Have you ever wondered what Abraham Lincoln ate in his day? Lincoln wasn’t known to be much of a foodie—he had simple taste in cuisine and often skipped meals altogether. However, there are a few unique dishes that he’s rumored to have enjoyed, so we decided to recreate two of them to get a glimpse into Lincoln’s life.* Download our printable recipe cards to try your hand at these recipes at home!
*We made minor adjustments to the original recipes to ensure they would be appealing to modern tastes.
This simple, satisfying food is essentially a savory cornmeal patty that can be fried or baked. As a boy, Lincoln was known to snack on corn dodgers while working on the family farm, as noted by his relative Dennis Hanks in Eleanor Atkinson’s The Boyhood of Lincoln.
“Seems to me now I never seen Abe after he was twelve ‘at he didn’t have a book some’ers ’round. He’d put a book inside his shirt an’ fill his pants pockets with corn dodgers, an’ go off to plow or hoe. When noon came he’d set downunder a tree, an’ read an’ eat.”
We adapted our recipe from one in Sesqui-Samplings: 150 Years of Cooking in Indianapolis, as Indianapolis would have been only about 150 miles from Lincoln’s boyhood home.
Mary Todd Lincoln’s white almond cake
Mary Todd Lincoln is said to have been an avid baker, and her white almond cake was known to be one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite desserts. Many versions of her recipe exist, and there’s no consensus among historians as to which is most accurate; some claim the cake was topped with powdered sugar, while others describe a white icing with candied cherries and pineapple. Regardless, this dense, velvety cake must have been quite labor intensive for Mary without modern conveniences. We adapted our version from recipes from the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and Fiona Young-Brown’s A Culinary History of Kentucky.
Interested in more historic recipes in our collections? See the resources below.
Select IHLC resources:
Cook Book, Early 20th Century (MS 039)
See the recreated apple pandowdy recipe from Bevier Cafe: https://storied.illinois.edu/recreating-apple-pandowdy/
“Mary and the Boys.” Lincoln Home National Historic Site Virtual Museum Exhibit. National Parks Service Museum Management Program. Accessed June 23, 2020. https://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/liho/mary.html.