The General’s Cook by Ramin Ganeshram is a historical fiction book taking place in 1793, following Hercules, a slave as well as President George Washington’s chef. Mr. Ganeshram is a journalist, chef and food writer.
- 336 pages
- Publisher: Arcade Publishing
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1628729775
I have heard of Hercules before from reading several biographies of George Washington and visiting his home in Mt. Vernon. Even though we know little of Hercules, The General’s Cook by Ramin Ganeshram takes the little we know and expands upon it to create a rich story of early America.
The picture the author constructed of 1793 Philadelphia, where most of the story takes place, that of a bustling town where people from all walks of life interact. At that time a law stated that if a slave was in Philadelphia over six months, they would be considered free. The Washington’s sent their slaves back and forth to Mt. Vernon so the clock will start ticking again.
At a bind they’ll send them over to New Jersey, to step over the line and come back.
The slaves were aware of this law, as is our protagonist. Hercules, however, is more than just a slave, he is also a loyal servant to George Washington, both men smart enough to admire the other’s strength even though, obviously, the President certainly always has the upper hand.
I really enjoyed the author’s description of how the kitchen worked and ran. The meals that Hercules planned and prepared sounded fantastic and accurate to the time. To enhance this part of the story, the author introduces Nate and Margaret, a young slave and indentured girl, which Hercules trains.
This book is a gorgeous mix of food, history and food history. This is a fascinating book taking place in a time where the country, as well as men, where trying to find their place.
Hercules has been a property of George and Martha Washington since he was a child, his ability to cook earns him the advantages of having money, nice clothes, freedom of movement and other benefits, but not his freedom.
Hercules, however, rebels in his own way by learning how to read and having an affair with a mixed-race woman.
Zohar — Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I got this book for free.
*Amazon links point to an affiliate account