In this remarkable culinary biography, Rae Katherine Eighmey presents Benjamin Franklin’s experimentation with food throughout his life. At age sixteen, he began dabbling in vegetarianism. In his early twenties, citing the health benefits of water over alcohol, he convinced his printing press colleagues to abandon their traditional breakfast of beer and bread for “water gruel,” a kind of porridge he enjoyed. Franklin is known for his scientific discoveries, including electricity and the lightning rod, and his curiosity and logical mind extended to the kitchen: he even conducted an electrical experiment to try to cook a turkey.
Later in life, on his diplomatic missions—he lived fifteen years in England and nine in France—Franklin ate like a local. Eighmey discovers the meals served at his London home-away-from-home and analyzes his account books from Passy, France, for tips to his diet there. Yet he also longed for American foods; his wife Deborah sent over some favorites including cranberries, which amazed the London kitchen staff. He saw food as key to the developing culture of the United States, penning two essays presenting maize as the defining grain of America. Eighmey revives and re-creates recipes from each chapter in his life. Stirring the Pot with Benjamin Franklin conveys all of Franklin’s culinary adventures, demonstrating how Franklin’s love of food shaped not only his life, but also the character of the young nation he helped build.