I have always been a huge history buff and when I found out I was going to the historical Mount Vernon in Virginia, I was super stoked. I had never been and I was so excited to learn all about the life of George Washington, his family and his legacy. To add to my excitement, I was told I would be learning all about the rich heritage of chocolate in America. In my opinion, George Washington was the finest president these United States have ever seen. Add to it that he was a huge lover of chocolate (he was known to order 50 pounds at a time, which would last for 3 months), and he has my heart!
Mount Vernon is a breathtaking estate which rests on 500 acres, which is a fraction of the thousands of acres the family originally owned. With over one million visitors annually, the property is a feast for the eyes, the mind and the soul. In 1853, the mansion was in disrepair and Ann Pamela Cunningham decided to take matters into her own hands and raise money for the restoration. Since that time, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association has raised 1/4 of a billions dollars to restore the main building, the surrounding structures, and the grounds. I was awed by the breathtaking view of the Potomac River from the porch, which had slimmer columns so as not to obstruct the view of the famous body of water.
I found it interesting that the foundation who runs Mount Vernon is constantly striving to make this magical place as authentic as possible. With this in mind, we found out Mount Vernon was not white anymore! Crazy right?! It was found the original facade was stone, not wood, so a process called rustication was performed. The long pine boards are grooved and beveled to look like masonry. Next, the boards are varnished, painted and a fine sand is thrown on the paint, giving it the appearance of stone, which is a yellowish color! Currently, Mount Vernon is looking at over 10,000 letters written by George Washington and looking for the original kitchen, believed to have burned down.
We were given a private tour of the property and I must tell you, there is so much to see, learn and do, you must plan to spend the entire day. We saw the area where the slaves lived and learned G.W. taught some of his slaves the trade of being a blacksmith. This was unusual for a slave owner to do in that time period. We also saw the stables where this carriage, which G.W. traveled in, is still on the grounds.
George Washington was a farmer by trade and was known to say, “Making the land productive is the noblest calling of mankind.” George lived at Mount Vernon for 40 years, with Martha and her two children, Patsy and Jackie. When George passed away, Martha closed off their gorgeous bedroom and slept in a guest room until she joined him.
The parlor is absolutely glorious with its yellow pine, which is found throughout the house except for the grand staircase, which is walnut. This is the room George would invite his guests to join him in lively debates and conversations. Oh the wise words which have rung off those wonderful green walls!
As I said, George was a farmer, so it is no surprise the gardens are absolutely amazing. There is even a compost area, so G.W. was planet friendly before it was cool to do so!
One very exciting event took place while we were visiting Mount Vernon. The First Virginia Regiment was re-enacting on the property and we were privy to a very exciting demonstration. Man those guns were loud! Thanks to This Mama Loves for sharing her video of these cool dudes.
So, now how about if we talk chocolate, OK? I am a girl who loves chocolate, so this was such a fun event to be part of. Now, George and Martha were not coffee drinkers and of course tea was off limits, so they had a chocolate drink with their hoecakes for breakfast. This drink was very strong and Martha was known to have as many as 3 in a morning. I bet she got a lot accomplished with all that energy!
American Heritage Chocolate, our wonderful sponsors for this event, had a booth at the Colonial Market and Fair, which took place on Saturday and Sunday. We learned all about chocolate, how it was made, what it was used in and we even got to work with the tools the folks in G.W.’s time would have used.
The beans are taken from the pods, which are fermented on banana leaves and when it dries, becomes cocoa. Next it is roasted and then broken down by grinding on the Metate, which is made of lava stone. The heat source underneath, melts the chocolate, which is very bitter. You would find many different spices added to the chocolate like cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and even chili to change that bitter taste! G.W. bought his chocolate in a cone, which would be cut off by a metal “nipper”.
The blocks of chocolate would be shaved on a grater and would then be placed in hot water to make the chocolate drink. It was said a women’s status in the community was measured by the froth they could whip with the wooden “molinillo”. I was even given the chance to melt a little chocolate of my own and then taste the chocolate drink as George, Martha and their guests would drink it. It is very strong and rich, like a chocolaty espresso!
I had such a wonderful time learning all about the history of chocolate with the wonderful staff from American Heritage Chocolate. Check out more tweets about the @Choc_History event at #americanheritagechocolate. Make sure to follow American Heritage on their social media channels to follow along the bloggers on their journey to discover America’s chocolate history on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and American Heritage blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.