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Monday, February 20, 2012

Foodies in Chief

In honor of President's Day, I thought I'd do a little research about the relationship of our Commanders in Chief and food.  Some are obvious--Reagan liked jellybeans, Bush the Elder didn't like broccoli, Jefferson liked gourmet food and Taft liked pretty much anything that was put in front of him.  But there is a lot that you don't know about.

I'll just give a few interesting tidbits, but if you want to read more--much more--click here.

I'll follow the lead of car companies and other retailers that have "President's Week" sales and spread my history lesson over a few days.  So here they are starting with Numero Uno.
"I'm in the mood for hot wings. 
How 'bout you guys?"
  • Washington--George and Martha enjoyed simple meals--like many people of the time.  Their home, Mount Vernon, was completely self-sufficient in raising and growing food for the family.  He saw himself as a farmer above all.
  • J. Adams--Adams spent a lot of time abroad and developed a taste of fine food from living in England and France.  At home, however, simple New England fare was the norm.
  • Jefferson--Of all of our presidents, TJeff (as his friends would call him these days) was our biggest foodie.  He had a very adventurous palate--much of it developed from his traveling abroad.  He loved French cuisine especially, but was also a fan of traditional Southern cooking, among others.  At his home, Monticello, he raised a huge amount of fruits and vegetables and had one of the first successful wineries in the new country.
  • Madison--Not much is known about Madison's tastes, but his wife, Dolley, was known as the Hostest with the Mostest during their time in the White House with lavish dinner parties consisting of Virginian and French foods.
  • Monroe--It was said that Monroe "loved" food, but not much else has been recorded.  He was partial to French cuisine from his days spent in France.
  • J. Q. Adams--Simply said, the son of our 2nd president had little interest in food.
  • Jackson--Andy loved foods--all types and cuisines.  Some of his favorites: spiced round of tenderloin with mini biscuits, roasted lamb with rosemary, French-style rabbit, "Old Britches" (green beans cooked with bacon), duck, goose, "Old Hickory" nut soup.
  • Van Buren--Marty was known as a foodie, second only to Jefferson to this point.  He demanded a perfectly set table for his meals.  He also avoided sweets, eating fruit for desserts.
  • Harrison--He was only president for about a month, so there isn't much recorded about his culinary likes and dislikes, but it was said that he did enjoy good food.  And he was also very fond of hard cider.
  • Tyler--Married twice, Tyler had 14 children (7 from each marriage), so it was said that desserts were very popular in his household.  State dinners during the second half of his administration were elaborate and full of all sorts of foods.
  • Polk--Plain eating was the name of the game for James K.  Ham and corn pone (a sort of skillet cornbread) were staples for him.  When he really wanted to get crazy, he went with a tomato omelet.
  • Taylor--Zach was said to have been partial to the spicy and complex tastes of Creole cooking.  But he also made it known that plain food was fine, too.  As long as it was prepared well.
  • Fillmore--Millard made culinary presidential history by installing the first iron cookstove in the White House (previous to this, cooking was done in a colonial era "walk-in" fireplace).  But Fillmore wasn't much of a foodie.  He preferred plain farm food--meat/potatoes/veg. 
More tomorrow--Franklin through Woodrow.

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