This is a good one.
Hilarious, even, in its way.
On Feb 22 I learned something new about the Father of our country. I studied American history for a semester in college under Joseph P. Ellis, a well-known and basically eminently regarded historian of the Colonial era and the Founding Fathers in particular. (And can report happily that I received an A with extra commendation), and I’ve read a fair amount about George Washington, yet I hadn’t come across this fact I’m sharing in this post. I rather think it sheds some light on Washington’s famously laconic nature.
Feb 22 was, of course, Washington’s birthday (or did you not notice the four-day extravaganza of this year’s President’s Day Weekend Vacation?!?). So a radio show I listen to every morning at 9am, The Writer’s Almanac, hosted by Garrison Kiellor, contained the historical factoid in question. (This radio “show” is a six-minute segment aired daily in which Keillor reads literarily oriented facts relevant to the day, closing with a poem.)
He usually reads in his inimitible and rather slow manner. But this past Wed he led with the bit about Washington and read it very quickly, which caught my ear before he got past the first four words. Here’s what he said*:
“Today is the birthday of George Washington, born in Westmoreland County, Virginia (1732). His favorite foods were mashed sweet potatoes with coconut, string beans with mushrooms, cream of peanut soup, salt cod, and pineapples. He lost all of his teeth except for one by — according to second president John Adams — cracking Brazilian nuts between his jaws. He got dentures made out of a hippopotamus tusk and was constantly in pain. He used opium to alleviate the pain.”
Oh. Well opium is sure easy to use just occasionally. Unless it’s, umm, NOT.
* What was broadcast differed a teensy bit from the transcript that appears on their site, for the rigorously fact-checkity among us. :-)