Monday, February 18, 2008

Presidents' Day

I use no porter or cheese in my family, but such as is Made in America
-George Washington-
Politics & Pot Roast ©2006
Politics & Pot Roast ©2006

"What first I want is daily bread,
And canvas backs and wine;
And all the realms of nature's spreads
before me when I dine.
Four courses scarcely can provide
My apetite to quell,
With four choice cooks from France beside,
To dress my dinner well."
-John Quincy Adams-

Let's celebrate Presidents' Day! I recently discovered The White House Cookbook online by Mrs. F. L. Gillette and Hugo Ziemann. Now mind you, I have at least three editions of The White House Cookbook, one edition of The White House Cookbook from 1967 and a copy of The Presidential Cookbook.

Presidential Cookbook 1896
Presidential Cookbook ©1896

However, discovering The White House Cookbook at Project Gutenberg, I was ALMOST as excited as when I found the first White House Cookbook to add to my personal cookbook collection!

I discovered mine in a pile of old newspapers at a yard sale many years ago. The cover was off and the book had been frugally rescued by someone who crafted a binding and cover out of...you guessed it old newspapers. I snatched it, and the huge pile of newspapers, up for $1.00. To this day, I can still feel the exhilaration when I think about the day I found that pile. My mind began to race. There could have been teeny scraps of paper revealing the truth behind the rumor, Eisenhower's favorite food was prune whip. Perhaps, I could get my hands on the recipes that James Buchanan favored when he gave sauerkraut and mashed potato parties. I could hardly control myself. And Cleveland, what about Grover Cleveland? Corned Beef and Cabbage for him? I just had to take the chance. It was racing through my mind; presidential food; FDR's recipe for fried cornmeal mush could have been layered in there, Andrew Jackson's turkey hash recipe may have revealed itself tucked between those pages. There could have been a sheets filled with presidential food trivia just longing to be discovered. Maybe I could find out for sure whether Franklin Delano Roosevelt really served hotdogs to King George VI or if it was true that Ulysses S. Grant had cucumbers soaked in vinegar for breakfast every morning.

Etiquetter Rules for State Dinners | Politics & Pot Roast

I already knew that Lincoln favored oysters, but somewhere in the bottom of that pile, I could have found a genuine recipe for Old Fashioned Pepper Pot Soup. They say, that George Washington was a devout beer lover. Can you imagine what it would feel like to discover Washington's beer recipe in that pile? My mind's eye was widened at the thought of finding anything related to Thomas Jefferson my most treasured culinary presidential hero. Any shred of Jefferson's likes or dislikes related to food would have sent me in a whirl! Why? Perhaps, it is because Jefferson was a very descriptive note maker and kept an extremely informative diary. He was significant in many introductions to American foodways and was probably criticized by most of his peers. Thomas Jefferson hired the first French chef for the kitchens of The White House. His name was Lemaire. An admitted Epicurean, Jefferson loved boned anchovies, imported Dijon mustard and Madeira by the gallons. As an avid garden, and thank goodness a preserved memory recorder, we know that he grew endive, onions, broccoli, and kale. If he wasn't serving french fries to guests for dinner in Monticello, he was probably fooling around with pasta. Thomas Jefferson spent almost 8 years in France. While he was there, he kept notes on different dishes he sampled, especially the ones he enjoyed. He introduced us to vanilla, and even brought back a recipe for ice cream which eventually would be incorporated into Baked Alaska. He brought a French chef to the White House and often asked political colleagues from other countries to bring various foods with them to America. Yes indeed, Jefferson notes would certainly cause quite a charge for me. Sadly, there was nothing more in that pile of newspapers except for that early edition of The White House Cookbook.

I wasn't really disappointed though as that sensational find always reminds me to dig deep when I come across a pile of anything relating to cookbooks!

Leaves FromThe Table of George and Martha Washibgton ©1948

I managed to find a few Presidential recipes to share with you today. I can't remember what book the recipe for Jefferson's Rum Omelet came from but, I can say it's good! (minus the salt:) The promotional cookbook pictured is titled Leaves From The Table of George and Martha Washington. It is a revised edition of an heirloom recipe book by Martha Custis Washington. This revised 1948 edition put out by Taylor Wine has a few of the original scripted recipes and Taylor Wine adaptations. The original recipes are classic recipes of Colonial Virginia. Unfortunately, my scanner is on the brink, so I couldn't get a good picture but when I fix the scanner, I will include a scan of one of the originals with a post of the adaptation. In the meanwhile, enjoy Jefferson's Omelet and one of John Tyler's favorite dishes, Tyler Pudding from Star Spangled Recipes compiled in 1968.

Editor's Note: February 19, 2008-Scanner up and running. As promised, a recipe for French Fritters from Leaves From The Table of George & Martha Washington original and adapted recipe below.

French Fritters
Jefferson's Rum Omelet
6 eggs beaten2 tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. salt2 tbs. confectioner's sugar
3 tbs. sugar4 tbs. apricot preserves
4 tbs. rum
Add salt, sugar and 2tbs. of rum to beaten eggs. Beat again until fluffy. Heat butter in omelet pan, pour in egg mixture, cook until firm, lifting up from sides. When firm throughout, but still a little moist, fold over, slip onto warm platter. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Make a sauce of remaining rum and preserves. Pour over omelet.

According to legend and not necessarily facts, Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), 7th President of the United States, who was an American General at the time, called his cook over to tell him what to prepare. The cook had been drinking "moonshine" corn whiskey the night before and his eyes were as red as fire. General Jackson told the cook to bring him some country ham with gravy as red as his eyes. Some men nearby heard the general and from then on, ham gravy became "Red Eye Gravy." source & recipe

Tyler Pudding
1/4 c. butter
2-1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 fresh grated coconut
pastry for 2 9 inch pies
Cream butter and half of the sugar well. Beat eggs well and gradually add the remaining sugar, beating constantly. Add salt. Mix in cream well and add vanilla. Stir in coconut and pour into partially baked pie shell. Bake in low (300 degree) oven for about 20 minutes until set. If you like lightly toasted coconut, reserve some of the cocnut from the pie and sprinkle it on the top. If it is not browned sufficiently when the custard is set, run it under the broiler a few minutes with thhe oven door open.
Lincoln's Favorite Cake
Mary Todd, before her marriage to Abraham Lincoln, is said to have made this cake for him, and the verdict was-- "the best in Kentucky"
3 c. sifted all purpose flour
3 tsps. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsps. vanilla
1 c. sugar
1 c. milk
7oz. finely chopped almonds
1 c. butter
6 egg whites
1/4 tsp. almond extract
  1. Grease bottom only of a 10 inch tube pan. Line with waxed paper. Set aside.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
  3. Cream butter with extracts. Add 1 cup sugar gradually, creaming until fluffy.
  4. Beating only until smooth after each addition, alternately add dry ingredients in fourths and milk in thirds to the creamed mixture. Stir in the almonds.
  5. Beat egg whites until frothy; add 1 cup sugar gradually, beating well. Continue beating until stiff peaks are formed. Gently fold meringue into batter just until well blended. Turn batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees about 1 hour, or until cakes tests done.
  7. Remove from pan; cool completely.
  8. Frost with Fluffy White Frosting. Decorate with finely cut candied cherries. Makes one 10 inch tubed cake.
Fluffy White Frosting
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
few grains of salt
1/3 c. water
1 egg white
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine all ingredients except extract in top of double boiler. Set over boiling water and beat with hand rotary or electric beater 8 minutes, or until soft peaks are formed when beater is lifted upright. Remove from water and add extract; beat 1 minute.
The American Family Cookbook revised by the staff of the Culinary Arts Institute. (1974)
The James K. Polk Cookbook ©1978

Another wonderful cookbook I would like to share with you for Presidents' Day is The James K. Polk Cookbook published by The James K. Polk memorial Auxiliary, Tennessee, copyright 1978. I tried to take an unglaring picture so you could see the cover. I hope it worked.

The fruit basket from the Polk state china is the centerpiece for a table setting using dessert plate, sliver, and port glass. (All pieces are part of the museum collection. The silver which is engraved on the back is turned down in the traditional manner. One of Mrs. Polk's fans is shown to the left of the plate

As I polk along through this book, I realize I probably should have dug deeper into the information available in it more than I now have time for. I am going to note James Knox Polk's birthdate in November and include more information about him and Mrs. Polk then. For now, I leave you with this:

When President and Mrs. James Knox Polk entered into the White House in 1845, the public seemed ready to accept a less extravagant style of entertaining after some of the excesses their predecessors, President and Mrs. John Tyler. Sarah Childress Polk was credited with doing less entertaining than ever been done before and with frowning upon fun, specifically "dancing, card playing and wine drinking as time unprofitably spent."

1. The White House Cookbook Online!
2. Trout Steaks with Wine & Rosemary (Martha Custis Washington)
3. Abraham Lincoln's Bicentennial Celebration Recipes (2009)


  1. I've been celebrating Presidents' Day as well, and at the 11th hour was considering the Mary Todd Lincoln Cake that you present. I had quite a struggle with another Lincoln Cake! I have done a Presidents' Day lunch for a couple of years, but we were saying today that next year it might be a brunch - how wonderful would it be to serve Jefferson's Rum Omlette?

  2. T. W.
    Right at this moment, I couldn't think of a better idea for a Presidents' Day Brunch except perhaps, for Jefferson himself to attend:) Enjoy!


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