July 07
Anniversary of the Death of Zachary Taylor

"Old Zach" as he was affectionately called by his troops was another in a long line of military leaders whose popularity propelled them to the presidency. Taylor was was best known as the hero of the Mexican War in which he destroyed Mexican President Santa Anna's army of 20,000 men with his 5000 American troops at the battle of Buena Vista. Taylor's popularity was due in part to his complete lack of pretentiousness. While commanding his troops he seldom wore a uniform, preferring old, comfortable clothes. One of Taylor's officers once described him as wearing "and old oil cap, a dusty green coat, a frightful pair of trousers and on horseback he looks like a toad."

Although a Southern slaveholder,. Taylor opposed who opposed the spread of slavery to the territories, He was recruited by the Whig Party as their nominee in the 1848 presidential election. In the election Taylor defeated the Democratic nominee, became the first U.S. president never to hold any prior office

Old Zach's" wife Margaret, refused to move to the White House because she didn't want to put up with the hectic pace of the presidency. Margaret simply stayed at home in Louisiana where she could smoke her pipe and weave rugs, leaving their daughter Betty to assume to the role of White House hostess.

Margaret prophetically predicted that the presidency would kill Zach. While attending a Fourth of July celebration at the Washington Monument, Zach ate some sour milk and cherries  which
apparently contributed to severe gastroenteritis from which he died two days later.Because of rumors of possible poisoning since his death, Taylor's body was finally exhumed in 1991, and an autopsy was conducted that ruled out deliberate poisoning and the examiners postulated severe gastroenteritis as the cause of death, although the factors contributing to the gastroenteritis could not be determined.


Major Zachary Taylor during the Mexican War

Each Presidency has a different style and that style is generally reflected in the First Family's interest in food. While ther have been many presidencies that have had a rural influence of White House cooking, Betty Taylor's idea of haute cuisine was possum stew. Boiled grits were served with nearly every meal. The only concession was that at state dinners the grits were translated into grits soufflé, which,  when made with cornmeal instead of hominy, is simply fancy cornbread.
 However,  grits soufflé is still an appropriate term since grits can be corn, oats or other grain with the husks removed (sometimes by soaking them in lye) and coarsely ground. Hominy are corn grits. Cornmeal is a finer grind the hominy grits.

Old Zach has been a character in many films. But the grittiest one is
One Man's Hero (1999) in which he is portrayed by  the always rugged James Gammon.

Zachary Taylor's Grits Soufflé



2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
2 cups cornmeal

1/8 lb butter
4 egg yolks, beaten
4 egg whites, beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.

  2. Heat milk. Add salt and cornmeal. Stir constantly. Cook until thick. Remove from fire.

  3. Add butter and beaten egg yolks and beat for another minute. . Fold in beaten egg whites. Put into buttered baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes.

  4. Serve with with butter and maple syrup .


© 2010 Gordon Nary