Presidential Palates: What Did Your Favorite President Like to Eat?
Some choose to judge a president by his record. We prefer to consider the food he ate.
America’s Test Kitchen host Chris Kimball tells NPR there is much to be learned from the favorite dishes of America’s commanders in chief — and their first ladies, too.
“You don’t have to read their speeches,” Kimball says. “You can eat their food. … You can also tell something about the time, their era, ’cause very often the recipes are very much part of that historic period.”
That food would include George Washington’s fondness for crab soup made by Martha, the Obamas’ macaroni and cheese that uses a puréed cooked cauliflower sauce — and everything in between. We’re talking about the the donuts favored by Bill Clinton, Kennedy’s love of lobster stew (although, Kimball notes, JFK didn’t eat the lobster — he just drank the broth), and a crab meat and artichoke casserole from Nancy Reagan, NPR notes.
Dolly Madison’s layer cake with caramel icing showed she was quite the cook, as her 1809 recipe was made before the convenience of chemical leaveners. And Bess Truman’s Ozark Pudding, a sweet pudding-like cake, included apples and walnuts — plain but tasty, Kimball adds.
“That was Harry Truman,” he tells NPR. “That was his charm. You know, by the way, they invented one of the great culinary aphorisms, which was: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
We knew we liked that guy.
Another Kimball fave: the non-alcoholic punch made using a pulped pineapple, boiled lemon rind, lemon juice and sugar served up by Warren and Florence Harding during the Prohibition era.
“It was not acceptable for women to be drinking alcohol in public, so they invented these non-alcoholic punches,” he tells NPR of the drink called “a squall.” “My guess is more than one lady snuck a little gin into their squall.”
So, will Ann Romney’s recipe for Welsh Skillet Cakes (currant scones) make it into the history of presidential food faves? We’ll find out in November. But in the mean time, maybe we’ll try dining on donuts, layer cake, lobster stew and pineapple punch. The presidential diet gets our vote!
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