in fact, have a family crest on his chest, but I'm open to the possibility that he did. Except I really doubt it.

I am perfectly willing to go out on a limb and call BS on Polk having a Chinese symbol tattooed on him. What, did he have a small butterfly on his lower back, too? I'm trying to figure out a scenario in which this supposed tattoo would have happened. Oriental art has found some popularity here and there ever since America started trading with China, but not to the level that some mid-19th-century white dude would get a tattoo of a Chinese character. Polk's predecessor John Tyler was president during the ratification of the Treaty of Wanghia after the first Opium War, but I'm not aware of any significant dealings Polk had with China that might have inspired this "eager" tattoo in some way. (To be fair, I know very little about Polk's foreign affairs outside of the Mexican-American War and the annexation of various territories, so maybe he was really into China? But again, I doubt it. If any Polk scholars want to weigh in, please do.)

That brings us to Jackson. I love the idea of Jackson having a tattoo, but on his upper thigh? For real? And a tomahawk? That would be a pretty dickish move considering his track record, although I suppose in a way that's fitting for him.

I decided to go to the best source I could to get some answers about Andrew Jackson's tattoo: I emailed the people at The Hermitage. I asked if Jackson really (or likely) had a tattoo, or if this was all an urban legend.

Less than 24 hours later I received a response: "Unfortunately, there is no definitive proof that Jackson had a tattoo on his thigh. This story more than likely an urban legend that has grown in popularity over time."


Regardless, I thought it would be fun to give people the chance to ink a few tattoos on Old Hickory, so I present to you an Andrew Jackson template. I've provided the tomahawk; you provide the rest! You can download the PDF here or you can click on the jpeg up above.

Some tattoo ideas to get you started: a dreamcatcher, the Bank of the United States, a heart with "mom" written inside. The possibilities are endless! (And, yeah, I've covered up his ankles and wrists, which are prime tattoo locations. Sorry. I just thought the boots would be funny and I can't draw hands.)

If you tattoo Andrew Jackson, please snap a photo to share on my Facebook page or tag me on Twitter @MsPresidentress

Happy inking!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Musical Monday: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

I'm just going to say it: No one will ever have a catchier campaign song than William Henry Harrison.

I had known of the phrase forever, but I first heard the song Tippecanoe and Tyler Too years ago at a They Might Be Giants concert. For the longest time I thought they had written the song. (It wouldn't have been their first foray into presidential songs, as they had previously released a song about James K. Polk.) But at some point I discovered that the band merely covered what had really been Harrison's campaign song in the 1840 election. (The song was really titled Tip and Ty but came to be known by its popular refrain of "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.")

Here is TMBG's version, available on the album Future Soundtrack for America:

And here is a more traditional version:

I like They Might Be Giants' version more, but it's pretty true to the original.

"Tippecanoe" was William Henry Harrison's nickname, and Tyler, of course, refers to his running mate (and successor) John Tyler. The song is amazing not just because it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the week, but because it bolsters Harrison and Tyler while also denigrating Martin Van Buren, and what could be more fun than denigrating Martin Van Buren?

In addition to the addictive song, Harrison's campaign also incorporated the unique tactic of rolling giant balls from town to town. That's referenced in Tip and Ty's first verse: 

What's the cause of this commotion, motion, motion,
Our country through?
It is the ball a-rolling on

For Tippecanoe and Tyler too.
For Tippecanoe and Tyler too.
And with them we'll beat little Van, Van, Van,
Van is a used up man.
And with them we'll beat little Van.

Thus Harrison's campaign served as the origin of the phrase "Keep the ball rolling."

(If you watched Parks & Recreation, you might have seen the episode that featured one of those giant balls. In the episode, the ball actually represented one used in grandson Benjamin Harrison's campaign, but it was William Henry's run that started the practice.)

It's probably important to note that Harrison got the nickname "Tippecanoe" after a battle near the Tippecanoe river in which he defeated the Native American leader Tecumseh, who was trying to protect his land from white encroachment. That's not the greatest legacy by today's standards, but it sure worked for him at the time.

It's also important to note that while Harrison won the election, probably due in large part to his catchy tune and big balls, he died after a month in office, so all in all, it didn't do him much good.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Cooking with the Presidents: Washington/Lafayette Gingerbread

A few weeks ago I brought you a recipe for Dolley Madison's gingerbread. That bread was moist and aromatic, but not very gingery and kind of bland. I mentioned that I had two other presidential gingerbread recipes to try, so today I present the second one: a Washington/Lafayette delicacy. (Also, I'm realizing that I forgot what the third recipe is, so I'll need to look into that.)

