Friday, December 27, 2013

Andrew Johnson Hoppin' John

At the end of the Civil War, the South lay in ruins. Southern plantations and entire cities had been destroyed during the war. Without food, many southerners starved to death, and some of those who survived lost everything they owned.

As a result, the government had to figure out how to rebuild the South. As president, Johnson took charge of the first phase of Reconstruction. But his attempt to quickly readmit the former Confederate states into the union and his vetoes of important civil rights bills outraged Radical Republicans in Congress.

The House of Representatives impeached Johnson in 1868, but he was acquitted by a single vote in the Senate. Historians say that Johnson’s victory “marked the beginning of an ambitious series of receptions, dinners and children’s parties that would turn the last nine months of his term into an ongoing celebration.”

After leaving office, Johnson returned to his native state of Tennessee where he probably consumed such traditional southern foods as Benne Wafers, Hoppin’ John and Pine Bark Stew. Still popular in the south, Hoppin' John is often the high point of New Year's Day festivities and is thought to bring good luck throughout the coming year. If you'd like to whip up some Hoppin' John, you can't go wrong with this quick and delicious recipe from Emeril Lagasse.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large ham hock
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock
1 Bay leaf
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 cups steamed white rice

Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, and cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice and enjoy!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dickens Meets Tyler at the White House

One of the most famous guests to dine at the White House during John Tyler’s presidency was the great English writer, Charles Dickens. Upon his arrival in the United States, Dickens was honored at a lavish ball in New York City, where he was greeted by such famous American writers as Washington Irving, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Edgar Allan Poe.

A few days later, Dickens met Tyler in the White House and later penned this about the president:

He looked somewhat worn and anxious, and well he might; being at war with everybody - but the expression of his face was mild and pleasant, and his manner was remarkably unaffected, gentlemanly, and agreeable.

Although Dickens seemed to like Tyler, he strongly disliked slavery. Describing a particular meal in Baltimore, Dickens wrote:

We stopped to dine at Baltimore, and…were waited on, for the first time, by slaves. The sensation of exacting any service from human creatures who are bought and sold…is not an enviable one. The institution exists, perhaps, in its least repulsive and most mitigated form in such a town as this; but it IS slavery; and though I was, with respect to it, an innocent man, its presence filled me with a sense of shame and self-reproach.

After returning to England, Dickens wrote his first travel book entitled American Notes. In it, he criticized Americans for their poor table manners and disgusting habit of chewing and spitting tobacco. He also devoted an entire chapter to slavery in the United States.

FAST FACT: Oliver Twist is perhaps Dickens’ most famous novel. Set in England, the main character is a nine-year old orphan in a London workhouse where the boys are given only three meals of thin gruel a day. When Oliver asks for more (“Please, sir, I want some more”) he is dubbed a troublemaker and treated even more cruelly. Oliver Twist called attention to the problem of poor and starving children in England and, to a lesser extent, the United States.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ulysses S. Grant's Second Inaugural Ball

The menu for Ulysses S. Grant’s second Inaugural Ball reflects the opulence of the Gilded Age. A New York Times article dated March 5, 1873 contains a mind-boggling list of dishes and provisions served, including:

10,000 fried oysters; 8,000 scalloped oysters; 8,000 pickled oysters; 63 boned turkeys; 75 roast turkeys; 150 roast capons stuffed with truffles; 15 saddles of mutton; 200 dozen quails; 300 tongues ornamented with jelly; 200 hams; 30 baked salmon; 100 roasted chickens; 400 partridges; 25 stuufed boar’s heads; 2,000 head-cheese sandwiches; 3,000 ham sandwiches; 3,000 beef-tongue sandwiches; 1,600 bunches celery; 30 barrels of salad; 350 boiled chickens; 6,000 boiled eggs; 2,000 pounds of lobster; 2,500 loaves of bread; 8,000 rolls and 1,000 pounds of butter.

Dessert items inclued 300 charlotte russes; 200 moulds of wine jelly; 200 moulds of blanc mange; 300 gallons of assorted ice-cream; 400 pounds of mixed cakes; 25 barrels of Malaga grapes; 400 pounds of mixed candies; 200 pounds of shelled almonds; 200 gallons coffee; 200 gallons of tea and 100 gallons of hot chocolate.

But the best laid plans can go awry, even for a president. The weather that evening was freezing and the temporary ballroom had no heat. Guests danced in their hats and overcoats, they ran out of hot chocolate and coffee, and perhaps most tragically, most of the decorative caged canaries (which were supposed to be happily chirping) froze!

Credit: Portrait of Ulysses S. Grant by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dolley Madison's Wednesday Squeezes


When James Madison and his wife Dolley moved into the President's House, the room that Thomas Jefferson had used as an office became the State Dining Room. The adjacent parlor (today’s Red Room) was "redecorated in sunflower yellow, with sofas and chairs to match" and "outfitted with a piano, a guitar, and a portrait of Dolley.” One room over, the smaller but more formal elliptical salon was "decorated in the Grecian style" with cream-colored walls.

Together, these three rooms with their interconnecting doors became the venue for Dolley Madison’s legendary “Drawing Rooms,” or "Wednesday Squeezes," which often attracted as many as three hundreds guests and were the most popular social event in town!

Dressed in brightly colored satins or silks and often donning a feathered headpiece or bejeweled turban, Dolley cheerfully greeted and mingled with guests as they enjoyed a festive evening of refreshments, music, and lively conversation. Mrs. Madison also presided over elaborate dinner parties where she delighted guests with such unusual dessert items as pink pepperment ice cream baked in warm pastries.

The Madisons continued to entertain this way until "their brilliant social whirlwind" went up in flames during the War of 1812. On August 24, 1814, while James was away getting a report on the war, Dolley was supposedly awaiting forty dinner guests. Around three o’clock, word was received that British troops had defeated American forces at nearby Blandensburg and were marching toward the capital.

Before fleeing to safety, Dolley quickly gathered what she could, including important documents of her husband’s and Gilbert Stuart’s famous portrait of George Washington. When British soldiers entered the Executive Mansion later that day, they supposedly devoured the lavish dinner that had been left behind. They then piled up furniture, scattered oil-soaked rags in all of the rooms, and lit the President’s House afire!

Although the British quickly evacuated the capital, the months that followed were not happy ones for the Madisons. Many Americans criticized them for abandoning the President’s House and for “allowing the destruction of the most visible symbol of the young republic.”

At their temporary residence, Dolley started up her Wednesday Squeezes again, but “the spirit was gone.” Then came word of General Andrew Jackson’s victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans and the mood of the country was again jubilant. Although a peace treaty had been signed weeks earlier, the Battle of New Orleans transformed “Mr. Madison’s War” (which had been condemned until then as an unnecessary folly) into “a glorious reaffirmation of American independence.”

Source: The President's Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Diplomacy (NY, Harper Collins: 2007)

Credit: Dolley Madison, oil on canvas, by Gilbert Stuart

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt, Upton Sinclair, and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906

So this story is kind of repulsive and certainly won't make you crave a juicy hamburger or steak, but it's a part of food history so here goes:

On June 30, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act which provided for federal inspection of meat products and prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulterated food products. The Acts arose in part due to articles and exposés written by muckrakers, like Upton Sinclair, whose popular 1906 novel The Jungle contains hair-raising descriptions of the ways in which meat was produced in Chicago slaughterhouses and stockyards.

Sinclair described how dead rats, putrid meat, and poisoned rat bait were routinely shoveled into sausage-grinding machines, how bribed inspectors turned a blind eye when diseased cows were slaughtered for beef, and how filth and guts were swept off the floor and then packaged and sold as “potted ham.”

Muckraker, of course, is a term that is applied to those novelists and journalists who sought to expose the corruption of American business and politics in the early twentieth century. It was President Roosevelt who first coined the term in a 1906 speech in which he compared writers like Sinclair to the “Man with the Muck-rake” (a character in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress) who was so focused on "raking the filth at his feet” that he failed to look up and “behold the celestial crown.”

Similarly, Roosevelt argued that Sinclair and other muckrakers were so focused on the evils of American society that they failed to "behold the vision of America's promise.”

Monday, July 8, 2013

James Monroe, the Erie Canal, and "I Eat My Meals with Sal Each Day"

So did you know that during James Monroe’s presidency, many canals were built, mostly in the northeastern states? One of the most famous was the Erie Canal. Originally, it was forty feet wide, four feet deep, and 363 miles long, and stretched from Albany (on the upper Hudson River) to Buffalo (on the eastern shore of Lake Erie).

Teams of horses and mules trotted alongside the canal on a dirt road, called a "tow path," and pulled along flat-bottomed barges and boats called "packets". The opening of the canal in 1825 triggered the first major western migration in the United States, as countless thousands of pioneers and farmers rushed to the fertile lands of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and beyond.

Soon, settlers in the Midwest were shipping cargoes of wheat, corn and other foodstuffs to the big cities of the Northeast. On the return trip, farming supplies and other manufactured goods were shipped west. Realizing the great fortunes to be made from shipping the raw materials of the west to the big cities of the east, Americans embarked upon a “canal-building craze" that lasted until the rise of the railroads.

Historians say that the Erie Canal was the transportation marvel of its day. It reduced travel time from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes by more than a half and provided travelers with "a welcome alternative to the rutted, muddy road of the stage coach." In 1836, Thomas S. Woodcock made the trip from Schenectady, New York to Buffalo and described the abudance of food and other luxuries of life provided on a packet:

These boats are about 70 feet long, and with the exception of the Kitchen and bar, is occupied as a Cabin. The forward part being the ladies' Cabin, is separated by a curtain, but at meal times this obstruction is removed, and the table is set the whole length of the boat. The table is supplied with every thing that is necessary and of the best quality with many of the luxuries of life...

The Bridges on the Canal are very low, particularly the old ones. Indeed they are so low as to scarcely allow the baggage to clear, and in some cases actually rubbing against it. Every Bridge makes us bend double if seated on anything, and in many cases you have to lie on your back.

The Man at the helm gives the word to the passengers: 'Bridge,' 'very low Bridge,' 'the lowest in the Canal,' as the case may be. Some serious accidents have happened for want of caution. A young English Woman met with her death a short time since, she having fallen asleep with her head upon a box, had her head crushed to pieces. Such things however do not often occur, and in general it affords amusement to the passengers who soon imitate the cry, and vary it with a command, such as 'All Jackson men bow down.' After such commands we find few aristocrats.


Sadly nostalgic, the classic American folk song "Low Bridge” recalls the years from 1825 to 1880 when mule barges on the Erie Canal "made boomtowns out of Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, and transformed New York into the Empire State." Maybe you remember the lyrics:

I've got an old mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
She's a good old worker and a good old pal
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
We've hauled some barges in our day
Filled with lumber, coal, and hay
And we know every inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo

Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge for we're coming to a town
And you'll always know your neighbor
And you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal…

Don't have to call when I want my Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
She trots from her stall like a good old gal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
I eat my meals with Sal each day
I eat beef and she eats hay
And she ain't so slow if you want to know
She put the "Buff" in Buffalo…


Today, this classic old tune is part of American folk history and has been recorded by such popular folk singers as Pete Seeger and The Kingston Trio. Bruce Springsteen also recorded the tune on his 2006 album, "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions."

A LITTLE BACKGROUND: Shortly after taking office in 1817, James Monroe vetoed a bill to provide federal funds to build the Erie Canal. Like Jefferson and Madison, Monroe encouraged an American system of internal improvements to help the nation grow, but didn't believe that the federal government had the authority under the Constitution to use federal monies to fund state projects like the Erie Canal.

FAST FACT: Ten years after the Erie Canal opened, New York was the busiest port in the nation, moving more agricultural and industrial goods than Boston, Baltimore and New Orleans combined!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Franklin Pierce, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and a Hard-Boiled Egg

In 1854, President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which outraged many northerners who believed he was supporting slavery in the new southwestern territories and old southern states. Politically disgraced, Pierce became the first president to hire a bodyguard after having been attacked by a detractor with a hard-boiled egg!

Although no one knows who threw an egg at Pierce (or if that, in fact, actually happened), we do know that human beings have been eating eggs for thousands of years. In addition to eggs from chickens, people eat eggs from turkeys, ducks, pelicans, quails, partridges, ostriches, geese, and pigeons. Turtle eggs have been delicacies in some cultures for centuries, and, in some places, people eat alligator eggs at breakfast!

Why eggs at breakfast? Food historians say that this practice dates back to those days when many people raised their own chickens and had a constant supply of fresh eggs. Eggs are usually collected early in the morning and “the fresher the egg, the better it tastes.” Eating eggs in the morning also made sense in the days before refrigeration because fewer eggs had to be stored and so fewer eggs would break or spoil. Of course, eating eggs is a great way to start your day because they are a rich source of protein and energy!

So without further ado, let me leave you with this quick and delicious recipe for Sunny Side Up Grilled Egg Sandwiches from Mr. Breakfast

8 slices of whole wheat bread
4 eggs
4-8 slices of cheese (to taste)
4 slices of ham
dehydrated onions
butter
salt and pepper

Melt butter on the grill. Fry eggs sunny side up and then flip and break the yolk, frying until yolk is completely dry. Fry ham on the grill. Layer egg, ham, onion, salt, pepper and cheese on slice of wheat bread and put another slice on top to make a sandwich. Melt more butter on the grill and fry the sandwich on both side until the bread is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Serve warm.

FAST FACT: The Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, and allowed settlers in those territories to determine (vis-a-vis the concept of popular sovereignty) whether they would allow slavery within their boundaries. The Act triggered many violent conflicts between abolitionists and slaveholders and moved the nation ever closer to civil war.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Thomas Jefferson's Favorite Pet

So did you know that in the fall of 1772, when Thomas Jefferson was newly married and had a one-month old child, he purchased a family pet. "For five shillings he bought a mockingbird...the first in a procession of singing birds that would always be part of Jefferson's household."

Of all the mockingbirds that Jefferson purchased, his favorite was reportedly a little songbird named Dick. In The First Forty Years of Washington Society, Margaret Bayard Smith, a prominent Washington socialite who was frequently invited to dine at the President's House, noted that Jefferson "cherished this bird with peculiar fondness, not only for its melodious powers, but for its uncommon intelligence and affectionate disposition, of which qualities he gave surprising instances." According to Mrs. Smith, this unsually intelligent little bird

was the constant companion of [Jefferson's] solitary and studious hours. Whenever he was alone he opened the cage and let the bird fly about the room. After flitting for a while from one object to another, it would alight on his table and regale him with its sweetest notes...Often when he retired to his chamber, it would hop up the stairs after him, and while he took his siesta, would sit on his couch and pour forth its melodious strains.

So what in the world does this have to do with presidential history and food? Well, not a whole lot, except that Jefferson was reportedly so fond of Dick that he would often let it "perch on his shoulder and take its food from his lips!"

Although Jefferson didn't leave records of the type of foods he usually fed to his little pet, experts say that mockingbirds generally feed on insects, wild fruit, weeds, and seeds. During the spring and summer, "caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants, bees, and other insects make up most of their diet," and, during the wintertime, they primarily eat vegetable matter. Because of their insect-eating habits, most people consider mockingbirds "more helpful than harmful," and no one can dispute the fact that these birds "truly sing for their supper," something that Jefferson took great delight in throughout most of his extraordinary life!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt, a Brooklyn Candy Shop Owner, and the Invention of the Teddy Bear

So did you know that the Teddy Bear was invented in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt? According to historians, it all began when Roosevelt went on a four-day bear hunting trip in Mississippi in November of 1902. Although Roosevelt was known as an experienced big game hunter, he had not come across a single bear on that particular trip.

According to historians at the National Park Service:

Roosevelt’s assistants, led by Holt Collier, a born slave and former Confederate cavalryman, cornered and tied a black bear to a willow tree. They summoned Roosevelt and suggested that he shoot it. Viewing this as extremely unsportsmanlike, Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear. The news of this event spread quickly through newspaper articles across the country. The articles recounted the story of the president who refused to shoot a bear. However, it was not just any president, it was Theodore Roosevelt the big game hunter!

When a political cartoonist named Clifford Berryman read the reports he decided to “lightheartedly lampoon” the incident. Then, when a Brooklyn candy shop owner by the name of Morris Michton saw Berryman’s cartoon in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902, he came up with a brilliant marketing idea. You see, Michtom's wife Rose was a seamstress and made stuffed animals at their shop, and so he asked her to make a stuffed toy bear that resembled Berryman's drawing. He then showcased his wife's creation in the front window of their shop along with a sign that read "Teddy's Bear."

After receiving Roosevelt’s permission to use his name, Michtom began mass producing the toy bears which became so popular that he launched the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, and, by 1907, more than a million of the cuddly bears had been sold in the United States. And so NOW you know how one of Theodore Roosevelt’s hunting trips led to the "invention" of the Teddy Bear!

Now...I'm guessing that most of you probably don't want to feast on a juicy bear steak like those that Roosevelt and his fellow hunters surely enjoyed, but you might like to make these cute Teddy Bear Cupcakes which are great to serve at children's birthday parties and play dates.

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® yellow cake mix
1 cup water
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 eggs
1 container Betty Crocker® Whipped chocolate frosting
1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
48 teddy bear-shaped graham snacks

In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, peanut butter and eggs with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake 13 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and tops spring back when touched lightly in center. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Reserve 1/4 cup of the frosting. Spread remaining frosting over tops of cupcakes. Sprinkle each cupcake with 1/2 teaspoon of chocolate chips; press gently into frosting. Spread about 1/2 teaspoon reserved frosting on flat sides of 2 graham snacks. Place on cupcakes, pressing candles slightly into cupcakes to hold in place.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bill Clinton Healthy Chicken Enchiladas


According to an article in the Dining & Wine section of the New York Times, Bill Clinton has somehow become "an arbiter of international fine dining, conferring a sort of informal Michelin star just by showing up." And, if you travel enough, according to the article, "you will eventually hear a tip that goes something like: 'When you’re in Madrid, try Casa Lucio. Bill Clinton ate there with the King of Spain.' Or “Check out Le Pont de la Tour in London. Bill Clinton loves it.'"

So how, exactly, did Mr. Clinton, whose name still conjures up silly memories of Saturday Night Live skits involving greasy cheeseburgers and fries become known as “earth's No. 1 restaurant maven” overseas? Well...New York Times reporter David Segal explained it this way:

It’s widely (and correctly) assumed that he has good connections everywhere he visits, so he’s unlikely to wind up at a dud. More than most celebrities, he seems like a person who appreciates good food, and before he had heart surgery, he was known for his wide-ranging appetite.

And when Mr. Clinton visits a restaurant, everybody in the room knows it. Douglas Band, an aide who frequently travels with Mr. Clinton...says his boss introduces himself to every diner, as well as every waiter and every kitchen staff member. He will always pose for photographs and sign guest books [and someone] from his staff will send a thank-you note a few days later...

It’s also true that Mr. Clinton’s patronage in the United States has provided P.R. boosts for places like Il Mulino in Manhattan and Georgia Brown’s in Washington...But when it comes to Bill Clinton and overseas restaurants, the upside is on a far greater scale. Managers and owners from Beijing to Iceland and points between say an appearance by Mr. Clinton can be transformational, launching an obscure restaurant to fame...


These days, Mr. Clinton follows a mostly vegetarian diet, and during his recent, post-presidential travels abroad, he reportedly dined on such healthful menu items as Miso Barley Soup, Black Bean Burritos, and Cauliflower Potato Curry. Of course, it has also been said that he's particularly fond of chicken enchiladas, and so it's not surprising that a healthful recipe for this dish appears in The Clinton Presidential Center Cookbook.

If you'd like to whip up some Bill Clinton's Favorite Chicken Enchiladas for dinner tonight, here's the simple and healthy recipe to try:

2 (4 oz) cans chopped green chillies, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
cooking oil
1 (28 oz) can tomatoes
2 cups chopped onion
2 tsps salt, divided
tsp oregano
3 cups shredded, cooked chicken
2 cups sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
cup cooking oil
15 corn or flour tortillas

In a large skillet over a medium-high heat, sauté the chillies and garlic in a small amount of oil. Drain the tomatoes, reserving cup of liquid. Break up tomatoes and add to skillet. Add the onion, 1 tsp salt, oregano, and reserved liquid. Simmer, uncovered, until thickened (about 30 minutes).

Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, sour cream, cheese, and remaining salt. In the same skillet over a medium-high heat, heat cup oil. Dip the tortillas in the oil until they become limp and drain well on paper towels. Fill tortillas with the chicken mixture; roll up and arrange side by side, seam side down, in a 9x13x2-inch baking dish. Pour tomato mixture over the enchiladas. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.

FOOD FACT: The Clinton Presidential Center Cookbook contains 250 recipes from the former president's lifelong friends, family members, celebrities, and White House staff and cabinet members. Some of the tasty and homey regional recipes include Muhammad Ali's Favorite Bread Pudding, Al and Tipper Gore's Tennessee Tarts, Bono's Black Velvet, Sophia Loren's Penne Alla Puttanesca, James Carville’s Jambalaya, Mary Steenburgen’s Garlic Cheese Grits, and Barbra Streisand’s Southern Lemon Icebox Pie!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Abraham Lincoln Kentucky Corncakes

Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary were great animal lovers and allowed their four young sons to keep all sorts of pets on White House grounds. Among other animals, Abe and his family had three cats, a dog named Fido, rabbits, horses, and two rambunctious billygoats named Nanny and Nunko.

Another was a wild turkey named Jack with whom Lincoln’s youngest son Tad played with daily. When it came time for Jack to be sacrificed for a holiday dinner, Tad supposedly begged his dad to spare the turkey’s life, and, to this day, the White House maintains the tradition of “pardoning” a wild turkey each holiday season!

Although it’s a "tad" early to be thinking about preparing your next holiday dinner, you can whip up a batch of Kentucky Corncakes, which are a great side dish at just about any meal and were a Lincoln family favorite. If you’d like to make some Kentucky Corncakes today, here is a simple and simply delicious recipe to try from the Food Network:

1 cup roasted cornmeal (fine ground yellow cornmeal)
1 cup self-rising flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
3 ounces corn oil
2 cups fresh corn kernels

Place cornmeal, flour, and sugar in a bowl and mix together. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, corn oil, and fresh corn and mix together. Fold mixtures together. Place 4 ounces of pancake mix onto a hot griddle. Cook on medium high heat for 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Serve warm with lots of butter and honey enjoy!

FAST FACT: According to historians at the Miller Center, the Lincoln family's routine in the White House reflected "the presence of their sons, the demands of war, and the highly complex and many-sided character of Abraham and Mary. [T]he day went from breakfast together as a family at 8:00 in the morning, reunion again for dinner at 8:00 in the evening, and then bedtime. Until little Willie's death in 1862, the two younger sons demanded a good deal of attention, and both parents gave them ample attention, although Lincoln grew more distant as the war progressed and occupied much of his day."

For more on my manuscript wish list and submission info click here!

Monday, February 25, 2013

William McKinley, the Spanish American War, and the Embalmed Beef Scandal

Okay, so this story is kind of repulsive and certainly won't make you hungry, but it's a part of food history so here goes:

In the weeks immediately following the Spanish-American War, stories began to surface about serious problems in the United States Army's food supply. In the ensuing federal investigation, General Nelson Miles testified that he had recommended to Secretary of War Russell Alger that cattle be purchased in Cuba and Puerto Rico so that American troops stationed overseas would have fresh beef to eat.

But for some reason this was not done. Instead, thousands of tons of canned beef were shipped from the mainland for our troops to eat. Soldiers later gave sickening descriptions of the beef, describing it as “putrefied,” “extremely nauseating” and totally “unfit for human use.”

Newspaper and magazine articles about the scandal stirred up so much public outrage that the Secretary of War resigned at President McKinley’s request. Although no other disciplinary actions were taken, some historians say that the “Embalmed Beef Scandal” contributed in part to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 which prohibits the manufacture, sale, and distribution of adulterated food products.

The United States, of course, emerged from the Spanish-American War as a world power with an overseas empire that included not only Cuba and Puerto Rico but the Philippine Islands, as well. The rampant patriotism unleashed by the war was on ample display at a gala celebration held in McKinley’s honor during a tour of the South at the end of 1898 and on an extended trip to Boston two months later.

The highlight of the Boston trip was a "mammoth banquet" held at the Home Market Club in Mechanic’s Hall, where nearly 2,000 guests dined on salmon, capon, and fillet of beef after McKinley delivered an important speech in which he attempted to reconcile the United States’ anticolonial origins with the fighting then raging between Filipinos demanding independence and American forces determined to thwart them.

Near the end of his remarks, McKinley asked Americans to look beyond the "blood-stained trenches around Manila" into the future, when prosperity would have returned to the Philippines. At that time, the president declared, "Filipino children and their descendants "shall for ages hence bless the American republic because it emancipated and redeemed their fatherland, and set them in the pathway of the world’s best civilization."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hasty Pudding and the French and Indian War

So did you know that Hasty Pudding is mentioned in a verse in the patriotic song YANKEE DOODLE DANDY? A popular British song, its origins can be traced to the French and Indian War. It was later adopted in the United States and is the state anthem of Connecticut today. Maybe you remember the lyrics:

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni'

Yankee Doodle keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy

Fath'r and I went down to camp
Along with Captain Gooding
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty puddin'


Part of the Seven Years War between France and England, the French and Indian War was fought in North America between 1754 and 1763. The name of the war refers to the two main enemies of the British: the Royal French forces and the various American Indian tribes allied with them.

Heavily outnumbered and outgunned by the British, the French and Indian forces “collapsed in a massive defeat” in Quebec in 1759, and, in less than a year, the British controlled most of the North American frontier.

Although victorious, the war plunged Britain deeply into debt, which King George III sought to pay off by imposing taxes on sugar, coffee, wine, rum, tea, and other imports to the colonies. These taxes, along with other increasingly oppressive measures, united the colonists in opposition and set them down the path toward the Revolutionary War.

Now...Hasty Pudding most certainly wasn't a standard wartime ration, but, by the early eighteenth century, it was a common dish in England and the colonies, with its origins reaching back to the various pottages of the Middle Ages. According to the Oxford Companion to Food and Drink:

Hasty pudding, the simplest of all puddings, if it can be called a pudding at all, for it is no more than a porridge of flour and milk. Such a pudding should be made in little more time than it took to boil the milk, and it has no doubt been a popular emergency dish since the Middle Ages, if not earlier.

Sweetened, flavoured with spice or rosewater, and dotted with butter, hasty pudding can be quite palatable; and in fact in the 18th and 19th centuries in England it was esteemed as a delicacy...In the far north of England, and in Scotland, at least as early as the 18th century, the name came to be applied to a plain porridge of oats and barley, made with water as often as milk. In Victorian England...Hasty pudding was sometimes made with oatmeal, or with sago or tapioca. Milk was always used.


While recipes vary considerably, most early American versions were known as Indian Pudding because it was typically prepared with ground Indian maize and sweetened with maple sugar or molasses. If you'd like to whip up a batch of this classic British and American dish this holiday season, here's a simple recipe to try from simplyrecipes.com:

6 cups of milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup molasses
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg

Scald the milk and butter in a large double boiler. Or heat the milk and butter for 5 or 6 minutes on high heat in the microwave, until it is boiling, then transfer it to a pot on the stove. Keep hot on medium heat. Preheat oven to 250°F. In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, and salt; stir in molasses. Thin the mixture with about 1/2 cup of scalded milk, then gradually add the mixture back to the large pot of scalded milk. Cook, stirring until thickened.

Temper the eggs by slowly adding a half cup of the hot milk cornmeal mixture to the beaten eggs, whisking constantly. Add the egg mixture back in with the hot milk cornmeal mixture, stir to combine. Stir in sugar and spices, until smooth.

At this point, if the mixture is clumpy, you can run it through a blender to smooth it out. Pour into a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Bake for 2 hours at 250°F. Allow the pudding to cool about an hour. It should be reheated to warm temperature if it has been chilled. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt, Muckrakers, and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906

So this story is kind of repulsive and certainly won't make you hungry for a juicy hamburger or steak, but it's a part of food history so here goes:

On June 30, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act which provided for federal inspection of meat products and prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulterated food products.

The Acts arose in part due to articles and exposés written by muckrakers, like Upton Sinclair, whose popular 1906 novel The Jungle contains hair-raising descriptions of the ways in which meat was produced in Chicago slaughterhouses and stockyards.

Sinclair described how dead rats, putrid meat, and poisoned rat bait were routinely shoveled into sausage-grinding machines, how bribed inspectors turned a blind eye when diseased cows were slaughtered for beef, and how filth and guts were swept off the floor and then packaged as “potted ham.”

Muckraker, of course, is a term that is applied to those novelists and journalists who sought to expose the corruption of American business and politics in the early twentieth century. The term was first coined by President Roosevelt in a 1906 speech in which he compared writers like Sinclair to the “Man with the Muck-rake” (a character in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress) who was so focused on "raking the filth at his feet” that he failed to look up and “behold the celestial crown.”

Similarly, Roosevelt argued that Sinclair and other muckrakers were so focused on the evils of American society that they failed to behold “the vision of America's promise.”

Friday, January 25, 2013

Franklin Roosevelt's Royal Hot Dog Fiasco

When Franklin D. Roosevelt invited England’s King George VI for a visit to the United States in June of 1939, the significance of the invitation reportedly did not go unnoticed. Ever since America declared its independence from England in 1776, "the United States and Great Britain had oftentimes experienced tense relations, but Roosevelt's invitation carried great significance in the history of Anglo-American relations, not only because of their colonial past, but more importantly, because it signified the dawn of a new era in American and British cooperation.”

With Europe on the brink of war, Roosevelt realized the need to forge closer ties between the two democracies and he reportedly “planned every minute detail of the visit to ensure the King’s success in winning over the sympathy and support of the American people." His efforts paid off. According to historians at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum:

Americans heartily welcomed England's royalty with thunderous applause and adulation when the King and Queen arrived in Washington on June 8, 1939. Crowds lined the streets for a chance to glimpse the King and Queen as they traveled throughout the city. In Washington, the couple was treated to all the formalities one would expect from a State Visit. There was an afternoon reception at the British Embassy, followed by a formal evening of dining and musical entertainment at the White House.

On their second day, the King and Queen took in the sights of DC as they boarded the presidential yacht and sailed up the Potomac River to George Washington's Mount Vernon and to Arlington Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After two days in Washington, the...royal couple accompanied the Roosevelts to their home in Hyde Park, New York [where]...they enjoyed the simpler things in life. In contrast to the formal State Dinner at the White House, dinner at the Roosevelt's home...was described to the press as a casual dinner between the two families.


Even more informal was the following day's event - an old-fashioned American-style picnic which included the following menu items: Virginia Ham, Smoked Turkey, Cranberry Jelly, Green Salad, Sodas, Beer and...Hot Dogs!

The next day, news of the picnic made the front page of the New York Times, under the headline, “KING TRIES HOT DOG AND ASKS FOR MORE.” While the King reportedly ate his hot dog by hand like an American, the Queen daintily cut hers with a knife and fork.

Although the royal visit was surely the high point of the Roosevelt's 1939 social season, the president and the king also discussed the dire political and military situation developing in Europe. Equally important to Roosevelt, however, was that the visit "changed the perceptions of the American people, which in turn allowed him to do more for Britain. When England declared war on Germany three months later, Americans, due in no small part to the King and Queen's visit, sympathized with England's plight. Britons were no longer strangers or the evil colonial rulers from the past but familiar friends and relatives with whom Americans could identify."

For their part, the Royal Couple was deeply appreciative of the Roosevelt’s efforts and of the outpouring of support from the American people. In a letter to Mrs. Roosevelt, the Queen later wrote:

I must tell you how moved I have been by the many charming, sympathetic, and understanding letters which I have received from kind people in the United States. Quite poor people have enclosed little sums of money to be used for our wounded, our sailors, or mine sweepers. It really has helped us, to feel such warmth of human kindness and goodness, for we still believe truly that humanity is overall.

Sometimes, during the last terrible months, we have felt rather lonely in our fight against evil things, but I can honestly say that our hearts have been lightened by the knowledge that friends in America understand what we are fighting for. We look back with such great pleasure to those lovely days we spent with you last June. We often talk of them, and of your & the President's welcome & hospitality. The picnic was great fun, and our children were so thrilled with the descriptions of the Indian singing & marvelous clothes - not to mention the hot dogs!


Although the picnic appeared to be a casual affair, much fuss had been made in advance of it. Almost a month before the event, Eleanor Roosevelt expressed concern about it in her newspaper column called "My Day." In an entry dated May 25, 1939, she wrote: Oh dear, oh dear, so many people are worried that the dignity of our country will be imperiled by inviting Royalty to a picnic, particularly a hot dog picnic! My mother-in-law has sent me a letter which begs that she control me in some way...Let me assure you, dear readers, that if it is hot there will be no hot dogs, and even if it is cool there will be plenty of other food, and the elder members of the family and the more important guests will be served with due formality.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

George Washington's Thursday Dinners

When George Washington was inaugurated in 1789, some of the most pressing questions facing the new nation involved social manners and etiquette. This may seem trivial today, but back then, George and his fellow patriots had just fought a long war against the British Crown and they wanted to be sure that the American people would never mistake their president for a king.

How much pageantry should surround the office of the presidency? How elaborate should presidential dinners and receptions be? And how should the new president be addressed? As “His Excellency” or “His Mightiness”? These were questions of great importance when George Washington took the Oath of Office on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City on April 30, 1789.

Within weeks, Washington distributed questionnaires to his cabinet members, soliciting their opinions regarding the basis of “a tenable system of etiquette.” Vice President John Adams returned a strong response, as did Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. After much discussion, it was decided that George would be addressed as President Washington or simply Mr. President.

It was also decided that “levees” (receptions) would be held each Tuesday afternoon for "foreign ambassadors and other strangers of distinction” and that congressional dinners would be held each Thursday. Friday nights were chosen for Martha Washington’s “Drawing Rooms” and the remaining days were reserved for state banquets and personal entertaining.

Despite his desire to avoid the trappings of monarchy, George's Thursday dinners were truly fit for a king. "Dinners would begin promptly at four o’clock," according to culinary historian Poppy Cannon, and would often consist of three "bountiful" courses, the first two of which typically consisted of fifteen or twenty different dishes – all brought to the table at once!

A menu from Martha Washington’s cookbook reveals just how elaborate these dinners could be. For a first course, she suggested serving Boiled Turkey, Baked Salmon, Shoulder of Mutton, Chicken Patties, Baked Ham, Stewed Cabbage, Scotch Collops, Pork Cutlets and Sauce Robert with Mashed Potatoes, Maids of Honors, Dressed Greens, French Beans, Oyster Loaves and Celery Sauce.

This course would be followed by Asparagus a la Petit Poi, Crayfish in Sauce, Fruit in Jelly, Lamb Tails, Partridges, Poached Salmon, Wild Duck, Roasted Hare, Sweetbreads, Plovers, Prawns, and Chardoons with Fricassed Birds, Rhenish Cream and custard.

After this course, the table cloth was removed and fresh glasses and decanters of wine were placed on the table with all kinds of fruits and nuts. If Martha and other ladies were present, they would excuse themselves at this point and the men would settle down (with very full bellies!) to talk about politics and other important affairs of the day.

Although Martha's recipes might be difficult to duplicate today, you can try this more recent one for Poached Salmon with Dill from simplyrecipes.com.

1 to 1½ pounds salmon fillets
½ cup dry white wine (a good Sauvignon Blanc)
½ cup water
A few thin slices of yellow onion and/or 1 shallot, peeled and sliced thin
Several sprigs of fresh dill or sprinkle of dried dill
A sprig of fresh parsley

Put wine, water, dill, parsley and onions in a saute pan, and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Place salmon fillets, skin-side down on the pan. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Season with freshly ground black pepper and enjoy.

FOOD FACT: If you live near Mount Vernon or plan on visiting someday, be sure to stop by the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant which serves such authentic colonial appetizers as Peanut and Chestnut Soup, Colonial Hoe Cakes, and Fried Brie with Strawberry Sauce. Dinner menu items include Filet Mignon wrapped in Virginia Pepper Bacon;  Roast Duckling with “George Washington’s favorite Apricot Sauce,” and Stuffed Pork Loin with Opium Sauce!

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Richard Nixon Grapefruit Avocado Salad

As devout Quakers, Richard Nixon’s parents taught their four sons patience, courage, and determination, traits that Nixon would draw strength from during trying times in his life. He later recalled that he "gained his first taste for politics during debates around the family dinner table" and described “friendly pillow fights with his three brothers in the small upstairs bedroom they shared.”

Growing up on a small citrus farm in Yorba Linda, California, Nixon may have eaten graperuit often and Grapefruit-Avocado Salad was among the menu items served at his second Inaugural Luncheon on January 20, 1973. If you'd like to make a refreshingly colorful, slightly tangy Grapefruit Avocado Salad today, here's a simple recipe to try from Ina Garten at the Food Network:      

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
3 or 4 ripe Hass avocados
2 large red grapefruits

Place the mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the vinaigrette is emulsified.

Before serving, cut the avocados in 1/2, remove the seeds, and carefully peel off the skin. Cut each half into 4 thick slices. Toss the avocado slices in the vinaigrette to prevent them from turning brown. Use a large, sharp knife to slice the peel off the grapefruits (be sure to remove all the white pith), then cut between the membranes to release the grapefruit segments.

Arrange the avocado slices around the edge of a large platter. Arrange the grapefruit...and enjoy! 


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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Andrew Jackson's First Inaugural Orange Punch


When Andrew Jackson was inaugurated on March 4, 1829, it was like "the homecoming of a hero" as twenty thousand of his loyal supporters, who believed he had been cheated out of the White House four years earlier, converged upon Washington, eager to celebrate the long-delayed victory of their champion.

According to food historian Poppy Cannon, Jackson's inauguration "sparked a celebration that did everything but set fire to the White House." Thousands of rowdy fans poured into the building and "little thought was given to the delicate French furniture, elegant draperies, and fine china" as ice cream, punch, cakes and ices were gobbled up as fast they appeared on long serving tables."

In a letter to her sister, Margaret Bayard Smith, a prominent Washington socialite, described the chaos of Jackson's inaugural festivities this way:

But what a scene did we witness! The Majesty of the People had disappeared, and a rabble, a mob, of boys, negros, women, children, scrambling fighting, romping. What a pity, what a pity! No arrangements had been made, no police officers placed on duty, and the whole house had been inundated by the rabble mob...

Cut glass and china to the amount of several thousand dollars had been broken in the struggle to get the refreshments, punch and other articles had been carried out in tubs and buckets, but had it been in hogsheads it would have been insufficient...

Ladies fainted, men were seen with bloody noses, and such a scene of confusion took place as is impossible to describe…This concourse had not been anticipated...Ladies and gentlemen only had been expected at this Levee, not the people en masse. But it was the People's day, and the People's President, and the People would rule!


Another observer described the day's events this way:

Orange-punch by barrels full was inside, but as the waiters opened the door to bring it out, a rush would be made, the glasses broken, the pails of liquor upset, and the most painful confusion prevailed. To such a degree was this carried, that tubs of punch were taken from the lower story into the garden to lead off the crowds from the rooms.

Although no one knows exactly how those quick-thinking waiters prepared the punch that day, a writer for The Wall Street Journal scoured some ninteeenth century cookbooks and provided this adapted recipe for Inaugural Orange Punch that's "easy to make by the bucketful" if you've got a mob to entertain!

3 parts fresh orange juice
1 part fresh lemon juice
1 part Mulled Orange Syrup*
1 part dark rum
1 part cognac
2 parts soda water

Mulled Orange Syrup: Combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water and heat to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to a low simmer. Add the peel from an orange and mulling spices (a couple of cinnamon sticks, some whole cloves and allspice berries). After 15 minutes, remove from heat and let it sit for several hours. Strain.

Combine Mulled Orange Syrup and all other ingredients in a punch bowl with a large block of ice. Serve in punch cups with a little crushed ice. Add a dash of Angostura bitters to each glass and enjoy!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Luncheon

In November of 1960, John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in one of the closest and most dramatic presidential elections in American history. Two and a half months later, on January 20, 1961, Kennedy was sworn in as the first Roman Catholic president of the United States and delivered his Inaugural Address on the terrace of the East Portico of the U.S. Capital. In it, he said:

...Fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom – symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning – signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago...

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge – and more.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man...


