Happy Presidents’ Day! We’ve done extensive internet research on presidential preferences in food. As a result, we now have a game plan in case any of our presidents come over for dinner.
George Washington (1789-1797) liked a savory steak and kidney pie, a common dish in his day, so we would bake him up some Deer, Beer and Bacon Buns. And since he had his own whiskey distillery, we’d pour a few fingers of quality American whiskey. It’s classic tavern food for the father of our country.
Whole books have been written about Thomas Jefferson’s (1801-1809) love of food and his contributions to gastronomy. He introduced macaroni and ice cream to the United States, began experiments with viticulture, and wanted to make the country completely self-sustainable on the food front. We would honor him with a plate of Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese.
Pancakes were favored by Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929), Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945). They might have meant fluffy breakfast pancakes, but we’d serve our Dutch Baby Pancake with Candied Bacon, which is part pancake, part custard and part soufflé.
Since Washington, Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) all liked sweet potatoes, they would surely appreciate this Pork Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Prunes.
Speaking of FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt launched “the most notorious era in the culinary history of the Presidency,” according to Laura Shapiro in this New Yorker article. Eleanor apparently valued thrift and nutrition over flavor, and it was hard to get a decent meal at the White House during Roosevelt administration.
“I am sorry to tell you that my husband and I are very bad about food,” she wrote once in answer to a query. “I do not know of any particular dish which he likes unless it is wild duck.” It was close to an outright lie: Roosevelt liked wild duck, all right, but he also liked lobster, terrapin, good beef, heavy cream, caviar, cocktails, and all the other culinary insignia of his time and class. That was his sensual and fun-loving side, which made Eleanor nervous; she didn’t intend to nourish it.
Of course, she famously served hot dogs to the King and Queen of England in 1939 – an incident sometimes referred to as the “hot dog summit.” The royals were not sure how to eat the hot dogs.
James Buchanan (1857-1861), our only bachelor president, revered all things European in food, and especially French cuisine (he had a French caterer for special White House occasions). His favorite was turtle soup, but he also relished Pennsylvania Dutch specialties like sauerbraten, succotash and red cabbage. While in D.C. he had fresh butter from Philadelphia delivered under lock and key.
Here is the menu for the James Buchanan Inaugural Ball, held on March 4, 1857:
- 400 gallons of oysters
- 60 saddles of mutton
- 4 saddles of venison
- 125 beef tongues
- 75 hams
- 500 quarts of chicken salad
- 500 quarts of jellies
- A four-foot cake
- $3,000 worth of wine
With Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), who had a hearty appetite and a taste for game meat, there would be no end of fun foods to share. We would love to introduce him to the pleasures of the burger, with our Ultimate Wild Mushroom Buffalo Burger or BBQ Pulled Wild Boar Sliders.
Our 16th president Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) was a hearty eater, according to his last bodyguard, Colonel William H. Crook, and was particularly fond of bacon. While we think of bacon today as specifically from the belly of a pig, in the mid-1800s it referred to any cut of pork that had been salted and cured. He was also fond of oysters, so we would combine the two and offer him Oysters with Bacon, Cream, and Truffled Breadcrumbs
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) also kept it simple, preferring vegetable soup and steak. We’re sure he’d chow down on this Rib Eye Steak with Greens and Root Vegetable Mash or Chile-Rubbed Ribeye Steak with Cilantro Butter.
For Texan Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969), steak reigned supreme. But he loved every type of cooking; the White House kitchen said that “he will eat anything that doesn’t bite him first.” He adored French haute cuisine, Southern cooking, German specialties, but most of all, he loved Mexican food (also the favored cuisine of George W. Bush). LBJ took entertaining from the white tablecloth to the backyard when he threw barbecues for foreign heads of state. He sounds like our kind of eater!
We could make him happy with any number of dishes, from Berkshire Oven Ribs with Sweet Bourbon BBQ Sauce or Pork Shoulder Chili Verde with Potatoes to Duck Confit Tamales. And here’s LBJ’s favorite BBQ sauce recipe, in case you want to try it.
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) really went for soups. His favorite was New England Fish Chowder, which was frequently served in the White House. He was perfectly happy with soup, a sandwich and some fruit for lunch. Though simpler in his tastes than Mrs. Kennedy, who planned elaborate French menus for state occasions, he did enjoy Poulet a l’Estragon, that is, Chicken and Tarragon.
Barack Obama loves a good hamburger, and we think our Buffalo Bleu Cheese Burger is perfect for him. We’d like to serve that with some of his beer brewed at the White House. Come to think of it, Bill Clinton (1993-2001) famously loved a burger when he was in office. So burgers all around!
Many of the founding fathers loved ice cream (quite a novelty with no refrigeration); Thomas Jefferson is responsible for the first ice cream recipe in the States. He probably kept cool on hot days in Virginia with his favorite flavor: vanilla.
George Washington, James Madison (1809-1817), and in the modern era, LBJ and Barack Obama have all confessed to a fondness for the cold stuff. But who doesn’t like ice cream? So we know what’s for dessert: Black Truffle Ice Cream.
Theodore Roosevelt loved drinking tea, so we’d be sure to include a steaming pot of black tea. And of course, a bowl of jelly beans in honor of Ronald Reagan (1981-1989).