Americans have a huge appetite this month for anything about the presidency, and the Library of Congress has cooked up its own offering – a Science Reference Guide to materials on presidential food.
Alison Kelly, a reference librarian in the Science, Technology and Business Division (ST&B) at the Library of Congress, has compiled “Presidential Food: Selected Resource Guide” for reporters, culinary historians and the interested public to use during the inauguration and early days of the new presidency. The guide can be viewed online at www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/SciRefGuides/presidentialfood.html
The eight-page guide provides reference to books, magazine articles and Internet resources chronicling the culinary history of the chief executive and his family both in and out of the White House.
While presidential food and entertaining at the White House are always of interest, Kelly has been fielding a growing number of queries relating to presidential cuisine. For instance, a recent query came from a man in Ireland who wanted a copy of the coffee pudding recipe that Mrs. Calvin Coolidge had served. The inquirer’s aged aunt had remembered the pudding from her days in Washington and he had wanted to serve it as a surprise.
A former curator of the White House was looking in vain for a recipe for a deviled-egg casserole. One was found, much to the curator’s surprise, in the James K. Polk cookbook.
The drawing of Jefferson’s “maccaroni machine” in the Library’s American Memory Collection is of perennial interest, as are his recipes for ice cream and macaroons. There are several books in the guide relating to Jefferson’s interest in culinary matters.
A number of the books and resources listed in the guide have been written by White House chefs or housekeepers, a steward of the presidential yacht and others associated with the presidents and first ladies, and include tidbits about menus, china, entertainment, weddings and holidays.
George Washington, for instance, ate codfish on Saturdays when he was the chief executive. Cook Henrietta Nesbitt knew how to stretch a dollar in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt kitchen. Turtle soup was an essential element of dining protocol in the late 19th century, as were elaborate banquets of many courses, according to Kelly and Constance Carter, head of the Science Reference Section in ST&B.
Few events, however, were as elegant as the state dinner Jacqueline Kennedy gave for the president of Pakistan on the lawn of Mt. Vernon. A flotilla of boats took the 132 guests down the Potomac so they would view Mt. Vernon as George Washington had. The evening included mint juleps – George Washington’s own recipe; a fife-and-drum corps; and a display of fireworks.
Lemon custard pie was one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite desserts. He was also partial to scalloped oysters. John Adams lunched on oat cakes and lemonade, and Chester Arthur doted on mutton chops. According to Kelly, these recipes and many other presidential favorites can be found in titles listed in “Presidential Food: Selected Resource Guide.”