today’s menu: white house kitchens and dining rooms

~ This is the eighth (and final) in a series of posts about Presidential Food

White House State Dinner, 1888.

All this talk of Presidential Food has, of course, made me very hungry — for JFK’s fish chowder, Barack Obama’s chili, Harry S. Truman’s tuna noodle casserole, and Lincoln’s fruit salad.

But it’s also made me curious — what does the White House kitchen actually look like? Is there more than one kitchen for such a large residence? Does the First Family have their own private kitchen, in case they want a midnight snack?

I toured the White House years ago, and I remember standing in a long line at the East Wing entrance, with the tour itself lasting only about five minutes. I was disappointed, because they didn’t show the kitchen or any of the dining rooms, just a handful of public rooms on the first floor.

But recently I discovered the White House Museum! Squee!! I found it more interesting than the official virtual tours, because there are photos of how the rooms have evolved during the last 200 years, making it an invaluable resource for those interested in architecture, interior design, and the personal tastes of previous administrations.

Here’s a peek into the tastiest rooms of the White House:

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a grand adventure, part two


So, with our faces still aglow from the Dylan concert, we decided to spend Saturday doing what I’ve we’ve always wanted to do in New York.

For years I had been hearing about Books of Wonder, the oldest and largest independent children’s bookstore in the city. Years ago, I had ordered some lovely Wizard of Oz editions from them via mail order, and now I was anxious to see the store in person.

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happy thanksgiving!

"Ah! on Thanksgiving Day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South, come the pilgrim and guest,
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before —
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?"

~ from "The Pumpkin," by John Greenleaf Whittier

"As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us remember that while Americans are an independent people, we are also interdependent. Our greatest achievements are those we have accomplished together, pooling our skills, our traditions, our knowledge."
~ from The Thanksgiving Ceremony by Edward Bleier

Happy Thanksgiving to all, but especially to James, Margaret, Newton, Alison, Jared, Julia, Leo, Snickers, Aunty Inez, Lani and Chuck, Lori, Mason, Rachel, and Trinity.

Len and Jama

P.S. If you’re positively stuffed and can’t do much of anything except sit there, you might as well take this Thanksgiving Trivia quiz! For every wrong answer, eat another piece of pie and say "thank you." 🙂

just for fun

Saw this over at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Play along if you like!

Things I’ve done are in green:

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty 
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon 
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class 
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day.

I only got 47 out of 100. Lots of living to do!

gobble gobble gobble


That’s how a turkey gobbles in Portuguese. Weren’t you just dying to know that?

Well, it’s that time of year again. The only national holiday centered around food. This year, around 270 million turkeys were produced in the U.S., and roughly 90% of Americans will eat them on Thanksgiving.

Actually, that’s very cool, because Thanksgiving is an equal opportunity holiday — regardless of race, religion, age, gender, or political belief, most everyone has the same agenda: get together with family and friends, express gratitude for our many blessings, then feast till our buttons pop.

We’ll be going over to a friend’s house on Thursday, and I haven’t yet decided what to bring. The hostess said, "Surprise me."

Let’s see. What was my favorite part of all those childhood Hawai’i Thanksgivings? There was always turkey and ham, wheat bread stuffing and gravy, a large platter of Chinese noodles, sushi, one or two jello molds, mashed potatoes and rice, fresh cranberry sauce, several kinds of kimchee (won bok, cucumber, turnip), sashimi (raw fish), flaky butter rolls, some hot veggies (cauliflower or broccoli), and, of course, pies — pumpkin, apple, and pecan. Grandma refused to eat turkey, so someone would always make sure to roast her a chicken.

If you’ve read Dumpling Soup (Little, Brown, 1998), you know that the Yang family can eat. New Year’s was always at Grandma’s, but for Christmas and Thanksgiving, we had potluck at a different auntie and uncle’s house each year. Since my mother had eleven siblings, the rotation was reasonable. You’d only have to worry about having the starving masses at your house every five years or so! But with that many people to feed, Thanksgiving had to be a buffet — no white tablecloths or cornucopia centerpieces, silver flatware or crystal wine goblets.

No, in Hawai’i, we ate our Thanksgiving food on paper plates and used wooden chopsticks. We’d arrive at the host family’s doorstep just in time for a pilgrimish lunch, followed by practice naps and football, then we’d seal the deal with a nice big bowl of turkey soup for dinner. Yes, there was soup!! The hot topic of conversation was, "What should we eat for Christmas?" And even after all that feasting, chewing, lip smacking, gurgling, burping, and gossiping, there’d be plenty of leftovers for everyone to take home a good share.

That’s what my idea of Thanksgiving was, until I married a New Englander. Enter (*drum roll*), the traditional haole (white) Thanksgiving dinner: oh, the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce were the same, but stuffing was called "dressing," and in place of kimchee and sushi, there was mashed butternut squash and turnip, boiled onions, parsnips, green bean casserole, and a relish tray. Pumpkin pie often made an appearance, but didn’t seem to be as drool-worthy as mincemeat. 
And, you had to sit up straight in the presence of tablecloths, linen napkins, good flatware and crystal, wine with dinner. A far cry from my Hawai’i relatives in their shorts and aloha shirts. Still, it was about family. A feeling of coming home — college kids on break, newlyweds joining the circle for the first time, grandparents’ eyes glistening with pride as they glance over at the children’s table. 

Thanksgiving doesn’t suffer from the materialistic concerns that characterize Christmas, and that’s something to be thankful for. Its sole gift is the universal desire to be with loved ones and share a meal that’s much more than a meal. Turkey remains the main attraction, but a wide assortment of side dishes, reflecting our immigrant heritage, allows us to celebrate our diversity with the unique flavor of coming from. 

Alongside the gobbler, it’s not unusual for lasagna, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, kugel, duck, goose, or Dungeness crab to take a bow. And there are regional differences when it comes to making stuffing — corn bread, white bread, sausage, raisins, nuts, oysters, apples, or giblets?


We all have our personal favorites too — the one dish that must be there to make Thanksgiving complete. Sure, I get excited about the entire meal, especially the moist, white turkey meat drowning in an artfully prepared gravy and those candied sweet potatoes. But for me, Thanksgiving is really about the pies. I love them, and they love me right back. What other food can do that?

That settles it. Chocolate pecan on Thursday!


Your turn: What’s the one thing you absolutely have to eat on Thanksgiving? Are there any special family recipes or non-traditional sides that are always on your table? Please dish it up!!