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. Read on for some fun insights into the favorite foods of our presidents – along with some recipes.
Savory Pies for Our First POTUS
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.
Our First Foodie
Whole books have been written about Thomas Jefferson’s (1801-1809) love of food and his contributions to gastronomy. Dedicated to the pleasures of the table, Jefferson was also excited about new foods – especially those he discovered as Ambassador to France.
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.
Flipping for Pancakes
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.
Sweet Home Potatoes
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 or our easy Sheet Pan Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Onions, & Spiced Sweet Potatoes.
Hot Dogging with FDR
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 the 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.
An Inaugural Ball Menu
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
Game On with Teddy
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. Then again, maybe a simple roasted chicken is the way to his heart.
Conceived in Liberty, and Dedicated to Bacon
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.
Hail to the Beef
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) also kept it simple, preferring vegetable soup and steak. He did leave posterity his simple beef stew recipe, available at the Eisenhower Library website. We’re sure he’d happily chow down on this Grilled Ribeye Steak with Garlic Herb 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. Speaking of BBQ – that is the one truly American dish that every president loves, from the campaign trail to the White House.
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. JFK might enjoy our French lentil soup with chicken confit or corn chowder with bacon.
The All-American Burger
Barack Obama (2009 – 2017) loved a good hamburger, and we think our Buffalo Bleu Cheese Burger is perfect for him (though we do have lots of burger recipes). Come to think of it, Bill Clinton (1993-2001) famously loved a burger when he was in office – especially a jalapeno burger. Pretty much any president since the inception of the burger would enjoy one – so it’s burgers all around!
A Sweet End
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. Ronald Reagan even established July as National Ice Cream Month. 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).
Featured photo President Eisenhower manning the grill with former President Hoover on September 2, 1954, in Fraser, Colorado. (Bettmann/Getty)
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