When I was a fifth grader, my father would make a weekly trek to my school to teach my class the history of each of the past U.S. presidents. Even now, I love reading and learning trivia about our present and former commander-in-chiefs.
In honor of President’s Day this month, I thought it would be fun to share some interesting tidbits about various presidents and their favorite foods.
In my mind, when I think of George Washington, the next thought is always something to do with cherry trees and cherry pies. In fact, he was a great lover of ice cream and often served ice cream at presidential Thursday night dinners. Martha, the wife of the former 1st president, was a wonderful cook and even wrote her own cookbook. He is said to have favored her fancy cakes.
Thomas Jefferson was a lover of fine foods and drinks. Back in his day, he was known for being a gourmet and introduced many foods to this country from his travels abroad.
(aerial view of the Monticello garden from here)
He had a spectacular, prolific garden at Monticello and was said to be the first to grow sweet potatoes and tomatoes in the newly formed U.S.A. He was very fond of vegetables and grew over 300 varieties of various veggies and herbs. You can read more about Jefferson and his love of food here, buy a cookbook with his family’s heirloom recipes here. Chester Arthur was a close second to Jefferson when it came to epicures in the White House.
John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams were known for their gardens and fruit orchards. You can check out pictures and articles here and here about the Obama White House vegetable garden. Andrew Jackson and Hillary Clinton were other residents of the White House who enjoyed gardening.
Chicken Fricassee with Herbed Biscuits was a favorite of the beloved Abraham Lincoln. He is also said to have loved various cheeses and crackers. And dessert? What could be more American than Apple Pie?
Other former presidents became famous for their avid likes and dislikes of certain foods. Most of us may remember hearing George H.W. Bush proclaim his disdain for broccoli and Bill Clinton’s love of Big Macs.
For a fun twist to an otherwise uncelebrated holiday, it would be fun to include some of these menu items in your President’s Day meal plans and incite some interesting conversation on U.S. History. (I’m married to a librarian, so this is totally our sort of thing!)
Pancakes (the favorite of many)
Poached Eggs on Toast with fresh orange juice (JFK)
Baked Grits with Cheese (Jimmy Carter)
Golden Brown Waffles with Strawberries and Sour Cream (Gerald Ford)
New England Clam Chowder (JFK’s favorite)
Grilled Cheese Sandwich (FDR)
Macaroni and Cheese (from Ronald and Nancy Reagan)
Chicken Fricassee (Abraham Lincoln)
Hamburgers (a favorite of President Obama and Bill Clinton)
Corned Beef and Cabbage (Grover Cleveland)
Licorice Jelly Beans (a favorite of Ronald Reagan
Fresh Fruit (John Q. Adams)
Pretzels (George W. Bush)
Ice Cream (homemade ice cream recipe from my kitchen)
Indian Pudding (recipe from John and Abigail Adams)
If you are feeling ambitious, you can try the famed cake by Martha Washington…
Rice Pudding with Lemon Sauce (Ulysses S. Grant)
Some other fun links to articles and posts and trivia:
- White House Vegetable Garden
- All The Presidents’ Meals: Our Leaders’ Favorite Foods from Divine Caroline
- A fun article for kids on National Geographic Kids website.
- Another great resource is The Food Timeline–American Presidents’ Food Favorites, especially if you have kids who are doing a report for school.
- George Washington (1789-1797): Ice cream, fish
- John Adams (1797-1801): apple cider, pickles, kale and onions
- Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809): Ice cream, pancakes, spoon breads, vegetables
- James Madison (1809-1817): Ice cream
- James Monroe (1817-1825): chicken fried with rice, spoonbread
- John Quincy Adams (1825-1829): fresh fruit
- Andrew Jackson (1829-1837): French food, floating islands and mini-custard tarts
- Martin Van Buren (1837-1841): oysters, doughnuts, raisins, figs, and apples
- William Henry Harrison (1841): squirrel stew, hard cider
- John Tyler (1841-1845): dessert puddings
- James K. Polk (1845-1849): ham, corn pone, Southern food
- Zachary Taylor (1849-1850): Creole food
- Millard Fillmore (1850-1853): plain food, meat, potatoes, vegetables
- Franklin Pierce (1853-1857): plain, New Hampshire food of his day, fried clams, chowder, apple pan dowdy
- James Buchanan (1857-1861): French cuisine, gourmet food, cabbage
- Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865): Fruit salad, crackers, cheese
- Andrew Johnson (1865-1869): Fish, jam
- Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877): rice pudding
- Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881): Cornmeal battercakes
- James A. Garfield (1881): squirrel soup, milk, homemade breads, apple pie
- Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885): mutton chops, rare roast beef, seafood
- Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897): pickled herring
- Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893): corn
- William McKinley (1897-1901): potatoes, meats and fish, eggs, bread
- Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909): coffee, wild game, biscuits and gravy
- William Howard Taft (1909-1913): Turtle Soup
- Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921): strawberry ice cream
- William G. Harding (1921-1923): chicken pie
- Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929): curry of veal, pork apple pies
- Herbert Hoover (1929-1933): Virginia ham, corn soup, potato soup
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945): scrambled eggs, fish chowder, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, and fruitcake
- Harry S. Truman (1945-1953): roast chicken, Senator’s Bean Soup
- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961): onions, oxtail soup, succotash, prune whip
- John F. Kennedy (1961-1963): New England Clam Chowder
- Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969): Ice cream, pancakes, seafood, spinach soufflé, sweet potatoes with toasted marshmallows
- Richard Nixon (1969-1974): meatloaf, dried figs, cottage cheese
- Gerald Ford (1974-1977): pot roast, red cabbage
- Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) eggplant, chicken, sirloin steak, cornbread
- Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): Jelly beans, macaroni and cheese, monkey bread
- George H. W. Bush (1989-1993): pork rinds, hated broccoli
- William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001): enchiladas, ribs, hamburgers, pie
- George W. Bush (2001 – 2009): Mexican food, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- Barack Obama (2009-present): Chili, hamburgers
Lindsey Johnson is a regular contributor. She is a mother to three who writes the food blog, Cafe Johnsonia.