Today’s presidential inaugural-luncheon menu was declared “Faith in America’s Food,” by Sen. Charles E. Shumer (NY), during the opening remarks on Jan. 21, 2013. Shumer called the menu a bipartisan effort. “From the New England lobster to the heirloom vegetables, to the South Dakota bison to the wonderful New York wines, each element was carefully chosen by the tasting committee,“ said Shumer. Shumer, chairman of the luncheon, even tried his hand at making the Hudson Valley apple pie recipe that was served for dessert at the inaugural luncheon. See the video here.
If you are an history-food geek (like this writer), the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) has collected an exhaustive list of historical facts on the inauguration and the luncheon that followed the swearing in. Here are a few highlights and a list of past presidential food preferences:
- The luncheon tradition dates as far back as 1897, when the Senate Committee on Arrangements gave a luncheon for President McKinley and several other guests at the U.S. Capitol, it did not begin in its current form until 1953. That year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mrs. Eisenhower, and fifty other guests of the JCCIC dined on creamed chicken, baked ham, and potato puffs in the now-restored Old Senate Chamber.
- Today’s inaugural luncheon was scheduled to include 80 guests, but as is customary the luncheon grew to 200 people at the last minute. In the past, the luncheon size varied from thousands to a few place settings. According to the JCCIC, “In 1945, President and Mrs. Roosevelt played host to over two thousand guests in what would be the last White House post-Inaugural Luncheon. In 1949, Secretary of the Senate Leslie Biffle hosted a small lunch for President Truman in his Capitol reception room. They dined on South Carolina turkey, Smithfield Ham, potato salad, and pumpkin pie. And in 1953, the JCCIC began its current tradition of hosting a luncheon for the President, Vice President and their spouses, Senate leaders, the JCCIC members, and other invited guests.”
Here are some other presidential food facts.
Martha Washington's grandson, Custis Washington, said Washington's food preferences were simple. "He ate heartily, but was not particular in his diet, with the exception of fish, of which he was excessively fond. He partook sparingly of dessert, drank a home-made beverage, and from four to five glasses of Madeira wine"...A special passion of the President's was nuts. He would buy hazelnuts and shellbacks by the barrel.”
If there ever was a foodie president, Jefferson owns the right. He introduced many foods that are part of our American gourmet lexicon, including waffles from Holland, macaroni and cheese from Italy and ice cream from France. "Despite his fondness for French cookery, Jefferson retained his liking for sweet potatoes, turnip grees, baked shad, Virginia ham, green peas, crab and many other native delicacies...He was so fond of his Virginia sweet corn that he raised it in his Paris garden. His kitchen garden at Monticello contained a variety of vegetables including his favorite peas, of which he was familiar with more than thirty varieties,” wrote Margaret Brown Klapthor, in the The First Ladies Cook Book: Favorite Recipes of All the Presidents of the United States (1982).
During the Lincoln administration, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln planned elaborate parties with extravagant menus, while the president showed no outward preference for foods, with the exception of apples and coffee. The differences in their preferences may be from their backgrounds, Mary Todd Lincoln grew up in a comfortable, if not lavish, home, while the president grew up humbly in a frontier setting.
President Teddy Roosevelt was very opinionated about his food choices (not surprising perhaps). He likes his eggs hard boiled and rolls homemade. People close to the president said he ate heartily, his coffee cup was “More in nature to a bathtub,” and that he would could easily consume an entire chicken (his favorite food) in one sitting He favored basic foods, with the exception of exotic teas. Ku-Kwa was his favorite.
John F Kennedy
Jacques Pepin was asked to be the White House Chef’ for President Kennedy. Though he served as the chef for President Charles De Gaulle, Pepin turned him down. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy elevated the food scene in Washington by introducing French cuisine, even though her husband was not much of a foodie. President Kennedy preferred New England chowder.
President Johnson loved Fresca, so much so he had a soda machine installed in the Oval Office. His other favorites included humble foods, like canned peas, tapioca pudding and the Thanksgiving favorite, sweet potatoes topped with toasted marshmallows.
Now secretary of state, then first lady, Hillary Clinton, once said, "The good news is, my husband loves to eat and enjoys it," Hillary Clinton said. "The bad news is, he loves to eat, even when things are not always right for him." It’s no secret that President Clinton loved fast food, which he has since curbed from his diet after health problems. He also loves chicken enchiladas, bananas, apples, and vegetable beef soup.
President Barack Obama
Presidents are often forced to eat on the go. President Barack Obama has lifted many famous brands to red carpet status throughout his first presidency. He enjoys Planters Trail Mix: Nuts, Seeds and Raisins. Fran's Chocolates, Smoked Sea Salt Caramel in Milk Chocolate (Michelle Obama) prefers dark chocolate. Obama is also a fan of Black Forest Berry Honest Tea. Perhaps the most significant food contribution from this presidential couple is their commitment to healthy eating, school gardens and promoting an active lifestyle for Americans.
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