Presidential Palates, Part 9


President Abraham Lincoln (1861 – 1865) is one of the most studied and analyzed figures in all of American history, so it’s not surprising that we know quite a lot about his food preferences and habits.  Several books have been written about Mr. Lincoln’s culinary tastes (I myself own two of them!) so it’s something of a challenge to synthesize a few interesting facts and recipes from all of this published information, but I’m going to give it a shot.

It’s said that Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln had a hard time getting him to remember to eat at all.  When she did discover foods that he truly enjoyed, she made sure that they were available whenever he wanted them.  For the most part, his food tastes were simple.  He loved fresh fruit, particularly apples.  One of his favorite meals was simply fresh fruit and nuts, cheese and crackers.

While debating Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln amused the audience with a childhood story about his mother’s gingerbread men.  Gingerbread men remained one of Lincoln’s favorite treats throughout his life.

“Once in a while my mother used to get some sorghum and ginger and make some gingerbread.  It wasn’t often, and it was our biggest treat.”  Abraham Lincoln


Gingerbread Men Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large mixing bowl.  Set aside.
  2. Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add molasses, egg and vanilla; mix well.
  3. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed.
  4. Press dough into a thick flat disk.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate four hours or overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 350° F.  Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured work surface.  Cut into gingerbread men shapes with 5-inch cookie cutter.  Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  6. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are set and just begin to brown.  Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove to wire racks; cool completely.  Decorate cooled cookies as desired.  Store cookies in airtight container up to 5 days.

Yield:  24 gingerbread men

President Lincoln had a particular passion for oysters just about any way they were served.  Oysters were served at Lincoln’s second inaugural dinner along with poultry, tarts, jellies, and terrapin stew (stew made from turtles).  An interesting footnote to that dinner is that it hilariously evolved into a food fight because there wasn’t enough food to go around!  The Washington Evening Star reported, “The floor of the supper room was soon sticky, pasty and oily with wasted confections, mashed cake, and debris of foul and meat.”  What a sight that must have been!

Other foods that Mr. Lincoln particularly enjoyed were bacon, corn cakes, and chicken fricassee with herbed biscuits.

Presidential Palates, Part 8

President Jimmy Carter (1977 – 1981) brought southern hospitality into the White House along with his taste for simple, country food.  In an interview with Oprah, President Carter describes the transition this way. “The favorite meal is country food. When we got ready to move into the White House, Rosalynn went in—one of our staff members did—and asked the cooks and so forth at the White House, ‘Do you think you can make the kind of meals that the Carters are going to enjoy?’” President Carter tells Oprah. “And their response was, ‘Yeah, we’ve been cooking that kind of meal for the servants for the last 20 years.’”

Whether a visitor hailed from south Alabama or the South of France, they were often treated to a heaping bowl of grits, baked with cheese, during visits to Carter’s White House during the breakfast hour.  Other favorites of the 39th President are cornbread and sirloin steak.

Cheese Grits Casserole

2 1/4 cups whole milk

2 1/4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup quick-cooking grits

1 (8 ounce) package processed cheese (such as Velveeta), cubed

1/2 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, cubed

1/4 cup butter

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

2 eggs, beaten


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.  Butter a 9 x 12-inch baking dish.
  2. Bring milk, water, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan; gradually sprinkle grits into the boiling liquid, stirring to combine.
  3. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir processed cheese, sharp Cheddar cheese, butter, and garlic powder into grits, stirring until cheese has melted.
  5. Let the mixture stand until cooled, about 15 minutes.  Stir beaten eggs into grits; transfer to prepared baking dish.
  6. Bake in preheated oven until the top is lightly golden brown and the grits are set, about 45 minutes.

Yield:  10 servings

I will wrap up this blog series next Friday!  Have a great weekend!

Presidential Palates, Part 7


Okay, so the final debate of this painful presidential campaign is behind us!  Finally!  Now more than ever, we need something positive in the political arena to distract us from all the negative noise.  So let’s continue with our look back at Presidential food preferences and taste quirks.


Today we’re taking a look at the food preferences of President George W. Bush (2001 -2009). Considering his love of all things Texan, it isn’t too surprising that he’s a fan of Tex-Mex fare.  According to his White House Chef, George W. Bush was fond of a Sunday meal of huevos rancheros, a Tex-Mex classic.  “On most Sundays, if the Bushes weren’t at Camp David…the President wanted the same thing for lunch:  A post-church meal of huevos rancheros.”  This dish is flavorful and simple to prepare.  Give it a try!

Huevos Rancheros

2 (10-inch) flour tortillas

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 eggs

1/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup salsa

1/2 tomato, thickly sliced

2 tablespoons sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Heat tortillas, one at a time, flipping until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a separate skillet over medium heat.  Crack eggs gently into skillet in a single layer, being careful not to break the yolks.
  3. Sprinkle Cheddar cheese over the eggs, avoiding putting too much cheese on the egg yolks.
  4. Cook until eggs are set and cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Place tortillas on serving plates; spoon 1/4 cup salsa onto the center or each.  Top each tortilla with tomato slices, a dollop of sour cream, and 2 cooked eggs.  Season with salt and pepper.

Yield:  2 servings

President G.W. Bush had a second unusual favorite food that would be interesting and fun to prepare with students.  In July 2007, the White House Chef Cristeta Comerford revealed that “for dinner, the President loves what we call home-made cheeseburger pizzas because every ingredient of a cheeseburger is on top of a Margherita pizza.  Here’s a recipe for this very unique dish!

Cheeseburger Pizza

1 can refrigerated Pillsbury™ pizza crust

1/2 pound extra-lean (at least 90%) ground beef

1 cup tomato pasta sauce

1/4 cup chopped red onion, if desired

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz.)

1/4 cup dill pickle slices


  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.  Spray or grease 12-inch pizza pan.
  2. Unroll dough on pan.  Starting at center, press out dough to edge of pan.
  3. Meanwhile, in 8-inch skillet, cook beef over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until thoroughly cooked; drain.
  4. Spread pasta sauce evenly over dough.  Top with beef, onion and cheese.
  5. Baked 12 to 18 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and cheese is bubbly.
  6. Top pizza with pickle slices.

Yield:  4 servings

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little culinary glimpse into the Bush White House.  More to follow tomorrow!