Tuesday, January 10, 2017

George Washington's Thursday Dinners


When George Washington was inaugurated in March, 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 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.


Immediately after taking office, Washington distributed questionnaires to his advisors, soliciting their opinions regarding the basis of “a tenable system of etiquette.” 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 family 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 dishes might be difficult to duplicate today, you can try this fabulous recipe for Poached Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce or this 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, skin-side down on the pan. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Season with freshly ground black pepper and enjoy.

FOOD FACT: If you visit Mount Vernon 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!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Richard Nixon Inaugural Grapefruit Avocado Salad

As devout Quakers, Richard Nixon’s parents taught their four sons patience, courage, and determination, traits that Nixon said he  drew 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 might have enjoyed  grapefruit often, and Grapefruit-Avocado Salad was among the official menu items served at his second Inaugural Luncheon on January 20, 1973. If you'd like to whip up  a refreshingly colorful, slightly tangy Grapefruit Avocado Salad in honor of Richard Nixon's birthday today, here's a simple and simply delicious recipe to try from Ina Garten:      


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! 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Andrew Jackson Inaugural Orange Whiskey Punch


When John Quincy Adams took the oath of office in 1825, it was under a cloud of controversy. The election of 1824 had been a bitterly contested four-man race between Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, William Crawford, and Adams.

Since no candidate had won a majority of electoral votes, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives where Clay, as Speaker of the House, quickly threw his support to Adams, even though Jackson won the most popular and electoral votes. Adams then appointed Clay as Secretary of State. Outraged and feeling cheated out of the White House, Jackson called the deal a “Corrupt Bargain to "cheat the will of the people."”


With these accusations hanging over his head, Adams faced problems from the start and his four years in office weren't easy ones. Although his intelligence, family background, and experience could and should have made him a great president, he lacked the charisma needed to create a base of loyal supporters.

Not surprisingly, he lost the election of 1828 in a landslide, and when Andrew Jackson was inaugurated in March, 1829, twenty thousand of his loyal supporters, who believed he had been cheated out of the White House four years earlier, descended "like locusts" upon Washington, eager to celebrate the long-delayed victory of their champion.

According to culinary historian Poppy Cannon, Jackson's inauguration "sparked a celebration that did everything but set fire to the White House." Thousands of rowdy fans crammed into the building and "little thought was given to the delicate French furniture, elegant draperies, and fine china" as ice cream, punch, ices and cakes "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 how those waiters prepared the punch that day, you can get some great whiskey tips from eatdrinkfrolic.com and 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 today!


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!

For 5 Wild & Crazy Presidential Elections and Inaugurations, click here!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Donald Trump, the 2012 Presidential Campaign, and Oprah's Favorite Mar-a-Lago Turkey Burgers

You could almost hear the sighs of relief from Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and other Republican presidential hopefuls when Donald Trump announced that he would not be running as a candidate in the 2012 presidential campaign. Trump's official statement read in part:

After considerable deliberation and reflection, I have decided not to pursue the office of the Presidency. This decision does not come easily or without regret; especially when my potential candidacy continues to be validated by ranking at the top of the Republican contenders in polls across the country. I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election.

I have spent the past several months unofficially campaigning and recognize that running for public office cannot be done half-heartedly. Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector...

I look forward to supporting the candidate who is the most qualified to help us tackle our country's most important issues and am hopeful that, when this person emerges, he or she will have the courage to take on the challenges of the Office and be the agent of change that this country so desperately needs.


Not surprisingly, political pundits quickly began trying to decipher reasons for his decision. Some said that Trump’s business interests were at the center of it, noting that his popular reality show "Celebrity Apprentice" was renewed on NBC and he “had to decide if he was going to be back as its host or run for president.”

Others claimed that they never thought Trump would run because of the requirement that candidates file a financial disclosure form. Whatever the reasons, one thing is clear: the 2012 presidential campaign wasn't nearly as controversial or entertaining without Trump as a contender.

One of the more entertaining events of the campaign was the 2011 White House Correspondents Association's annual dinner, where President Obama reportedly “exercised his revenge" after weeks of attacks from Trump, "joking that the billionaire businessman could bring change to the White House, transforming it from a stately mansion into a tacky casino with a whirlpool in the garden.”


According to The Huffington Post:

With Trump in attendance, Obama used the White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner to mock the reality TV star's presidential ambitions. The president said Trump has shown the acumen of a future president, from firing Gary Busey on a recent episode of "Celebrity Apprentice" to focusing so much time on conspiracy theories about Obama's birthplace.

Focusing on Trump's decision to fire Busey instead of rock singer Meat Loaf on a recent episode of the TV show, President Obama quipped, “These are the types of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well handled, sir.”

While he took the president’s ribbing in good humor, Trump was clearly not amused by Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers, who was the emcee of the event and picked up where President Obama left off. “Donald Trump has been saying he will run for president as a Republican,” Meyers said, “which is surprising, because I just assumed that he was running as a joke.

Although Trump clearly didn't enjoy Meyer’s performance, later calling parts of it inappropriate, he may have enjoyed the elegant dinner itself. According to news reports, menu items included Petite Filet Wild Mushroom and Onion Compote; Coco-Buttered Scallops; Cranberry and Tasso Risotto; Grilled Baby Zucchini, Spring Pepper, and Sun Burst Squash.

Of course, The Donald is no stranger to fine dining. His luxurious destination resort The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida offers “an extraordinary culinary experience for its members and their guests who can choose from Continental, New World, Classical and New Caribbean cuisine."


And every Wednesday evening, according to the resort's website, guests can enjoy a Six Star Seafood Night dinner buffet that features “a sumptuous array consisting of an appetizer table, two pound lobsters, freshly grilled fish and meat items, salads and a dessert bar accompanied by a saxophonist under the stars.”

Sounds fabulous, but if you prefer more casual fare, you might like to try a delicious Mar-a-Lago Turkey Burger, which got rave reviews from none other than Oprah Winfrey herself. “I believe [it] may be the best turkey burger in the entire world," she was quoted as saying. If you'd like to whip up some Mar-a-Lago Turkey Burgers for lunch or dinner this week, here is the original recipe to try from Oprah.com:


1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
3 Granny Smith apples , peeled and diced
1/8 cup canola oil
4 pounds ground turkey breast
2 Tbsp. salt and 1 Tbsp. black pepper
2 tsp. Tabasco® chipotle pepper sauce
1 lemon, juiced and grated zest
1/2 bunch parsley , finely chopped
1/4 cup Major Grey's Chutney, pureed

Sauté the scallions, celery and apples in the canola oil until tender. Let cool. Place the ground turkey in a large mixing bowl. Add sautéed items and the remaining ingredients. Shape into eight 8-ounce burgers. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Season the turkey burgers with salt and pepper.

Place on a preheated, lightly oiled grill. Grill each side for 7 minutes until meat is thoroughly cooked. Let sit for 5 minutes. Serve with a side of Mar-a-Lago Pear Chutney and your favorite toasted bread, pita or hamburger roll.

For 5 Wild and Crazy Presidential Elections and Inaugurations,click here

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ronald Reagan Inaugural Jelly Beans

Shortly after Ronald Reagan became Governor of California in 1967, he began eating pectin jelly beans to help him quit smoking. When a new brand of jelly beans, called Jelly Belly beans, appeared on the market in 1976, Reagan switched to them and would often share them with his staff and visiting officials.

Reagan enjoyed these sweet little treats so much that he sent a letter to the chief executive of the company that produced them, stating, "we can hardly start a meeting or make a decision without passing around the jar of jelly beans." Even after he became president, Reagan's fondness for Jelly Bellies didn't diminish, and large colorful jars of them were often prominently displayed on his desk in the Oval Office, in the Cabinet Room, and even on Air Force One.


When Jelly Bellies first appeared on the market, there were only eight flavors: Very Cherry, Lemon, Cream Soda, Tangerine, Green Apple, Root Beer, Grape, and Licorice, which was reportedly President Reagan's favorite.

Today, there are more than 50 official and creatively-named flavors to choose from, including Bubble Gum, Buttered Popcorn, Cappuccino, Caramel Corn, Chili Mango, Chocolate Pudding, Cotton Candy, Green Apple, Kiwi, Juicy Pear, Lemon Drop, Margarita, Orange Sherbet, Piña Colada, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Sizzling Cinnamon, Strawberry Cheesecake, Toasted Marshmallow, Top Banana, Tutti-Fruitti, Very Cherry, Wild Blackberry, and Watermelon.

Of course, jelly beans taste great alone, but they can also be used in cookies, cakes, and in this recipe for Perfect Party Cupcakes from Hello, Cupcake!


4 jumbo cupcakes, baked in blue, red, green and orange paper liners
4 standard cupcakes, baked in blue, red, green and orange paper liners
4 mini cupcakes, baked in blue, red, green and orange paper liners
1 can (16 oz) vanilla frosting
Assorted food coloring
⅓ cup Jelly Belly jelly beans in assorted flavors

Directions: Divide the vanilla frosting into 4 mixing bowls. Tint each bowl different pastel color with the food coloring.

Working on one party cupcake tier at a time, spread tinted frosting on top of cupcakes in like-colored paper liners and make smooth. Using matching jelly bean colors, arrange alternate color Jelly Belly jelly beans around the outer edge of each cupcake, one lengthwise and one crosswise.

Stack the cupcakes, pressing the top cupcake into the frosting to secure. Insert a candle in the top center cupcake if desired. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes and jelly beans.

FOOD FACT: In 1981, three-and-a-half tons of Jelly Belly beans were shipped to Washington, D.C. for Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. Blueberry, one of the most popular flavors today, was developed so there would be patriotic red, white and blue jelly beans at the festivities - and a jelly bean mural of Reagan was even made with these delicious sweet little treats!


FOOD FACT: In addition to the 50 official flavors, the Jelly Belly Company frequently produces "rookie" flavors that are added to the roster if they become popular enough. Some of the more curious flavors that have since been withdrawn from the market include Baked Bean, Bloody Mary, Buttered Toast, and...Roasted Garlic!

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

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, and historians say that his 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 Hush Puppies, 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 and prosperity throughout the coming year.

If you'd like to whip up some Hoppin' John for your New Year's festivities this week, 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!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Donald Trump, Tiger Woods, and Grilled Lamb Chops with Rosemary and Herbs

While Donald Trump's friendly round of golf with Tiger Woods on Friday will surely make national headlines, Tiger's round with Barack Obama in 2013 also caused quite a stir. Although scores remain top secret, what's not so secret is that many American presidents have been avid golfers.

According to Don van Natta’s First Off the Tee, 14 of the last 17 presidents have been serious golfers and how they played the game reveals a lot about their character. Dwight Eisenhower played more than 800 times during his eight years in office and had a putting green installed on the South Lawn of the White House.

A member of Augusta National Golf Club, Ike broke 80 on a dozen occasions and the Eisenhower Pine, once located on the 17th hole, was named after him. Ike hit the tree so many times that, at a club meeting in 1956, he proposed that the tree be cut down. Not wanting to offend the president, the club’s chairman adjourned the meeting rather than reject the request.

John F. Kennedy was a serious golfer but didn't want to be seen playing because he wanted to contrast his image with Ike’s reputation of “golfing his way through the presidency.” JFK and his aides reportedly made a lot of hay out of Ike's constant playing, and dubbed him "Duffer in Chief.”


As for LBJ, van Natta says that he “really tore it up” on the course and would take 300, sometimes 400 swings, in a round. "He just wanted the feel of one perfect shot," van Natta notes, "and if it took 400 swings to do it, he was going to do it. He was the president and nobody was going to get in his way."

Ronald Reagan only played the game about a dozen times while in office, but he loved putting around the Oval Office and aboard Air Force One.


But nowhere does golf run deeper than in the Bush family bloodline.

George H.W. Bush's maternal grandfather, George Herbert Walker, served as president of the United States Golf Association in 1920. A single-digit handicapper, he donated the Walker Cup, the trophy awarded to the winning team in the biennial matches between leading amateur golfers from the U.S. and Great Britain/Ireland. And 41’s father, Senator Prescott S. Bush, was a scratch golfer who served as president of the USGA in 1935.


As for Bill Clinton, Van Natta said that he "followed the rules for about a hole and a half. Then...started taking these do-over shots, gimme putts and, at the end of the 18 holes, it took him about 200 swings to score an 82."

And as for Barack Obama, an article in Time magazine notes that he took up golf “as a relaxing alternative to basketball...but now that his game is out of the closet, it is clear that he duffs in much the same way that he tries to govern.” Wellington Wilson, Obama’s longtime golf buddy, was quoted in the article as saying, “You can really tell a person's personality by the way he plays golf. He just goes with the flow. Not too high. Not too low."


And while it's hard to know if Donald Trump will "just go with the flow" with Tiger Woods this week, we do know that Obama attended a Black Caucus Dinner in Washington D.C. after his match with #MacDaddySanta, then flew to California where he pitched his "Buffett Rule" plan to tax millionaires to some A-List celebrities at a fundraiser at the upscale Fig and Olive restaurant in West Hollywood.

According to obamafoodroma.com, celebs on the guest list included Jack Black, Jamie Foxx, Danny DeVito, Eva Longoria, and Quincy Jones. Judd Apatow and Aaron Sorkin were also on hand for the festivities, where guests shelled out a $17,900 each for dinner.

So what kind of meal comes with such a whopping price tag? Well, one guest revealed that appetizer options included:

jamón ibérico and a fig Gorgonzola tartlet, while entree options included striped bass filet en papillote with zucchini, eggplant, fennel, tomato, thyme, scallion, and saffron served with Arbequina olive oil mashed potato & chives; free range organic chicken breast with grilled zucchini, eggplant, heirloom tomato, cipollini onion, roasted fig, Parmesan polenta, and marinated red bell pepper; and rosemary lamb chops, grilled then smoked a la minute with Herbs de Provence, goat cheese, and chive gnocchi.

Sounds delish, but since most of us don't have a spare $18k to drop on dinner, here's a fabulous and more affordable recipe for Grilled Rosemary Lamb Chops from epicurious.com:


3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary or 3 teaspoons dried
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 1-inch-thick loin lamb chops, fat trimmed

Mix first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Place lamb chops in single layer in 13x9x2-inch glass dish. Pour marinade over. cover with foil and refrigerate 4 hours, turning lamb chops occasionally.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). When coals turn white, drain chips, if using, and scatter over coals. When chips begin to smoke, season lamb with salt and pepper and place on grill. Cover; grill shops to desired doneness, basting often with marinade, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to platter and serve.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

James Madison, the Potomac Oyster Wars, and the Path to the Constitutional Convention

So you probably know that James Madison was one of the drafters of the Constitution and later helped spearhead the drive for the Bill of Rights. But what you might not know is that he also played a major role in negotiating an end to the Potomac Oysters Wars, which helped pave the way to the Constitutional Convention. This is how the story briefly goes:

In the seventeenth century, watermen in Maryland and Virginia battled over ownership rights to the Potomac River. Maryland traced its rights to a 1632 charter from King Charles I which included the river. At the same time, Virginia laid its claims to the river to an earlier charter from King James I and a 1688 patent from King James II, both of which also included the river.

In 1776, after more than a century of conflict, Virginia ceded ownership of the river but reserved the right to “the free navigation and use of the rivers Potowmack and Pocomoke." Maryland rejected this reservation and quickly passed a resolution asserting total control over the Potomac. After the Revolution, battles over the river intensified between watermen from both states.


To resolve this problem, leaders from Maryland and Virginia appointed two groups of commissioners which, at the invitation of George Washington, met at Mount Vernon in May of 1785. James Madison led the Virginia contingent and Samuel Chase led the Maryland delegation. Their discussions led to the Compact of 1785, which allowed oystermen from both states free use the river.

Peace prevailed until the supply of oysters began to dwindle, at which point Maryland re-imposed harvesting restrictions. Virginia retaliated by closing the mouth of the Chesapeake and watermen from both states engaged in bloody gun battles which lasted, with periodic breaks, for more than a century.

Today, these battles are known as the Potomac Oyster Wars. They're important in their own right but they have a larger historical significance because they revealed one of the main weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, which was that the federal government didn't have the power to control commerce among the states, a setup that was creating constant chaos and conflict.

With this problem in mind, Madison and the others who convened at Mt. Vernon in May of 1785 agreed to meet the following year at Annapolis to discuss the need for a stronger federal government. Not many delegates showed up and so they agreed to convene the following May in Philadelphia, which is, of course, where the Constitution was drafted.


And so NOW you know how James Madison and a little bivalve from the Potomac helped pave the way to the Constitutional Convention!

FAST FACT: Under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government didn't have the power to raise an army, regulate interstate commerce, or coin money for the country. To pass a law, Congress needed the approval of nine out of the 13 states, and in order to amend the Articles it needed the approval of all 13 states, which made it nearly impossible to get anything done! The Articles also didn't provide for an Executive or Federal branch so there was no separation of powers.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

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. Near the end of his address, he famously said

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 sixteen 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 the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum,  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. At dinner, there were no particular favorites, although he did like 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." Kennedy was a "food-as-fuel" kind of guy and often had to be reminded to eat because "politics always took preference over food."

For more on presidential inaugurations, click here!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

From Writer's Digest: Manuscript Wish List!

From Writer's Digest:

About Suzy: Suzy is an attorney, author, and agent who holds a Ph.D. in history from UC Berkeley. Her most recent books include Machiavelli for Moms (Simon & Schuster) and Forgotten Crimes: The Holocaust and People with Disabilities. She's also a ghostwriter for a #1 New York Times best-selling author with more than 25 million copies in print and her first children’s book will be published by HarperCollins in 2018.

She is Seeking: In the adult market, Suzy is particularly on the hunt for great serious nonfiction, especially by historians who are looking to make a transition from an academic to trade readership and journalists who have something unique and significant to say.

She’s also on the lookout for smart parenting books with truly useful, original hooks that fill a gap in the market; food, cooking, health and diet-related titles, especially culinary histories of all flavors and tastes; sports books with strong crossover appeal in other genres, especially history and philosophy (she’d love to find the next Golf in the Kingdom or Zen and the Art of Archery!); self-help of every stripe by authors with well-estbalished, national platforms and riveting, elegantly-written memoir (recent favorites include William Finnegan's Pulitzer-Prize-winning Barbarian Days and Paul Kalanithi's deeply-rendered When Breath Becomes Air), as well as popular culture, humor, especially as it relates to marriage and parenting, and small quirky books that make her smile and think about the world in entirely new and unexpected ways.


On the children’s front, Suzy is looking for lively, engaging, original nonfiction that really *pops* off the page and makes kids excited about reading and learning; wacky/hilarious MG commercial fiction with series potential; and YA graphic novels that bring history, literature and fascinating historical figures (think Socrates! Machiavelli! Hamilton!) to life.

She also has a soft spot for heartwarming MG works that explore the coming-of-age theme in a warm, honest voice that makes readers feel safe and at home; contemporary YA fiction that tackles difficult issues in bold, daring ways and with inventive formats that can be brought into the classroom to stimulate meaningful discussion and debate; and sweet, lyrical picture books that capture the imagination and call for multiple readings (favorite classics include Stellaluna and The Cat Who Walked Across France.) She’d also love to find an exciting, high-concept thriller that has “MOVIE!” written all over it.


How to Submit: For fiction, please send a synopsis and the first ten pages of your manuscript pasted below your query (quick, friendly tip: resist the temptation to hit “send” too quickly. Revise, revise, and revise and THEN hit send). For nonfiction, please send your query with a concise author bio to suzy@dijkstraagency.com. Thanks so much for sharing your work with me and I look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, December 12, 2016

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? It all began when he 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!


So that's how Roosevelt's name became associated with a bear. But the story doesn't end there because when a political cartoonist named Clifford Berryman read reports about the incident, he decided to lightheartedly lampoon it. 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 cute cuddly 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 Theodore Roosevelt, a political cartoonist and a Brooklyn candy shop owner led to the creation and naming of the Teddy Bear!

Now...I'm guessing that you probably don't want to feast on a juicy bear steak like those that Roosevelt and his fellow hunters enjoyed, but you might like these cute Teddy Bear Cupcakes that are fun to make and 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.

Friday, December 9, 2016

William Henry Harrison, the Election of 1840, and a Brief Constitutional Crisis

William Henry Harrison took the Oath of Office on a freezing cold day. Standing in the frigid weather without a coat or hat, the 68-year-old military hero delivered the longest inaugural address in American history. At more than 8,000 words, it took nearly two hours to read (even after Daniel Webster had edited it for length!).

A few days later, Harrison caught a bad cold which quickly turned into pneumonia. Doctors tried to cure the president with opium, castor oil, Virginia snakeweed, and other remedies, but the treatments only made Harrison worse, and he died on April 4, 1841. The first American president to die in office, Harrison served only 31 days.


Having lasted only a single month, Harrison's presidency is too short to provide much insight into his culinary preferences, but one thing is certain: his death caused a brief constitutional crisis involving presidential succession. The question was whether Vice-President John Tyler would merely be “acting” as President or would actually become President upon Harrison's death.

Article II of the Constitution could be read either way. The relevant text states:

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the VicePresident...

Did "the Same" mean the Office of the Presidency itself or merely the powers and duties of the office?

After consulting with Chief Justice Roger Taney (who responded with extreme caution, saying that he wished to avoid raising "the suspicion of desiring to intrude into the affairs which belong to another branch of government"), Harrison’s advisors decided that if Tyler simply took the Oath of Office, he would become president. Despite his own strong reservations, Tyler obliged and was sworn in as the 10th president of the United States on April 6, 1841.

When Congress convened in May, it passed a resolution that confirmed Tyler as president for the remainder of Harrison's term. Once established, this precedent of presidential succession remained in effect until the Twenty-Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1967.

FOOD FACT: Used by Harrison's doctors, castor oil comes from the seed of the castor bean plant. It, along with many other plants, herbs, oils, and weeds have been used to treat human disease for thousands of years. In the food industry, castor oil is used in all kinds of additives, flavorings, chocolate, and candies.


FAST FACT: Harrison’s death resulted in three presidents serving in office in one year (Martin Van Buren, Harrison, and Tyler). This has happened on only one other occassion in American history. In 1881, Rutherford B. Hayes was succeeded by James Garfield, who died from an assassin's bullet later that year, and Chester Arthur became president.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Charles Dickens Christmas Dinner

One of the most famous guests to visit 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. Some 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. I thought that, in his whole carriage and demeanour, he became his station singularly well.

After returning to England, Dickens wrote his first travel book entitled American Notes. But of all of Dickens' novels, perhaps none are more well-known than A Christmas Carol, which was published in 1843, one year after Dickens visited the White House. Among all of the food oriented scenes in this classic novel, none are more memorable than the one depicting the Cratchit family's Christmas dinner. Maybe you remember it:


Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped.

At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah!


No recipes, of course, are included in the book, but The Food Channel recently recreated the Cratchit's Christmas dinner and "the more bountiful feast at the merry gathering at the home of Mr. Scrooge’s nephew." If you'd like to bring some of Dickens' Christmas spirit to your family dinner table this holiday season, here's a recipe for Duchess Potatoes to try:


3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and softened
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk, light beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Fill a large pot with cold water, add salt and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and boil until tender. While the potatoes are still hot add cream, 3 tablespoons butter, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and baking powder. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Let cool to room temperature. Gently fold in the remaining butter until pieces are evenly distributed.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Transfer potato mixture to piping bag fitted with 1/2-inch star tip (you can use a gallon size baggie with snipped off corner) and pipe eight 4-inch wide mounds of potatoes on baking sheet. Spray the tops of the potatoes lightly with butter flavored cooking spray and bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.


FAST FACT: Oliver Twist is another classic Dickens novel that's filled with many memorable food-related scenes. 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 trouble maker 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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dolley Madison's Wednesday Squeezes


Legend has it that in the early nineteenth century, a freed slave named Sallie Shadd went into her family’s catering business in Wilmington, Delaware. Sallie supposedly achieved fame there for a fabulous new dessert sensation she created with frozen cream, sugar, and fruit.

When Dolley Madison heard about this new dessert, she supposedly travelled to Delaware to try it - and she must have loved it because a "magnificent pink dome of ice cream" was served at President Madison’s second Inaugural Ball in 1813, and ice cream often appeared as the official dessert on the White House menu during her husband's two terms of office.


If you'd like to whip up some Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream in honor of Women's History Month, here's a super fresh and fabulous recipe to try from epicurious.com:

1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3 (3- by 1-inch) strips fresh lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 lb strawberries (3 cups), trimmed and quartered
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Special equipment: an ice-cream maker and an instant-read thermometer

Combine cream, zest, and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and discard zest. Whisk eggs with 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl, then add hot cream in a slow stream, whisking.

Pour back into saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F (do not let boil).

Immediately pour custard through a fine sieve into a metal bowl, then cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Chill, overed, at least until cold, about 2 hours, and up to 1 day.


While custard is chilling, purée strawberries with remaining 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice in a blender until smooth, then force through fine sieve into chilled custard. Stir purée into custard. Freeze in ice-cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.