Library of Congress Cooks Up Web Site on Presidential Food


Photo credit: White House

The luncheon served to Barack Obama immediately after he is sworn in as America’s 44th President tomorrow will be hosted by members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Designed to reflect the theme of the 2009 Inaugural ceremonies, “A New Birth of Freedom,” which celebrates the bicentennial of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln, the menu draws on historic ties to the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, according to the U.S. Senate’s Inaugural Web site.

“Growing up in the frontier regions of Kentucky and Indiana, the sixteenth President favored simple foods including root vegetables and wild game. As his tastes matured, he became fond of stewed and scalloped oysters. For dessert or a snack, nothing pleased him more than a fresh apple or an apple cake,” the Web site says.

The dining preferences of the Presidents have long been a topic of great interest to the rest of us. Just how much has been published about what the Presidents eat and serve to guests is apparent from the extent of a resource guide on Presidential Food compiled by the Library of Congress.

inaugural menu.png

Barack Obama’s Inaugural luncheon menu, from the U.S. Senate Web site

Alison Kelly, a reference librarian in the Science, Technology and Business Division at the Library of Congress, compiled “Presidential Food: Selected Resource Guide” for reporters, culinary historians and the interested public to use during the inauguration and early days of the new presidency, the Library of Congress said in a news statement earlier this month.  “The eight-page guide provides reference to books, magazine articles and Internet resources chronicling the culinary history of the chief executive and his family both in and out of the White House.”



“The drawing of Jefferson’s ‘maccaroni machine’ in the Library’s American Memory Collection [image above] is of perennial interest, as are his recipes for ice cream and macaroons,” the Library statement continued. 

“A number of the books and resources listed in the guide have been written by White House chefs or housekeepers, a steward of the presidential yacht and others associated with the presidents and first ladies, and include tidbits about menus, china, entertainment, weddings and holidays.

“George Washington, for instance, ate codfish on Saturdays when he was the chief executive.  Cook Henrietta Nesbitt knew how to stretch a dollar in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt kitchen.  Turtle soup was an essential element of dining protocol in the late 19th century, as were elaborate banquets of many courses.”


President Hoover viewing huge cake on the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.

Photo credit: Library of Congress

Few events were as elegant as the state dinner Jacqueline Kennedy gave for the president of Pakistan on the lawn of Mt. Vernon, the Library reported.  “A flotilla of boats took the 132 guests down the Potomac so they would view Mount Vernon as George Washington had.  The evening included mint juleps — George Washington’s own recipe; a fife-and-drum corps; and a display of fireworks.”

Lemon custard pie was one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite desserts.  He was also partial to scalloped oysters.  John Adams lunched on oat cakes and lemonade, and Chester Arthur doted on mutton chops, Kelly says.


Photo credit: White House 

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn