"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
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
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
gastroenteritis as the cause of death, although the factors contributing to
the gastroenteritis could not be determined.
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.
grits soufflé is still an appropriate term since grits
can be corn, oats or other grain with the husks removed (sometimes by soaking
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.
2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
2 cups cornmeal
1/8 lb butter
4 egg yolks, beaten
4 egg whites, beaten