My copy of The Presidents' Cookbook calls this "Martha Washington Gingerbread," which doesn't make sense because the accompanying story describes how George Washington's mom, Mary, made this for the Marquis de Lafayette when he visited her in 1784. I'm going to assume the title is a typo because it doesn't seem that Martha had anything to do with this one. (To confirm that this really is Mary's recipe we're dealing with, I found that Mount Vernon has a recipe for "Lafayette Gingerbread" that includes the orange zest Mary Washington used for Lafayette's treat.)

Anyway, the story in my cookbook says, "Legend has it that [Lafayette] was so impressed with the gingerbread and with Washington's mother in general that he explained, 'I have seen the only Roman matron of my day.' Some historians assume this was a compliment. From the rest of his comments we rather doubt it."

Then that's it. What!? What were the rest of his comments? What did he say about George Washington's mom? "I have seen the only Roman matron of my day. I came, I saw, I threw up in my mouth a little, am I right, guys?" I'll have to look it up.

The "recipe" included in my book says to take a gingerbread mix, but to add a teaspoon of instant coffee, a teaspoon of grated orange rind, and to use 1/2 c of orange juice in place of 1/2 c of water the mix will inevitably call for.

Sorry, but the same cookbook that expects me to butcher my own turtle wants me to use a boxed gingerbread mix? I don't think Mary Washington walked down to her local Ye Olde Grocery Store for a box of gingerbread mix, and she probably wasn't using Nescafé, either.

But the idea of using orange in gingerbread isn't new to me. For my daughter's second birthday she insisted on a "jujubed" cake (that's "gingerbread" for those of you not fluent in toddler) and at the time I had just gotten a fantastic book of bread machine recipes that included one for orange gingerbread. I made that recipe (in the oven, not the bread machine) and it was very good.

I decided to adapt that recipe rather than insult the memory of Lafayette and the Washingtons with a box of Betty Crocker. (In case anyone wants to know why I didn't just make the Mount Vernon recipe, it's because I didn't find it until my gingerbread was already in the oven. Also because their recipe is just an adaptation of someone else's anyway, since Mary's actual recipe seems to not exist.)

Without further ado, here is my recipe for
Washington/Lafayette Gingerbread

dry ingredients:
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
3/4 tsp salt

wet ingredients:
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 c molasses
2 large eggs
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/2 c buttermilk
1/4 c orange juice
2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1/4 c hot water
1 1/2 tsp orange zest

A couple notes here. The "recipe" from my Presidents' Cookbook said to use 1 tsp each of coffee and orange zest. I wound up with about 1 1/2 tsp of zest, so I used all of it, and I decided to increase the coffee by the same amount. Frankly, it seemed like a really small amount of coffee, even when
Waiting to be baked
increased, but I went with it. I should note that the Mount Vernon recipe doesn't say anything about coffee, so go figure.

To make the bread:

Preheat your oven to 350 and grease your pan. (I used a 9 x 9 glass baking dish.)

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl, then fold in the dry mixture. When combined, pour it into your cooking vessel and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

My copy of The Presidents' Cookbook says to serve the bread with applesauce or whipped cream. I opted for whipped cream because when given the choice between whipped cream and applesauce, who's going to pick applesauce? Mount Vernon's recipe suggests serving it with "fairy butter," which sounded delightful until I read that recipe: Basically you mix butter with sugar and orange-flower water (okay) and four hard-boiled egg yolks. I'll stick with the whipped cream.

So how did the Washington/Lafayette gingerbread taste? Amazing! My husband, kids, and I all gave it two thumbs up, and it's rare that we're all in agreement about a dessert. I gave some to our neighbors, and they texted me "Nailed it." (They had remained mum about the Dolley Madison gingerbread.) The bread is gingery and orangey...although I couldn't discern any coffee flavor at all, which wasn't a surprise. I think it would make more sense to either add more coffee or eliminate it all together. Since the Mount Vernon recipe doesn't include coffee, I'm inclined to simply remove it. I might play with it more in the future.
If you try it for yourself, let me know what you think in the comments here or on my Facebook page.