Thursday, December 2, 2021

How Did the White House Thanksgiving Menu Evolve with the Times?

Most Americans don’t have oysters on their Thanksgiving table, but, for a time, mollusks were a staple ingredient on White House holiday menus.

“Oyster stuffing and various oyster elements were always included, especially in the late 19th century. Oysters were very popular,” says historian Lena Mann of the White House Historical Association. “I think Washington, D.C.’s location near the Chesapeake Bay, which used to be the center of a huge oyster, made it a regional sort of thing, but it’s been over the years.”

In addition to oysters, the White House Thanksgiving meal includes other regional foods such as rockfish from the Potomac River, turtles from the East Coast of Maryland and cranberries from Massachusetts.

Because the holiday is often a more private affair, the White House Thanksgiving menu is not set. Presidential families often spend days away from the White House, in their private homes out of town, or at the Camp David Presidential Retreat in Maryland.

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In 1985, President Ronald Reagan spent Thanksgiving at his California ranch. The menu included pumpkin pie with turkey, cranberries, cornbread dressing, salad, mashed potatoes, monkey bread, string beans with almonds, and whipped cream.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and friends at Camp David, where he ate turkey; dressing with bread stuffing; Giblet Gravy; mashed potatoes; sweet potatoes; green beans; cranberry mold; A savory tray of pickles, celery, tomatoes, green onions, green and black olives, and carrots; fruit salad; cranberry salad; and Pecan and Pumpkin Pie.

In 2007, also at Camp David, President George W. Bush and family feast on food such as turkey, jellied cranberry molds, whipped sweet potato soufflé, and pumpkin mousse trifle.

Horace Vos, known as the “Poultry King,” sent turkeys to the White House every Thanksgiving and Christmas from 1873 until his death in 1913. (Harvard College Library via Theodore Roosevelt Collection, White House Historical Association)

No matter where the commander in chief spends the holiday, turkey is usually on the menu and has been since the 1870s.

“You have a guy named Horace Voss, who is the quote, “Poultry King of Rhode Island,” and he, in 1873, starts sending all these turkeys to the White House,” Mann says. “He does this for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and he does it for 40 years until he died in 1913. So, there’s this kind of precedent for presidents sending various birds to their tables by the public.”

But people haven’t always sent chickens. In 1926, President Calvin Coolidge received an unusual visit from a supporter in Mississippi.

“He was sent a raccoon to be served on his Thanksgiving table,” Mann says. “But the Coolidge family decided they didn’t want to eat the raccoon. So, instead, they made her a family pet. They named her Rebecca, and then eventually Coolidge gave her a collar for Christmas that year, with Was told, ‘White House Raccoon’ on him.”

First Lady Grace Coolidge, with Rebecca in 1926, became a pet rather than a Thanksgiving dinner at the White House.  (library of Congress)

First Lady Grace Coolidge, with Rebecca in 1926, became a pet rather than a Thanksgiving dinner at the White House. (library of Congress)

What the president eats for Thanksgiving also depends on what’s happening in the country. In 1917, during World War I, President Woodrow Wilson stayed in Washington and focused on a more affordable Thanksgiving.

“So, they’re eating cream of oyster soup with turkey trimmings and vegetables, pumpkin pie for a very simple menu,” Mann says. “First Lady Edith Wilson wanted to follow the various food preservation programs that were pioneered at the time.”

There were even more Thanksgivings during the Great Depression and World War II. In 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his family introduced “Clam Cocktails, Clear Soup, Roasted Turkey Roasted and Cranberry Sauce, Spanish Corn, Small Sausages and Beans, Sweet Potato Cones, Grape Salad, Pumpkin Pie and Cheese, Coffee.” I dine on it. And ice cream.”

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt watches as President Franklin D. Roosevelt cooks a traditional Thanksgiving turkey during dinner in Warm Springs, Georgia, November 29, 1935.  (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum/White House Historical Ace

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt watches as President Franklin D. Roosevelt cooks a traditional Thanksgiving turkey during dinner in Warm Springs, Georgia, November 29, 1935. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum/White House Historical Ace

This year, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are spending Thanksgiving on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket, a family tradition since 1975. The first lady recently shared Thanksgiving recipes with Food Network, including stale Italian bread in her grandmother’s delicious stuffing.

Jill Biden said, “Food is love — and gathering together for Thanksgiving this year is a treat for our hearts.” “Family recipes that have been passed down through generations, fun traditions that continue, and sharing meaningful blessings all fill me with gratitude.”

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This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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