6 Handwritten Recipes From Famous Historical Figures, Like George Washington & Rosa Parks


Sharing and preserving family recipes is one of the many ways the legacies of loved ones who have passed on are remembered.

My great-grandmother’s recipe for pineapple upside down cake is one that the women in my family pass down to the younger generations, usually along with their first cast iron skillet.

Some families have secret ingredients, while others just have traditional recipes that are made during the holidays that are passed around via a handwritten recipe card.

Famous historical figures, like many of us, also had family recipes and here are just six of them that were passed on through the generations.

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George Washington’s ‘Small Beer’ Recipe

George Washington wrote his “small beer” recipe in his 1757 military journal, and Budweiser used the handwritten instructions and secret ingredient of molasses as inspiration for their 2018 limited-edition Patriotic beer.

According to the New York Public Library, Washington’s recipe instructs brewers to let the beer “stand til it is little more than Blood warm” and later “cover it over with a Blanket.”

Thomas Jefferson’s First Ice Cream Recipe

Although Thomas Jefferson cannot be credited with introducing ice cream to the United States, he does have the first known recipe recorded in the country. Written by Jefferson himself, the recipe calls for two bottles of “good cream,” egg yolks, and sugar.

The recipe says to put the ingredients “on a fire in a casserole” and to stir it thoroughly so that the mixture doesn’t stick to the sides. After the mixture reaches boiling, the baker has to “strain it thro’ a towel” and “put it in the Sabottiere,” an old French ice cream maker.

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Emily Dickinson’s Coconut Cake

Talented poet Emily Dickinson felt the most comfortable in the kitchen “and her letters give frequent testimony to the pleasures of family conversation held there,” according to the Emily Dickinson Museum. This recipe shows Dickinson’s use of Caribbean coconut in the midst of the changing global market. Dickinson had scribbled the start of a poem on the back of the recipe.

Rosa Parks’ ‘Featherlite Pancakes’

Written on the back of a banking envelope, Rosa Parks penned this pancake recipe while money was tight for the civil rights activist and her husband in 1957. According to NPR, the recipe was written after she took her stand by refusing to give up her bus seat and lost her job because of it. Parks’ secret pancake ingredient is 1/3 cup of melted peanut butter.

Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Papa’s Favorite Wild West Burger’

Ernest Hemingway was known to spend entire paragraphs describing food in his novels. This recipe shows that he was just as particular with the food he consumed, noting on this particular piece of paper that “There is no reason why a fried hamburger has to turn out gray, greasy, paper-thin and tasteless.”

The burger recipe calls for nine different ingredients to be mixed into lean ground beef — minced garlic, green onions, India relish, capers, Spice Islands mei yen powder, soy sauce and wine — and a handwritten note adds that grated cheddar should also be added to the mixture.

Julia Child’s Pain De Mie

This recipe for a type of soft French bread called Pain de Mie comes straight from the kitchen of Julia Child. The chef’s recipe calls for cold milk and room temperature milk.

Do you have any favorite recipes that have been passed down for generations, or do you want to try one of these? Share with us in the comments below!

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith