Presidents Day is a time to think about our history and the men who have held the highest office in the land. They have been memorialized in the names of states and cities (Washington state, Madison, WI, Jefferson, MO), in styles of clothing (Eisenhower Jackets for the one he wore during WWII), and even toys (Lincoln Logs for the president born in a log cabin). We here at San Luis Sausage are especially interested in recipes that bear presidents' names. Here are a few examples:
Washington Pie: We often associate Cherry Pie with George Washington... remember the cherry tree about which he could not tell a lie? But there's another pie named for our first president that you may not know about. It's a light custard pie similar to a Boston Cream, but it has additional layers of raspberry jam and is sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. This pie was named after George, but his wife had some famous recipes of her own. Martha Washington's Great Cake was a fruitcake that contained 40 eggs, 5 lbs. of fruit, and similar quantities of its other ingredients. Sounds like she was baking it for the entire revolutionary army.
Apricots with Rice à la Jefferson: Before he was president, Thomas Jefferson held many offices including U.S. Minister to France. While in Europe, he discovered a type of Italian rice that he preferred over the Carolina rice grown here. It is said that he tried to smuggle some into the U.S. We don't know if he succeeded but eventually he was celebrated for his interest in developing an improved variety of rice when a chef at the famed Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City concocted a recipe for rice pudding with apricots in Jefferson's honor.
Abraham Lincoln Cake: Abe's wife, Mary Todd, baked an almond cake during their courtship and marriage that Lincoln was reputed to have called “the best cake I ever ate.” Mary's recipe advised the chef to allow two days for the project because the almonds had to be blanched, peeled, and pounded into a paste the day before baking. Today, the cake can be made in one hour.
And since we've mentioned Mrs. Washington and Mrs. Lincoln in discussing desserts later named for their husbands, we note that many First Ladies have exerted influence on White House menus, some even doing a bit of the cooking themselves. Eleanor Roosevelt liked to make scrambled eggs in a chafing dish. Mamie Eisenhower was known for chocolate fudge that became a White House favorite. Jackie Kennedy exuded good taste and brought a French chef to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Lady Bird Johnson made her own Texas barbecue sauce and Pat Nixon made a hearty meat loaf. Michelle Obama's vegetable garden was the source of healthy meals and we have yet to learn Melania Trump's favorite dishes.
With all the mythology and fascination that surrounds those families who have occupied the White House, let us not forget that just like the rest of us – even on Presidents Day – everybody's gotta eat.