You are what you eat, unless you’re a President. Election Gastronomy 101.

State Dinner at the White HouseBeen watching some Presidential debates lately and quite frankly they’re not very presidential.  A couple of things stand out, though:

  • Ron Paul stays remarkably fit.
  • Mitt Romney must eat a lot of salmon to sustain his coiffure.
  • Newt Gingrich must eat a lot of…well, everything.

The challenger is our incumbent, Barack Obama, and we hope that he is eating what the First Lady puts in front of him.  Michelle Obama started her White House residency by putting a garden on the grounds, and it is there that the First Chef, Cristeta Comerford draws her inspiration.  Comerford likes to base her dishes around seasonal items that she can source from the garden and from local vendors.

All of this politicking and food talk made us wonder about other Presidents and what graced their plates.

Eight of our President’s were from Virginia and their menus showed it.  George Washington liked fresh fish from the Potomac.  James Madison liked crabs and oysters finished with some of Dolly’s cakes.  James Monroe liked fried chicken.  John Tyler liked game birds like woodcock and duck.

One standout was our favorite, Thomas Jefferson.  We talk often of his contribution to Virginia’s agriculture and he certainly maintained a robust farm, but his travels overseas seem to have made an impression.  Jefferson liked to add accoutrements like Parmesan, figs, olives, and waffles.  He discovered waffles in Holland and liked them so much that he brought a waffle iron back to Monticello. Image from monticello.org

John Adams spent much of his career in France prior to becoming President.  You can’t take the New Englander too far from the sea, though.  He enjoyed codfish cakes, poached salmon, clam chowder, and oyster rolls.

Andrew Jackson grew up in Tennessee, which in his day was as far from civilization as you could get.  A true soldier, he ate simply and simply drank.  He offered a punch laced with sherry that one diner remarked of, “anyone who drank this, one cup would do it.”

Zachary Taylor spent a good amount of time in Louisiana, and brought some Creole to Washington with him.  He would eat almost anything, but insisted that it be “properly cooked and well served.”  We would assume with some 1850’s “BAM”.

Millard Fillmore liked a simple menu.  He did, however, install the first cookstove in the White House.  Must have been his version of the microwave.  “I doth not care.  Heat the victuals and serveth them.”

Abe Lincoln left his creativity to his oratory.  Every day, the same black coat, the same ridiculous hat, and pretty much the same meals.  Coffee and eggs for breakfast, biscuits and milk for lunch, and something with bacon for dinner.  Seems that everything was good with bacon in Abe’s day, too.

James Garfield liked squirrel soup.  He liked it so much that he gave orders for the active hunting of squirrels in the city of Washington.  The White House physician was even engaged in the hunt.  It was rumored to be good for an ill man’s appetite.  We’ll never know if it worked for Garfield; he was felled by an assassin on July 2, 1881.

William McKinley chose as his only indulgence Hot Lobster Salad.  He only asked that meals be plain, and in substantial quantities.  He had nothing on Taft, though.

The TaftWilliam Howard Taft was our most rotund chief executive.  He had a corpulence of such a scale that he frequently became lodged in the Presidential bathtub.  He once stopped for breakfast in Savannah, Georgia, where he ate broiled venison, grapefruit, broiled partridge, waffles, grilled partridge, rolls, hominy grits, and more venison.  He also had a taste for salads, and apparently a lot of them.  Perhaps he was swallowing the pressures of the office, along with a lot of…well, everything.  Sorry, Newt.  It’s not a new idea.

In 1913, skinny people took back the White House when Woodrow Wilson succeeded Taft.  Wilson was the “bleh” President when it came to food.  The White House physician was always on him about his weight, and conducted an extensive survey of the staff to see if there was anything that Woody forked into with gusto.  The reports were not promising.  The only dish that he ever specifically asked for was for breakfast:  two raw eggs in grape juice.  Bleh.

Franklin Roosevelt has been called our greatest President.  Want to know why we love him?  He served hot dogs to the King and Queen of England.

John F. Kennedy’s term in office is remembered for many things both proud and tragic, but also the style and grace of his wife.  Jackie brought many sophisticated dishes with her Chanel outfits, but she could never get JFK off of soup.  He loved to dine well, but had to have soup.  She said that he was a “soup-sandwich-fruit man, just always soup.”  Maybe he could have used that on Castro:  “No soup for you, Fidel!”

Nixon was remarkable for introducing China to capitalism, Checkers the dog to America, and “-gate” to our national lexicon.  He also introduced catsup to cottage cheese.  We understand that they got along famously.

George H.W. Bush is food-famous, not for what he ate, but for what he refused to.  “I do not like broccoli and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it.  And I’m the President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”  The office does come with some perks.  George #41 apparently didn’t like Japanese food either.  In 1992 he purged some makimono on the Japanese Prime Minister.

His son was a little more adventurous, enjoying Tex-Mex and meats.  He did not, however, like pretzels.  George W. Bush showed up at a press briefing with bruises on his face and a cut lip.  The offending pretzel was convicted of rendering him unconscious during a football game that Dubya was watching on t.v.   It was last seen in U.S. custody wearing an orange jumper.  Rumors of its rendition to Croatia could not be substantiated.  Choke-inducing pretzels were placed on a no-eat list at the residence for the rest of his term.

So maybe you pick your candidate because they promise jobs.  Perhaps you’re anxious to mine the Moon.  Some go to the polls to protect our borders or Occupy the Federal Reserve.  Some are concerned about what our elected officials are stuffing in their wallets.

As we get closer to the actual election maybe we should look at what they’re stuffing in their cakehole?