FUD Presidential preferences

By Holly Ebel

Forget about the campaign promises and political controversies we have been hearing about for months, and let's get to the more important issue -- the favorite foods of presidents, past and present.

The foods are as varied as the men themselves. The foods also are a reflection of where the men came from as well as of the times.

In the early days of this country there was no worry about fat grams and calories. What was served was fish (codfish and salmon were favorites), beef and game. Meals generally were made of many courses and typically went on for hours with a good amount of spirits being consumed.


Not surprisingly, there are many similarities among the early presidents where food favorites were concerned because of what was available. George Washington loved crabmeat soup, all sorts of fish, beefsteak and kidney pie. He also would never turn down ice cream.

Codfish cakes, very popular at the time, were a favorite of John Adams, as was corn, gingerbread and hard cider. A true gourmand, Thomas Jefferson loved good food and wines, and invitations to his home or the White House were prized. His wine cellar always was well stocked, and his kitchen was full of the best available beef, fish and game.

It was Jefferson who brought the recipe for waffles from Holland, as well as Baked Alaska from France. He insisted on seating his dinner guests around a circular table because, in true presidential fashion, he believed it was more democratic.

Codfish cakes also were one of John Quincy Adams' favorites, as were corn and fresh fruit, while Andrew Jackson was especially fond of wild birds and game. Wild turkey, partridge and venison were served often, and he frequently would shoot the birds or animals to be prepared. He also was a big milk drinker.

When Zachary Taylor came to the White House he brought a love of spicy foods, including many Creole dishes. His particular favorite was gumbo made with okra.

While Ulysses S. Grant favored roast beef, hominy grits and rice pudding, his favorite meal was turkey with all the trimmings, and he would have it as often as the cooks would fix it. During Grant's tenure, turkey often was served at state dinners.

Abraham Lincoln would eat just about anything that was put in front of him, but particular favorites included beefsteak, corn and scalloped oysters. A frequent dessert was an apple, but he would never turn down pecan pie.

Pickled herring and Swiss cheese were favorites of Grover Cleveland. The Baby Ruth candy bar was named after his daughter, the first child to be born in the White House.


Kidney stew, liver and onions, and wild greens were Theodore Roosevelt's choices, although he also was partial to home-baked bread.

Soft comfort foods were what Franklin D. Roosevelt favored, such as creamed chipped beef over toast, bread puddings, fried cornmeal mush and boiled salmon with egg sauce. He also loved doughnuts and had at least two every day.

Probably no one occupied the White House with more simple tastes than Harry Truman, who numbered tuna noodle casserole and meatloaf with tomato sauce among his favorites.

Though his wife favored French haute cuisine, John F. Kennedy's favorite meal was beef stroganoff. He also liked to start his day with cinnamon toast.

Ronald Reagan loved pasta, and, when he could, he chose macaroni and cheese, or lasagna. Reagan's passion for jelly beans was well known, but coconut flavor was his favorite.

Bill Clinton, the "fast-food president," likely has changed his diet in recent months because of his heart surgery, but while in the White House it was hamburgers, French fries, onion rings and chicken enchiladas for him.

George Bush (the elder) was always happy to have a steak and baked potato, his favorites, while son George W. is true to his Tex-Mex leanings. Enchiladas, tacos and salsa, as well as hamburgers, barbecue, peanut butter sandwiches and watermelon are his choices.

Holly Ebel of Rochester is a freelance writer.


Codfish cakes

This recipe calls for salt cod, available in a few markets in small wooden 1-pound boxes. It needs to be soaked at least six hours and the water should be changed several times until no saltiness is left.

1/2 pound salt cod, soaked

1 cup mashed potatoes

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)

1 egg

Butter or bacon fat

Flour or crumbs if desired


Cut the cod into small pieces and mix with the potatoes, egg, ginger and pepper. Form into eight cakes and sauté; in plenty of bacon fat or hot butter. Or roll in flour or crumbs and fry in deep fat heated to 370.

Old-fashioned gingerbread

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 stick butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar


1 cup dark molasses

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup boiling water

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and lightly flour an 8-inch square pan. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a bowl. Put butter in a mixing bowl and beat until creamy. Add sugar and molasses and continue beating until well-blended.

Mix the baking soda and boiling water together and pour into the butter-sugar mixture, beating well. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth, then beat in the eggs.

Pour batter into the pan and bake 45 minutes or until it tests done. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack. Serve either warm or cool with whipped cream or ice cream.

Reagan macaroni and cheese


2 1/2 cups dried elbow macaroni

1 tablespoon oil

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 1/2 cups milk, warmed

2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard

12 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped


3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 teaspoon butter cut into tiny pieces

For the macaroni, follow package. Cook 7 minutes, drain and rinse with cool water. Place in a large mixing bowl, drizzle with the oil and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Sprinkle the flour over the butter, whisking, until flour is absorbed and the mixture is a little golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add the warm milk, continuing to whisk and bring to a simmer. Keep simmering and whisking until mixture is smooth and thickened, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the 1 3/4 cups cheese to the milk mixture, take off heat and keep whisking until cheese melts. Stir in salt, pepper, mustard and parsley. Pour sauce over macaroni, then transfer to the baking pan.

To make the topping in a small bowl stir together the cheese and bread crumbs and sprinkle evenly over the macaroni. Dot with the butter. Put into oven and bake until top bubbles and begins to form a crust. Take out of oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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