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Archive for the ‘presidential food’ Category

When is a hot dog more than just a hot dog?

When it’s served on a silver tray to the first reigning British monarchs to ever set foot on American soil!

Yes, that’s precisely what happened when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the United States in June 1939.

The King and Queen arrive at Union Station (June 8, 1939).

To celebrate this momentous occasion, Eleanor Roosevelt decided to host an all-American picnic at Top Cottage, their beautiful countryside retreat overlooking the Hudson River Valley in Hyde Park, New York.

All illustrations © 2014 Victor Juhasz

In Hot Dog!: Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic (Sleeping Bear Press, 2014), Leslie Kimmelman recounts how the indefatigable First Lady planned the picnic and why she felt it was important for both our countries. With Europe on the brink of war and the U.S. in the throes of the Great Depression, this would be a good chance for Americans to set aside their cares for awhile to welcome these special guests. Such a personal gesture of friendship would also allow Americans to see a more human, accessible side to the Royals.

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Since moving to Virginia, I’ve become quite the Presidential buff. It’s easy to do since eight Presidents were born here, and I bump into fascinating history wherever I turn.

That’s why I get excited whenever a new children’s book comes out profiling a single President, or, as in the case of Marilyn Singer’s fabulous new poetry collection, all 43 of them.

In Rutherford B., Who Was He?, Marilyn introduces our fearless leaders in chronological order via succinct, thought-provoking poems, blending critical facts, historical references and fascinating human interest tidbits.

All but eight (grouped together for spirited discourse) are featured in single poems. With just a few masterful strokes, she highlights the subject’s claim to fame and illuminates character and personality, so we can better understand the why’s and wherefore’s. She does not shy away from foibles, failings, controversy or scandal, and I love the sense of continuity from one administration to the next, giving us a broad sweep of Presidential history from Washington to Obama.

Paired with John Hendrix’s witty, exuberant caricatures and crackerjack hand-drawn typography, these verses pulse with verve and vigor — a showcase of poetic forms (a Nixon reverso!) with clever, innovative rhymes that truly bring our Presidents to life.

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Happy President’s Day!

Can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holiday than by singing the praises of Maira Kalman’s brand new picture book biography about Thomas Jefferson.

I pretty much adore everything Maira does, and I’ve been fascinated by our red-haired, violin-playing, wine-guzzling, pea-loving, Renaissance Man foodie President ever since I first visited Monticello years ago.

In Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything (Paulsen/Penguin, 2014), Ms. Kalman has accomplished the seemingly impossible, capturing the genius, complexity, contributions, contradictions, and affecting humanness of our third President in just 40 glorious pages.

Her disarming conversational narrative, peppered with just the kind of offbeat detail kids love, is fueled by a contaigious enthusiasm for her subject. She begins:

Thomas Jefferson had red hair and some freckles (about 20 I think), he grew to be very tall and oh yes, he was the third President of the United States . . .

What was he interested in?

EVERYTHING.

I mean it.

EVERYTHING.

She mentions Jefferson’s love of books, music, flora and fauna, and that he could speak seven languages. She spotlights the ingenious design of his beloved Monticello,”a Museum of his Mind” with its famed vegetable garden, citing Jefferson’s advocacy of a mostly vegetarian diet. Though he lived a good life, “full of work and love,” it was tinged with sadness: his wife Martha died young and four of their six children didn’t live to adulthood.

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She details Jefferson’s role as a Founding Father and author of the Declaration of Independence, brilliantly humanizing other illustrious figures like Franklin, Adams and Washington via singular details: Ben’s crazy great hat, John’s fiery temper, George’s false teeth. Then it’s all about Jefferson’s presidency (Louisiana Purchase, Lewis & Clark Expedition), before sensitively introducing the topic of slavery.

The man who said of slavery
“This ABOMINATION MUST END”
was the owner of about 150 slaves.

The MONUMENTAL MAN had MONUMENTAL FLAWS.

