"As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of the opportunity provided to serve self-interest when Al Gore created the internet; and we should also thank Mark Zuckerburg and Jack Dorsey for creating Facebook and Twitter out of the kindness of their big hearts and not the thinness of their small wallets."
-Ben Franklin, Autobiography (1742)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

John Witherspoon: The First Food Network Star

Everyone knows the name John Witherspoon for his claim to fame as an early ancestor of actress Reese Witherspoon. He is also slightly less known for the fact that he was the only college president to sign the Declaration of Independence. Still fewer know Witherspoon for his true passion: cooking.

A man of considerable size and considerably refined taste, John Witherspoon was widely acknowledged as the best chef in the Continental Congress. This claim is evidenced by his peerless entries in the Congressional Chili Cook-Off during 1774-1779 sessions in which he took home blue ribbons in categories for taste, hottness, and mutton to bean ratio.

Witherspoon periodically invited guests into his home to watch him cook before sharing a meal. The audience would sit around his table while Witherspoon raced around his kitchen preparing dishes with masterful precision. It was in fact during these events that he popularized the catch phrase "Another one bites the dust!" which contrary to popular belief was actually a reference to the large puff of flour that shot up when he threw a cut of meat into a mixture to prepare it for breading. 

In no uncertain terms, John Witherspoon invented the cooking show in 1758. The current stars of the Food Network, which has become one of the most widely viewed television networks in recent years have none other than a founding father to thank for their success. In honor of Chef Witherspoon, we include below one of his original recipes, to be shared in the company of friends and paired with a thick English Ale and a side of tackback:

Mulligan Stew (1766)
  1. Gather 1/2 cup each of diced onions, carrots, celery, and turnip;
  2. Quarter 4 potatoes, using a knife if one is available;
  3. Add the above to 1/8 lb salt pork, set aside.
  4. Cut 2 pounds venison, lamb, beef, or whatever creature is most available into small pieces and cook 1 hour in 1 pint of water with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ tsp. Pepper. Do not use pepper from Rhode Island.
  5. Add the salt pork and vegetable mixture and cook all together for one hour
  6. Dumplings to taste may be added last 12 minutes.
  7. Serve hot and garnish with rosemary.

"In my judgment it is not only ripe for the belly, but in danger of becoming rotten for the want of it."
John Witherspoon, debate over the readiness of a broccoli casserole, July, 1776

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