President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963 – 1969) is famous for what became known as “Barbecue Diplomacy” for his habit of hosting outdoor gatherings for politicians, constituents, and donors at his ranch near Johnson City, Texas. Johnson was the first president to host a cookout on the West Terrace of the White House.
The food for most of LBJ’s barbecues was prepared by Walter Jetton. Jetton ran a popular catering company out of Ft. Worth, just a few hours from the LBJ Ranch. Jetton usually dressed in a Stetson hat, creased white shirt, and string tie, and he billed himself as the “Barbecue King.” He often had a while headless cow rotating on a spit beside a smoldering log fire. That must have been quite a sight on the manicured lawn of the White House.
A native Texan, LBJ insisted that the portions served at his Texas-style barbecues be big! In addition to barbecued beef dripping with Jetton’s special barbecue sauce, the menu at these events often included huge heaps of black-eyed peas and tapioca pudding.
Walter Jetton’s Barbecue Sauce
1 cup tomato ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons chopped onion
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
- Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer about 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat and strain.
Yield: About 2 1/2 cups sauce.
Of this recipe, Jetton wrote, “This is the secret of the ages I am giving you here, and I would not be surprised if wars have been fought over less. Use this as a plate or table sauce with beef, chicken, pork, or almost anything else. Don’t cook things in it.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953 – 1961) not only loved eating Beef Stew, he loved preparing it as well. “Beef soup was one of his specialties, and he would leave the soup simmering on the stove in the kitchen for hours, causing much mouth-watering among the (White House) kitchen staff.” In 1955, the Associated Press printed the recipe for Ike’s favorite beef stew, which his wife, Mamie, originally shared with the North Dakota Cow-Belles, an auxiliary of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association. “The Cow-Belles were a bit taken aback at first because the recipe was for 60 portions,” the AP reported.
This recipe for Beef Stew is a little more classroom-friendly than Ike’s version.
Quick and Easy Beef Stew
2 pounds boneless beef sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 package McCormick’s Beef Stew Seasoning Mix
3 cups water
5 cups frozen vegetables for stew
- Dredge beef with flour.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add 1/2 of the beef; brown on all sides.
- Repeat with remaining beef, adding remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Return all beef to skillet.
- Stir in seasoning mix and water.
- Add vegetables; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Yield: 8 (1-cup) servings