- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2005

President Bush knows what he’ll be doing Jan. 20. So do marching bands from around the country and folks with tickets to the inaugural balls in Washington. As for most of the rest of us, a presidential inauguration is just a day of televised pomp that takes place every four years. But shouldn’t it be more? Whomever we voted for, it’s an occasion to mark an important event in our shared history.

A tasty way to celebrate inauguration day as a special moment in the democratic process is to serve some of the favorite foods of U.S. presidents. If you are drawing a blank as to the favorite nibbles of Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Pierce or Dwight Eisenhower, you are not alone.

There wasn’t much information collected and organized until Glen Echo resident Sarah Hood Salomon spent a year researching favorite recipes of the nation’s 43 presidents and presidential families. In time for the inauguration, Miss Salomon has self-published a cookbook called “Politics & Pot Roast: A Flavorful Look at the Presidency.”

She calls it “an unofficial, unauthorized and completely unclassified cookbook” featuring recipes from the nation’s first families. Throughout are presidential anecdotes and trivia, including some related to inauguration festivities:

• Because Andrew Jackson was nicknamed “Old Hickory,” women wore hickory-nut necklaces the day he was inaugurated.

• An inaugural ball for William Henry Harrison featured a poundcake in the shape of the Capitol. The cake was 9 feet tall and 9 feet wide and weighed 800 pounds.

• After his inauguration, Franklin Pierce received visitors until past midnight. When he finally retired to his bedroom, things were in such disarray that he had to search for a mattress to sleep on.

• The night of Ulysses S. Grant’s second inaugural ball was so bitterly cold that guests danced with their coats on and the food froze.

• At James A. Garfield’s inaugural reception, the food included 1,500 pounds of turkey and 200 gallons of chicken salad.

• During Ronald Reagan’s inaugural parties, more than 40 million jellybeans were eaten.

The idea for the presidential cookbook came about, Miss Salomon says, “after I offered to host a dinner for some members of the Garden Club of America who were coming to Washington.” In search of an appropriate theme for the 2002 dinner, she began researching recipes from U.S. presidents and first ladies.

After lots of digging, she pulled together a dinner menu. Each dish was labeled with name and presidential affiliation, and the dishes “became quite a topic of conversation,” Miss Salomon says. “It was one of the most successful parties I’d ever given, although it might have had something to do with beginning the evening with Ulysses S. Grant’s Roman punch.” The Grant punch is a mixture of lemon sherbet, rum, Cointreau and champagne.

It wasn’t until later that Miss Salomon got hooked on the idea of compiling presidential recipes. “I kept finding more recipes and collecting more food-related anecdotes about presidents,” she says. “It was just really interesting.” The idea of a presidential cookbook was born.

One of the challenges was the way early American recipes were written. As she explains in the cookbook introduction, “Early cookbooks were rare and listed ingredients but not the quantities. Directions were vague and would state ‘add water’ or bake in a ‘quick’ oven ‘until enough.’” This required lots of testing and retesting. Eventually, Miss Salomon enlisted 30 friends to help with the project.

In a few cases, it proved impossible to track down a recipe she could be certain a president liked or ate often, so she relied on food-related stories about the president or cookbooks from the period. One of the recipes for William McKinley (each president has two) is lobster Newburg, because it’s the entree the McKinleys requested on their silver wedding anniversary.

Miss Salomon also discovered that Zachary Taylor loved hominy, but she couldn’t find his favorite recipe. She had to make do with a good recipe for hominy cheese grits, reasoning that he would probably have enjoyed it.

When a recipe has a clear first-family provenance, Miss Salomon notes it in the text, sometimes with a story. Or she includes the president’s or first lady’s name in the recipe title, as with Mrs. [William Henry] Harrison’s sausage rolls and John F. Kennedy’s favorite fish chowder.

For presidencies from the latter part of 1800s to the present, recipe gathering got easier, Miss Salomon says. “The Woodrow Wilson House was really helpful, and it has its own cookbook of Wilson family recipes.” It was from there that she took the recipe for Wilson’s war bread.

These days, presidential recipes are easy. What’s an election without a magazine story on cookie-recipe favorites from the would-be first ladies? It’s no surprise, then, that one of the recipes in Miss Salomon’s book is for Laura Bush’s cowboy cookies.

This inauguration day, why not serve a dessert tray of presidential cookies and other sweets? (If you make only two, Miss Salomon recommends the Jefferson cookies and the Eisenhower fudge.) By picking and choosing among the recipes that follow, you can create a delicious dessert tray, bipartisan or not.

The self-published “Politics & Pot Roast” is available by mail order and through the gift shops of presidential homes, including the bookshop at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Copies of the cookbook can be ordered from Politics & Pot Roast, P.O. Box 115, Gen Echo, MD 20815.

Macaroons(Thomas Jefferson)

This recipe is adapted from one Jefferson brought back from Paris, where he was ambassador.

11/2 cups blanched almonds (skins removed)

1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg whites

Butter for the parchment paper

Place almonds, sugar and salt in a food processor and process until very fine. Beat egg whites until foamy and fold gently into almond mixture. Butter a large sheet of parchment paper, and use it to line a baking sheet. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto the parchment paper. Bake on middle rack of preheated 300-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Let cool, then peel macaroons from the paper. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 30.

Birdseed cookies(Franklin Pierce)

Sesame seeds are the “birdseed” in the name of this recipe.

3/4 cup butter

11/2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

11/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup raw sesame seeds

1 teaspoon vanilla

Butter for greasing baking sheet

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Spread sesame seeds in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet; toast in a preheated 300-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes until just golden, stirring frequently to avoid burning.

After removing sesame seeds from oven and taking them off the baking tray, turn up the oven temperature to 350 degrees to preheat oven for the cookies. Stir toasted seeds into butter mixture. Add vanilla and mix well. Add sifted ingredients and mix well. On a greased baking sheet, drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges are lightly brown. Makes about 7 dozen cookies.

Spiced nuts(Chester A. Arthur)

Do not double this recipe because the pecans or almonds must be handled quickly. Make two separate batches instead.

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

11/2 cups sugar

1 cup pecans or almonds

In a small bowl, mix cinnamon and 1/2 cup of the sugar; set aside. In medium saucepan, put remaining sugar and 3 tablespoons of water. Boil over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add nuts and stir to coat with sugar.

Lift nuts by spoonfuls into cinnamon sugar mixture, and toss them until well-coated. Separate nuts and allow to cool on a hard surface. Store in an airtight container. Makes 1 cup nuts.

Sagamore Hill sand tarts(Theodore Roosevelt)

These cookies were a favorite of the Roosevelt family. The recipe was written inside the cover of one of first lady Edith Roosevelt’s cookbooks at Sagamore Hill, the family home on Long Island.

1 cup butter

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 cups flour plus more for flouring shot glasses

Pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cream butter and 2 cups of sugar until light and fluffy. One at a time, add 2 eggs, beating after each is added. Beat in vanilla.

Separate remaining egg and add yolk to the mixture. Mix in flour and salt. On a lightly floured board, roll out dough until thin. Using a shot glass (see note), cut out circles of dough, dipping rim of the glass in flour, as needed, to keep the dough from sticking.

Place dough on a greased baking sheet. Beat the remaining egg white slightly and brush on cookies. Mix the cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of sugar; sprinkle on the top of the cookies. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or until edges are light brown. Makes about 50 cookies.

Note: A shot glass has a little less than a 2-inch diameter; the rim of a small jar also works.

Mamie’s million-dollar fudge(Dwight Eisenhower)

Mr. Eisenhower gave this rich fudge its “million-dollar” name.

Butter for greasing pan

12 ounces semisweet chocolate bits

12 ounces German sweet chocolate, broken into bits

1 pint marshmallow cream

Pinch of salt

1 (13-ounce) can evaporated milk

41/2 cups sugar

2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans

2 tablespoons butter

Butter a 9-inch-by-9-inch pan and set aside. In a large bowl, combine semisweet and German sweet chocolates, marshmallow cream and salt. In a large saucepan, combine milk and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, for 6 to 7 minutes. (The longer it cooks, the firmer the fudge.)

Pour milk mixture over chocolate. Add nuts and butter; beat until chocolate is melted and fudge is creamy. Pour mixture into buttered pan and let cool at room temperature for a few hours before cutting into small squares.

Store in an airtight container. Makes about 5 pounds of fudge.

Mrs. Clinton’s oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies(Bill Clinton)

In 1992, Family Circle magazine invited the wives of the presidential candidates to take part in its first-ever cookie cook-off. That year, this recipe beat out then-first-lady Barbara Bush’s oatless chocolate chip cookies. Mrs. Clinton’s recipe also won the bake-off in 1996, when it bested Elizabeth Dole’s pecan-roll cookies.

Butter for greasing baking sheets

11/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup solid vegetable shortening

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Grease baking sheets. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda. In a large bowl, beat together shortening, granulated and brown sugars, and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs, beating until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture and rolled oats. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden. Cool cookies on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Mrs. Bush’s cowboy cookies(George W. Bush)

Is the Family Circle magazine cookie cook-off a presidential election predictor? So far it is. In 2000, this recipe defeated Tipper Gore’s ginger snaps. In 2004, Mrs. Bush’s recipe won once again against Teresa Heinz Kerry’s pumpkin-spice cookies.

3 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

11/2 cups butter, room temperature

11/2 cups granulated sugar

11/2 cups light brown sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 cups flaked coconut

2 cups chopped pecans

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside. In an 8-quart bowl, beat butter at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.

Gradually beat in granulated and brown sugars; beat to combine, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each is added. Beat in vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Add chocolate chips, oats, coconut and pecans, and stir them into the mixture.

For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 17 to 29 minutes, until edges are lightly browned; rotate sheets halfway through.

Remove cookies to rack to cool. Makes 3 dozen large cookies.

Note: For 6 dozen small cookies, use 2 tablespoons of dough for each cookie. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until edges are lightly browned.

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