She tells it straight and true, and does not shy away from mentioning that Jefferson likely had children with Sally Hemings, and what a sad thing it was when people felt the need to hide their background by passing for white. Her despair over these painful issues and puzzlement over Jefferson’s hypocrisy are deftly conveyed in a way that respects young readers and will likely win their trust.

I love how Maira’s hand-lettering alternates with the standard font to highlight asides, personal thoughts and select facts. These words just brim with personality, keeping things from sounding too textbook-y, ultimately strengthening the intimate bond between author and reader.

Illuminated and expanded by vibrant and whimsical gouache paintings rendered in striking jewel-tones, Kalman’s account of Jefferson as President, scholar, statesman, architect, scientist, botanist, connoisseur, author, inventor, and plantation owner is recommended for readers of all ages who appreciate spirited storytelling and creative nonfiction infused with wit, wisdom, and the excitement of discovery.

Who better to tell about the man who was interested in “everything” than a writer and artist who herself is endlessly curious and so brilliant at curating the idiosyncratic ‘everythings’ she encounters in her own life?

If you want to understand this country and its people and what it means to be OPTIMISTIC and COMPLEX and Tragic and Wrong and Courageous, You Need to go to Monticello.

Walk around the house and the gardens.
The linden trees might be in bloom, filling the air with their delicious perfume.
Maybe you will lie down under a tree
and fall asleep thinking about
LIFE, Liberty and the Pursuit of EVERYTHING.

Five Big Soup Spoons for this one!

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♥ Call Me Ms. Pudding ♥

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This year, we celebrated President’s Day with a return visit to Mount Vernon and by whipping up a batch of George Washington’s favorite hoecakes.

After reading Dining with the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, 2011), I was especially anxious to check out “Hoecakes and Hospitality: Cooking with Martha Washington,” a special exhibition at the new Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, a truly fabulous place with its many galleries and theatres, interactive displays, fascinating exhibits and 700+ objects illuminating the style, taste, and personalities of the Washingtons, their life at the Estate, the presidency and the Revolutionary War.

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“I think ‘Hail to the Chief’ has a nice ring to it.” ~ John F. Kennedy

Happy President’s Day!

Hope you’re enjoying your holiday weekend.

Washington at Madame Tussaud's, Washington, D.C.

As I mentioned in my last Poetry Friday post, I have a lot of fun discovering little known facts or quirky bits and bobs about our Presidents. What I love most is learning about their food habits and preferences.

Did you know Lincoln had the smallest appetite of all the Presidents, often being happy with just an apple and cheese and crackers for dinner? (But he did love a good pecan pie.) Because of his bad teeth, Washington favored soft foods like fish, and Calvin Coolidge, a very thrifty man, reduced the amount of meat served at State Dinners because he considered it an extravagance. He preferred breakfast meetings because they were cheaper, but here’s where he wins my heart: he hosted “alphabetical breakfasts,” inviting congressmen alphabetically according to their last names. The menu, which was always the same, consisted of sausage, bacon, eggs, buckwheat pancakes, corn muffins, grapefruit, toast and coffee. Cute, no?

One of my favorite books on this subject is Sarah Hood Salomon’s Politics & Pot Roast (Bright Sky Press, 2006). It contains recipes connected to all 43 Presidents — original and favorite recipes of the Presidents and First Ladies, as well as updated adaptations of recipes from the periods they were in office. Brief anecdotes and quotes add lots of flavor and spice, perfect tidbits to impress the guests at your next dinner party. I hope to make some of these dishes during 2012 since it’s an election year and all, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, if you’re hungry for some POTUS fodder today, you may wish to check out my Presidential Food Series (I’m waving to all you new subscribers). Put on your red, white and blue bibs and enjoy!

Why not bake a cherry pie?

“They say I need to be seasoned; they say I need to be stewed. They say, ‘We need to boil all the hope out of him — like us — and then he’ll be ready.'” ~ Barack Obama

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Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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