From the Introduction:
The best parts of these journeys through time are the fabulous flavors I've rediscovered. Even though ingredients and mixing and cooking methods may be essentially the same, the flavors are not. Wonderful, unexpected tastes and textures from the recipes of the past—molasses lemon cake, apple ketchup, beef à la mode, and so many more—have surprised me time and time again. I am delighted with the dishes I've found from this adventure in the land of Lincoln: corn dodgers, almond cake, pumpkin butter, slow-cooked barbecue, and many more.
So, please, pull up a chair at my kitchen table. Its old round oak top is littered with notes; photocopies from agricultural journals, newspapers, grocery account ledgers; and stacks of old cookbooks.Herndon's Informants and biographies of Lincoln are here, too, along with my ring binder filled with pages of once neatly typed recipes now covered with penciled corrections and spatters of batter, the results of sampling and experimentation. Although this is a culinary exploration of Lincoln's life, not a cookbook, I've adapted the period techniques and recipes for cooking in today's kitchens and noted the sources. There is value in seeing the original recipes as historic documents, but I believe that value is outweighed by the enjoyment of preparing and eating foods that come as close to these culinary-heritage dishes as our stores and stoves can bring us. A biscuit made with soured milk and baking soda is a world of difference from one that pops out of a refrigerated tube. It profoundly changes the perception of what a biscuit can be.
I want readers to enjoy these foods. I've spent years figuring out how to make them from the scanty descriptions, incomplete measurements, and nonexistent instructions. In some cases, I've had to develop the recipe from just a description: you'll see "Re-created from period sources" under the titles of those dishes. For the recipes described as "Adapted from period sources," I've simply standardized the measurements to those used in today's kitchens, clarified the ingredients and put them in proper order, and written the method for preparation.
This book is organized generally as a biography following Abraham Lincoln's life from his childhood through his presidency. In some of the chapters, I describe my process for unraveling the historical clues to get to the flavors and textures. In others, I delve more deeply into Lincoln's biography and show how food brings new considerations to an understanding of his life, marriage, and time as president. All of the chapters have recipes at the end so you can undertake these explorations in your own kitchen. I promise these dishes are unlike anything we eat today. Delicious, evocative, and well worth the small efforts to prepare.
Come along. We'll see what directions food can take us as we travel to capture the flavor of Lincoln's times.