Politics and potroast
A cookbook containing over 190 original and favourite recipes from 43 US presidents and their wives – with just the current administration excluded – gives a new insight into their lives through food, their kitchens and their parties.
Author Sarah Hood Salomon said she contacted every president or former president’s office to gather the recipes and scoured presidential homes and libraries to compile Politics & Pot Roast: An Unofficial, Unauthorized & Completely Unclassified Cookbook.
“Bill Clinton’s office responded right away. He personally doesn’t cook but they sent me a recipe for his favourite sandwich which is also Elvis Presley’s favourite – peanut butter and banana,” she said.
“It is a way to get to know the presidents and first ladies on a more intimate basis by giving a portrait of them in a way you would not normally see – through their taste in food, their parties, their weddings.”
Salomon, a freelance photographer, said it was fascinating how recipes could provide a glimpse into both the glamorous and austere administrations.
For example Dolly Madison, wife of James Madison, was criticised for serving such a great quantity of food but boasted back: “The profusion of my table so repugnant to foreign custom arises from the happy circumstances of abundance and prosperity in our country.”
Squirrel stew? No thanks
During time of war or economic hardship the food became simpler, reflecting changes in society.
During World War II people would give gifts of game to the White House which is when Roosevelt discovered that moose meat was delicious.
She said Nancy Reagan was a good cook and contributed several recipes including sweet potato soufflé, monkey bread and stuffed lemon dessert. Barbara Bush was also a generous contributor to the book.
Thomas Jefferson was a real gourmet who would badger chefs for recipes when he tried food he liked. He introduced gourmet items to the United States such as vanilla and baked Alaska.
But in her opinion the best White House cook was Caroline Harrison, the wife of Benjamin Harrison who compiled a book of recipes such as sausage rolls and fish chowder which were published as Statesmen’s Dishes and How to Cook Them.
The worst cook? Possibly Julia Grant, wife of Ulysses Grant, who admitted she could not cook in her memoirs.
“As a boy, President Eisenhower, ran out of food on a camping trip with friends. They caught some squirrels and made squirrel stew. I didn’t try that one out,” she said.