After delivering his address, Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline were escorted to the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the U.S. Capitol for the traditional inaugural luncheon. According to Senate historians, menu items included cream of tomato soup with crushed popcorn; deviled crab meat imperial; New England boiled stuffed lobster with drawn butter; prime Texas ribs of beef au jus; string beans amandine and broiled tomatoes with grapefruit and avocado sections with poppyseed dressing.

Although the traditional inaugural luncheon at the Capital dates back to 1897 when the Senate Committee on Arrangements hosted a luncheon for President McKinley and several other guests, it didn't begin in its current form until 1953 when President Eisenhower, his wife Mamie, and fifty other guests dined on creamed chicken, baked ham, and potato puffs in the Old Senate Chamber.

Since then, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies has organized a luncheon celebration at fourteen Presidential Inaugurations. Often featuring cuisine reflecting the home states of the new president and vice president, as well as the theme of the Inauguration, the luncheon program includes speeches, gift presentations, and toasts to the new administration.

FOOD FACT: According to historians, President Kennedy preferred orange juice, poached eggs on toast, crisp broiled bacon, milk and coffee at breakfast. For lunch, he enjoyed all kinds of soup, especially New England Fish Chowder. As for dinner, there were no particular favorites, although it has been said that he liked lamb chops, steak, turkey, baked beans and mashed potatoes. He also enjoyed corn muffins, and, for dessert, if he had any, it would "likely be something prepared with chocolate." Biographers say that Kennedy was a light eater and often had to be reminded that it was dinner time because "politics always took preference over food."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Warren Harding, the Roaring Twenties, and the Development of Finger Foods

Although kind and well-liked, Warren Harding is often ranked as the worst president in American history, and even he admitted to close friends that "the job was beyond him." Aware of his limitations, Harding appointed some very capable and intelligent men to his cabinet, including Charles Evans Hughes as Secretary of State and Herbert Hoover as Secretary of Commerce.

Unfortunatley, Harding also surrounded himself with an "unpleasant group of dishonest cheats," who came to be known as "The Ohio Gang." According to historians at the Miller Center:

Warren’s close friend and political manager, Harry Daugherty, whom he named attorney general, was one of the worst - and one of the slickest. He survived impeachment attempts by Congress and two indictments for defrauding the government in the disposal of alien property confiscated by his office from German nationals. Another schemer, Albert Fall, secretary of the interior, secretly allowed private oil companies to tap the Teapot Dome oil reserve in Wyoming and the Elk Hills oil reserve in California in return for least $300,000 paid to him in bribes.


Whether Harding was aware of his advisors' crimes beforehand is uncertain. What is certain, however, is that he loved to play card games and drink whiskey with them upstairs at the White House in private defiance of Prohibition.

Describing the scene at one of Harding's card games that she encountered, Alice Roosevelt, daughter of Teddy Roosevelt, wrote: "the air heavy with tobacco smoke, trays with bottles containing every imaginable brand of whiskey, cards and poker chips ready at hand – a general atmosphere of waistcoat unbuttoned, feet on the desk, and spittoons alongside."

Meanwhile, as President Harding was downing whiskey with his advisors at the White House, millions of ordinary Americans were drinking at secret taverns and bars called speakeasies, a popular term during Prohibition used to describe an establishment that sold illegal alcoholic beverages. According to The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink:

In order to gain entrance to [a speakeasy], you had to speak in a low voice through a small opening in the back door and tell the attendant inside who it was who sent you to the place. The term itself...may derive from the English "Speak-softly-shop," an underworld term for a smuggler's house where one might get liquor cheaply, its usage in this sense having been traced back to 1823.

But with the onset of Prohibition in America, speakeasies sprang up overnight, sometimes in shabby sections of town, but often in the best neighborhoods, and many of these establishments were actually fine restaurants in their own right. New York's "21" club was a speakeasy during this period and had two bars, a dance floor, an orchestra, and dining rooms on two floors...French diplomat Paul Morande, visiting New York for the first time in 1925, reported his experience at a speakeasy: "the food is almost always poor, the service deplorable."


It was during this period (often referred to today as the Roaring Twenties) that the custom of throwing cocktail parties at home also became popular. The rise of cocktail parties, in turn, inspired the development of finger foods, which worked well for tipsy partygoers who jiggled Gin Fizzes, Whiskey Smashes, and other cocktails while mingling with others in loud, crowded rooms.

Some popular finger foods of the Roaring Twenties include Lobster Canapés, Shrimp and Crabmeat Cocktails, Stuffed Deviled Eggs, Caviar Rolls, Oyster Toast, and Savory Cheese Balls. And food historian Poppy Cannon indicates that President Harding often served his favorite dish, Bratwurst with Saurkraut, at his many poker parties at the White House.

If you’d like to serve up some Bratwurst Rolls at your next party, here is a simple and simply delicious recipe to try from epicurious.com

1/4 cup butter
2 medium onions, sliced into thin rings
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped (optional)
3 to 4 (12-ounce) cans cheap beer
8 bratwurst links
8 small, crusty hoagie rolls
whole-grain mustard
dill pickle spears

Prepare the grill for a medium-hot fire. Place the butter in a medium disposable foil roasting pan. Place the pan on the grill rack and cook until the butter melts. Add the onions and garlic (if using). Cook until softened, three to five minutes. Add the beer and bring to a simmer. Place the pan on the low heat zone and keep the onion mixture warm.

Place the bratwurst on the grill rack. Grill, turning occasionally, until evenly charred, four to five minutes. Transfer the bratwurst to the onion mixture and let stand until ready to serve. With tongs, place the bratwurst in the rolls. Serve with the onions, mustard, and pickle spears.

FOOD FACT: Some of the mass-manufactured foods introduced during the Roaring Twenties include the Baby Ruth Candy Bar, Wonder Bread, Yoo-Hoo Chocolate Drinks, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Welch's Grape Jelly, Popsicles, Hostess Snack Cakes, Kool-Aid, Peter Pan Peanut Butter, and Velveeta Cheese!

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