noshing with the presidents, or, who doesn’t like beets?

“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


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

sunday bear: theodore roosevelt

“Colonel Teddy” by Woods and Woods (mahogany plush, wire-rimmed glasses, Rough Rider khaki jacket, 1987)



Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Believe you can and you’re halfway there.

Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.

(President Theodore Roosevelt)

♥ Your Sunday Bear Hug is brought to you by Mr. Cornelius, who loves Teddy Roosevelt so much he had to share three quotes instead of just one. In honor of President’s Day, he will speak softly and carry a big cookie.



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

friday feast: the president’s stuck in the bathtub by susan katz and robert neubecker


Recently I’ve become quite the Presidential buff.

As much as I would love to impress you with an exhaustive list of critically acclaimed history books I’ve memorized while polishing the White House silver, I may as well confess my newfound obsession is all about discovering the “penchants and peccadilloes of the presidents.”

Feed me odd, quirky, funny, charming or cringe-worthy “factini” for breakfast and I’m a happy camper. (The term,”factini,” was cleverly coined by Mary Lee after posting her review at A Year of Reading.)

My appetite for fascinating factini knows no bounds. I grew up thinking our Presidents were boring white men in breeches who never smiled. Now, thanks to Susan Katz’s brand new poetry collection, I’ve discovered the naked truth: one of them (John Quincy Adams) didn’t wear breeches (or anything else) while swimming in the Potomac, several of them gave such long or confusing blabby speeches they probably didn’t have time to smile (Clinton, Harrison, Harding), and it couldn’t possibly have been the least bit boring to get stuck in a bathtub (Taft).

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honest abe is a babe: maira kalman looks at lincoln

“History makes you hungry.” ~ Maira Kalman

In her brilliant 2009 New York Times illustrated essay, the inimitable, unfailingly hungry Maira Kalman, who looks like this,

Self portrait by Maira Kalman via WMagazine

tells about how she looked deep into Abe Lincoln’s eyes and fell head over heels.

Her witty, incisive, endearing paean to our 16th President, truly a love letter to top all love letters, made me fall even more head over heels — not only for Lincoln but for Maira.

I couldn’t stop looking at it.

After all, it included Mary Todd Lincoln’s famous White Cake, Lincoln’s favorite apples, “ornamental pyramids of nougat and caramel with fancy cream candy,” veal Malakoff, visits to the Lincoln Diner and Baked Potato King, as well as other “fancy small cakes.”

I want to be Maira when I grow up.

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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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