Issue 4-27-14 Website - page 11

GeorgeWashington’s Strawberry Jell-O Shots
Thedaystartedoutwet andgot
wetter. Iwas bringing a bus load
of folks from LeRoy to George
Washington’sMountVernon and
as soon aswe got off the bus the
umbrellaswent up.My advice to
anyone going to Mount Vernon
– don’t go with a large group,
avoid spring break and don’t go
when it’s raining. The rain was
so heavy we couldn’t see the
As we slogged up to the
mansion, thewaterwas literallya
flowing torrent towardus.Wehad
a “hurry-up” tour of theMansion
andawalking tourof thegrounds.
Unfortunatelywe foundout later
we hadmissed the sixteen-sided
barn thatWashingtonhadbuilt for
threshingwheat. JohnSacketthad
the honor to place the memorial
wreathatWashington’s tomb.(My
eight-year-old grandson Evan
would rather call itWashington’s
. “It’s a betterword,
Beforewe had lunch, wewere
scheduled to “meet” a historic
figure fromWashington’s time.
We were sitting ready for lunch
when in walked Dr. James
Craik, (portrayed by Thomas
Plott). Craik was a close friend
of George Washington for over
forty years and was considered
Washington’s family doctor.
He was born in Scotland and
after studying medicine at the
University of Edinburgh he
served as an army surgeon in the
West Indies for theBritish. Craik
thenwent intoprivatepractice in
Norfolk, Virginia.
In 1754 he joined theVirginia
Provincial Regiment as a
surgeon andmet Lt. Col. George
Washington.The twoyoungmen
were in several battles of the
Frenchand IndianWar, including
General Edward Braddock’s
unsuccessful attempt to recapture
the region in 1755. It was Craik
who attended Braddock after he
was fatallywounded. Craik then
in actions in Virginia and
After the war, he continued
working with Washington,
accompanying him on surveying
expedi t ions. During the
RevolutionaryWar, Craik served
as an army surgeon, and cared
for Layfayette when he was
wounded. We learned from the
good doctor, that the story about
Washington cutting down the
cherry treewasa fabricatedstory,
aswas the storyaboutGeorge
the Potomac River. In fact,
he pointed out, there were
no silver dollars at that time.
Craik was one of the doctors
Washingtonwas sixty-seven.
Af t e r Dr . Cr a i k’ s
presentation, he offered to
answer any questions. Joanne
Graham piped up and asked,
“What was Washington’s
favorite Jell-O flavor?” Dr,
Craik shot back - - “If he had
lived to 1897, I’m sure his
favorite flavor would have
been like his favorite flavor
of ice cream - - - strawberry!”
I looked at Joanne and said
“How could he know that
Jell-Owas invented in1897!!
That’s such a random fact.”
Craik went on to tell us that
Washington also enjoyed
oysters, but oystersand Jell-O
probablywouldn’t be very good.
A fewminutes later Dr. Craik
brokeoutofcharacter, andJoanne
and I asked him how did he ever
know that Jell-O was invented
in 1897. He said that as a kid
growing up, his father always
told him that if you really like
it, and he really liked Jell-O and
learned that Jell-Owas invented
in 1897. He said that he really
surprised himself with being
able to pull that date up from his
memory and just hoped it was
correct. “So you didn’t know
that we were from the Jell-O
Museum?” “No,”hesaidand ifhe
waspullingour leg,hewasagood
enough actor that we believed
him. So we’re sending Thomas
Plott apackage,withastrawberry
Jell-O shirt, and a few boxes of
strawberry Jell-O, for making a
reallywet and soggy day, one to
remember. I’m also making him
a copy of the Jell-O recipe book
withWashington’s picture on the
front. Of course it shows cherry
Jell-O on the sideboard, but we
won’t dispute strawberry.
Afterall,Washingtonnever told
a lie and neither did his doctor.
I’ll probably put in a copy of
the postcardwith the Jell-O shot
recipe on it. Because after we
had lunch, we visited George
Washington’s distillery. Few
peopleknow thatWashingtonhad
the largest distillery in theUnited
States. He had stopped growing
tobacco because it depleted the
soil. He turned to wheat and
corn and built a gristmill. But
he also discovered that it was
cheaperandsafer toshipwhiskey
instead of corn. Corn could get
with age. So he built a distillery
next to his mill. At the time of
Washington’s death in 1799, the
gallonsofwhiskey.An inventory
made in 1799 also included
peach, apple and persimmon
brandy, plain whiskey and
In 1999, archeologists began
to uncover the foundation of the
original distillery, which had
burned and a few years ago, the
distillery was rebuilt and each
year several batches of
whiskeyaremadeat the
Washington Distillery.
A museum friend of
mine, Tony Shahan,
hasvolunteered the last
couple of years at the
Washington distillery,
making whiskey. It’s
hot heavy work. All
the water has to be
carried by hand and
the fires have to be
stoked regularly tokeep
the still operating. I
saw him at a museum
conference a couple of
weeks ago and he had
just returned from two
weeks at the distillery.
When our group
walked into the mill,
I discovered another museum
friend, Peter Curtis, who used to
workatPhillipsburgManoron the
HudsonRiver. WhenPhillipsburg
closed its farm demonstrations a
coupleofyearsago,Peterwent to
Mount Vernon.
Each year, the Washington
Distillery sells some of the
whiskey that it makes. This
year the whiskey will go on
sale on May 16. It will be sold
out in hours. So next year, on
Washington’s birthday, I’ll
toast the first president with a
strawberry Jell-O shot but at
$175 a bottle, I don’t think it
would be wise to make it with
Dr.JamesCraik, (portrayedbyThomas
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