A gift of Presidents’ Day flowers has become a tradition in the past 30 years in the Detwiler family. That’s right, I do not receive any flowers on Valentine’s Day. The fact is, we are a very political family and Paul believes that President’s day is the only February holiday worth celebrating. He probably just forgets and Valentine’s Day sneaks up on him. He then can take advantage of post Valentines’ Day sales and discounts. Needless to say, President’s Day is a day when we should celebrate the guys who have sacrificed time and taken ridicule for a very unappreciated job ruling this great country.
In 1796, Americans began celebrating Washington’s birthday and by 1879 it became an official holiday. Many states and began celebrating Lincoln’s birthday post assassination in 1865, although it never became a federal holiday. Congress passed the Monday holiday act in 1968, where Federal holidays would be on Mondays, giving federal employees three-day weekends. Thank you, Congress, I love three-day weekends! President Richard Nixon issued an executive order on February 11, 1971 creating a federal holiday on the third Monday in February. Both great presidents Lincoln and Washington share close birthdays in February. To this day, the holiday legally remains as Washington’s birthday, although it has commonly become known as President’s Day.
Inquiring minds always want to know personal details about presidents and I am no different. It’s fascinating to me to learn their favorite foods. The first of the George presidents, Washington, loved simple meals and foods featuring fruits, nuts and fish. Most think of cherry pie when we think of Washington’s favorites. Although he loved cherries, in America’s early years, cherries were not found in pies and cakes but as wine, preserves and tarts. Lincoln, the second most beloved president is known for a hearty appetite but no real favorites. The history of his state dinners show gourmet food for the era was served. Lincoln was known to eat only to fuel his body, so distracted by the job to care much what was in front of him. He was known to be fond of apples, bacon and coffee. No wonder he was so thin!
As far as more recent presidents, last November after the election I found a great video with Martha Stewart and the future 45th President of the U.S. and his first lady making meatloaf. That’s right, meatloaf and meatloaf sandwiches are one of our new president’s favorite foods. Nancy Ellison states in her “One for the Table” article, that President Trump’s Scottish born mother, Mary MacLeod Trump fixed Meat Loaf for him as a child. “I loved my mother and I loved her cooking!” he said.
Jimmy Carter’s southern roots came out in his favorites, often munching on peanuts and dining on grits with cheese for breakfast. Guests anticipated feasting on grits with cheese when they dined at the White House. Grilled Cheese sandwiches were favorites of George W. as well as Teddy Roosevelt. I can see the past presidents spending late nights in the oval office snacking on their favorites…George W. pretzels, daddy Bush on pork rinds and Obama with his love of all things Planters.
Paul and I are on a bucket list journey to visit all the presidential libraries. These libraries are fascinating places. They show a side of the presidents that are not often shown in the media. Nixon and Reagan have been our most recent visits. The Nixon family’s favorites included California fruits, salads, cottage cheese and meatloaf! He became known for cottage cheese topped with Ketchup. Reagan is most known for his love of jellybeans. Reagan, as governor of California in 1966, started eating Goelitz Jelly Beans when he successfully gave up pipe smoking. Goelitz mini jellybeans later became Jelly Belly jelly beans. His favorite flavor was licorice. Three and a half tons of red (very cherry), white (coconut) and blue (blueberry) Jelly Belly jellybeans were shipped to DC for his inaugural festivities. Later official jellybean boxes complete with the presidential seal were created and given to White House guests over the Reagan’s eight years.
These are just a few of the President’s favorites that I’ve discovered. Feb. 20 will mark 2017 President’s Day. Why not make a new tradition of featuring some of these past leaders’ favorites in your holiday meal? Celebrate the bounty of America’s food system and check out foodtimeline.org/presidents for more great menu ideas.
Eat Well and Healthy!
President Trump’s Mother’s Meatloaf www.oneforthetable.com
2 lbs. fresh ground beef
1 Spanish onion (fine dice)
1 Red bell pepper (fine dice)
1 Green bell pepper (fine dice)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 large beefsteak tomato diced fine (remove seeds)
2 extra-large fresh eggs
2/3 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs
¼ cup chopped parsley
2/3 cup of tomato puree
1/2 tablespoon of salt and pepper
In a large sauce pan slowly cook peppers, onion, garlic and tomato until the onions turn translucent and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl add ground beef, cooked cool vegetables, eggs, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper and mix well. Remove the mixture from bowl and place in a 14”x 9” x 2” ceramic baking dish and form into a loaf.
Top loaf with tomato puree and bake in a 350° oven for 45-55 minutes or until brown and firm. Let the loaf rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with mushroom gravy and mashed potatoes.
Washington’s Preserved Cherries www.americantable.org
“To Preserue Cheries” from Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats (1749), Transcribed by Karen Hess, New York: Columbia University Press (1996)
Take 2 pound of faire cherries & clip of the stalks in ye midst. then wash them clean, but bruise them not. then take 2 pound of double refined sugar, & set it over ye fire with a quart of faire water in ye broadest preserving pan or silver basen as you can get. Let it seeth till it be some what thick, yn put in yr cherries, & let them boyle. keepe allwayes scumming & turning them gently with a silver spoon till they be enough. when they are cold, you may glass them up & keep them all the year.
2 lbs. of fresh cherries, stemmed
2 lbs. sugar (4 cups)
1-quart water (4 cups)
Wash cherries, and pit them if desired. In a large saucepan or pot, make a syrup by adding sugar to boiling water. When sugar is completely dissolved, add cherries to the pot and return to a boil. Using a metal spoon, stir occasionally and remove as much foam that appears as possible. When cherries are soft and liquid has been reduced by about half, remove from heat and let cool.
Carter’s Baked Grits with Cheese
The White House Family Cookbook by Henry Haller
4 cups chicken bouillon
1 cup enriched white hominy
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
4 eggs yolk
1/4 to 1/2 cup cold milk
4 egg whites, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease inside of a 2-quart casserole dish. Bring bouillon to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan; add grits gradually, stirring with a wire whisk. Reduce heat and continue cooking, stirring vigorously, until mixture thickens. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and add Worcestershire sauce, butter, and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, stirring until well-balanced.
In a small bowl, blend egg yolks with 1/2 cup of milk. Pour into grits and mix thoroughly; add more milk if necessary, thinning to the consistency of cream of wheat. In a clean, dry bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into grits. Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake on middle of shelf of preheated oven for 30 minutes or until fluffy and brown. Serve at once and enjoy!
President Ford’s Favorite Red Cabbage fordlibrarymuseum.gov/library
From the Ann Arbor News, 12/15/1976
3-pound red cabbage
3 table spoons of butter
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup of vinegar
½ cup currant jelly
1 teaspoon slat
Remove outer leaves and core of cabbage, wash and drain, slice very fine. Melt butter in a deep skillet add the cabbage, sugar and vinegar, cover and cook for 30 minutes or until tender, stir frequently. Add jelly and salt, blend. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve with Mrs. Fords Sunday Roast with turnips, carrots and potatoes.