6 Presidents Who Were Secret Foodies

How to eat like a world leader

U.S. presidents have a larger-than-life quality. But one way presidents get elected is by presenting himself or herself as a common man or woman. And one of the most important ways of doing that is through food. That means, for instance, that Bill Clinton famously hammed it up at McDonald’s, where he chowed on cheeseburgers. George W. Bush ate grilled cheese sandwiches made with Kraft cheese singles and white bread. A lot of presidents favored “down home” fare; Jimmy Carter loved his grits, James Garfield ate squirrel soup, and George H.W. Bush gnawed heartily on Texas barbecue. Donald Trump has already become known as the fast food president. But some presidents made much better choices. For President’s Day, we narrowed down the definitive list of top presidential foodies.

6) Chester A. Arthur (1881–1885)

Arthur served less than a full term—he took over after James Garfield died from complications related to an assassination attempt and he lost his re-election bid—but he has a reputation for having one of the most refined presidential palates. His White House chef remarked, “If gourmetship were the chief ingredient in Presidential greatness, our twenty-first president would score near the top,” wrote Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks in The Presidents’ Cookbook, published in 1968. President Arthur’s favorite foods included macaroni pie with oysters, Rhode Island eels, and turtle steak.

5) Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909)

Teddy Roosevelt may have fostered a cowboy persona, but he was also a champion of consumers. Along with Harvey Washington Wiley, chief chemist of the Bureau of Chemistry in the Department of Agriculture, Roosevelt passed the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act, which essentially turned the Food and Drug Administration into the regulatory agency it is today. But Roosevelt was also a notorious eater. In 1906, The Washington Post attacked the Roosevelts for dining lavishly at the White House, prompting the administration to correct the paper and tout the president’s simple tastes. However, that’s not the whole story. For the then-Vice President Roosevelt’s 42nd birthday (just before President McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt became the youngest president to serve in the office), he ate a six-course meal consisting of bluepoint oysters; green turtle soup; timbale of peanut ham; crab flake a la newberg; fillet of beef with dickinson green peas and fresh mushrooms sous cloche; quail and bread sauce salad with roman punch and dessert cakes; and lots and lots of coffee.

4) Richard Nixon (1969–1974)

This one comes as a shock, considering Nixon is probably best known for commandeering the White House limo to go on a search for his favorite snack, cottage cheese, which he ate almost obsessively. But Nixon actually had a really solid diet and he would balance out eating large meals at state dinners by having light meals served subsequently. Henry Haller, who served as the White House Chef from 1966 to 1987, recounted that Nixon enjoyed rich foods like beef wellington, duckling a l’orange, homard à l’américaine (lobster sautéed in oil and tomatoes), and macadamia nuts.

3) Herbert Hoover (1929–1933)

Hoover and his dog, King Tut

“The best of everything was served—sometimes out of season, often imported,” wrote Cannon and Brooks in The Presidents’ Cookbook. Hoover’s predecessor Calvin Coolidge ate simple meals, but Hoover was determined to elevate the presidential menu. He enjoyed lobster, egg timbales, Virginia ham, black cherries, and gumbo from a small restaurant in Opelousas, Louisiana. And rumor had it that he always went back for seconds.

2) Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)*

*Much of the credit for Jefferson’s addition here goes to James Hemings, older brother of Sally Hemings

Jefferson’s reputation as the “founding foodie” should actually be credited to James Hemings. In 1874, Jefferson went to Paris to take a governmental post. Jefferson was traveling with Hemings, one of the nearly 200 slaves Jefferson owned. France had abolished slavery over 500 years earlier, and Hemings could have easily gone to court and won his freedom, but Jefferson struck a deal with Hemings in which he would offer Hemings his freedom if Hemings trained in French cooking and teach it to a successor in America. Hemings studied in Paris under a caterer, pastry chef, and chef for five years, and he was eventually freed in 1796. In 2012, author Thomas J. Craughwell recounted this story in the book Thomas Jefferson's Crème Brûlée: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America. Hemings’ recipe for snow eggs, a difficult-to-make custard, remains one of the most famous presidential desserts.

1) Barack Obama (2009–2017)

In the White House, Obama was ever the everyman—his faves included guacamole, chili, pizza, and burgers—but he could be just as much a foodie as any of the presidents before him. He enjoyed eating out at Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo, a cocina-style Mexican restaurant in Chicago, where he would enjoy chilaquiles and Yucatecan roast pork. When in New York, Obama dined at Estela, one of Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurants in America in 2014, and Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster. In D.C., the Obamas would eat at Wolfgang Puck’s The Source and Rose’s Luxury, the latter being another of Bon Appétit’s top restaurants. And he’s definitely the only president to ever eat at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, made famous by the 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. And for that, Obama earns the nod as most refined presidential palate.

Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less