Founding Fathers on Food – John Adams


As we get set to celebrate Independence Day let’s ponder the question: 225px-Johnadamsvp_flippedWhat did the Founding Fathers eat? Let’s begin with John Adams. After reading David McCollough’s biography Adams became one of my favorites. Perhaps you watched the movie on HBO? When it comes to food John Adams is a man after my own heart.

I certainly never met a diet fad I didn’t at least investigate. And in his day Adams was accused of being a “food faddist” as well.  According to Dr. Zebra’s extensive research, at one point, Adams was on a then trendy eating plan called the “milk diet.” He avoided meats, spices and spirits and ate bread, milk, veggies and water on the diet.

Sometimes Adams would even purge himself by “taking a vomit” of tartar emtic and turpeth mineral. Ah, tartar emtic, good stuff. Anyway, Adams said the purge “worked seven times and wrecked me.” Which totally could be me when I do the Cabbage Soup Diet.

It is not a new phenomenon to pursue happiness through the right diet. Without Adams’ intellect, perseverance and character our great nation may not exist. But amid things like, oh, founding the Navy he also struggled with diet and health.  We can all relate to his struggle. (I mean his struggle with food is relatable. I can’t begin to understand the quality of person who can invent a country. The dieting I get.)

It wasn’t all diets and vomit. “The Atlas of Independence” liked spirits and in fact since alcoholic beverages were safer to drink than water and could be stored “tippling” was fairly common to the founders.

During the Revolutionary War in May of 1777 the sea lanes were constrained. Adams was in Philadelphia and couldn’t get his favorite drink which is believed to be Madeira wine.  He wrote these lines to his beloved wife Abigail:

“I would give three guineas for a barrel of your cyder. Not one drop of it to be had here for gold, and wine is not to be had under sixty-eight dollars per gallon, and that very bad. I would give a guinea for a barrel of your beer. A small beer here is wretchedly bad. In short, I am getting nothing that I can drink, and I believe I shall be sick from this cause alone. Rum is forty shillings a gallon, and bad water will never do in this hot climate in summer where acid liquors are necessary against infection.”

John Adams lived to be 90 and died on July 4th, 1826.  Pretty good evidence that Madeira wine is good for the Constitution.


15 Responses to “Founding Fathers on Food – John Adams”
  1. Michelle says:

    wow, he died on independence day. what a trip. i guess diets have been around as long as man kind. i wonder if cave men went on diets?

  2. MizFit says:



  3. Kiki says:

    Miz Fit – sounds pretty eh?

  4. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on that same 4th…and Jefferson loved his wine, too. I’m definitely seeing a pattern…off to the hootch store.

  5. furiousball says:

    funny you should mention JA, the DVDs of the series just arrived for me at the library


  6. noble pig says:

    I’m glad I live NOW!

  7. I’m using that. “I took a vomit.” it only works if you say it with an british accent.

    i get sick if i dont have my rum, too. some people call that alcoholism, but now I know its just patriotic.

  8. I just discovered your website this morning and I am obsessed. I am hooked. I am a fanatic. Thank god it is the day before July Fourth (otherwise known as Get Away with Blogsurfing at Work without Feeling Guilty Day.

    Thank you!!

    Have a wonderful holiday!

  9. Mama Zen says:

    I’ll drink to that!

  10. Kiki says:

    Mental P you get a gold star!
    furious – I’m your librarian. You just don’t know it.
    noble – we’re glad you live now too.
    Every Gym’s – awe yeah…you’re one of us now!
    Sweets and Sweats – awe shucks.. you make us blush.. welcome and please do come on back ya hear?
    Mama Zen – next round’s on me

  11. John Adams has just validated my wine consumption!

    (P. S. I’m back after a slight computer disaster….gotta go catch up now!)

  12. Kelley says:

    Taking a vomit? With ‘tartar emtic and turpeth mineral’ didn’t he own a toothbrush? All the models are doing it, and so much easier to pack.

  13. Kel says:

    I live in close proximity to Philadelphia, and I sure
    am glad I can readily get those “acid liquors”. Happy

  14. Greta says:

    See, now I’m still stuck on him saying wine was $68 per gallon. Seriously? That seems pricey for 1776. I get that he didn’t mean an the US dollar ‘cuz…well…obviously. I just wondered what the US price of a gallon of wine is now. Couldn’t find it exactly, but this was pretty cool.

    $1,500+/gallon for blood! Sheesh. Next time I cut myself shaving, I’m selling it on the corner like lemonade.