WHENEVER American broadcasters or politicians talk about Washington DC they always call it “our nation’s capital” and they don’t walk they “power strut,” as Dorset-born travelling chef Philippa Davis discovered on her recent visit to this beautiful city on the Potomac river.
In all my travels I have never seen so many dashing three-piece suits, secret service police (helpfully labelled with ‘secret service’ on their jacket) and impressive museums, galleries and exhibitions. I admit my reason for power strutting was usually to make my next restaurant booking but it was fun to join in with the vibe.
The city has been home to 43 different presidents (although Obama is the 44th president, Grover Cleveland was elected on non-consecutive terms so is counted twice). In-between running the free world, working on international relations and dealing with political scandal, they of course all had to eat and being president generally means you get to indulge in your peculiarities and preferences.
I cannot tell a lie but George Washington, the first of them did not cut down his father’s cherry tree as was popularly believed –but he did love a cherry pie.
Thomas Jefferson was what we would call today a “foodie”. When he travelled he wrote intricate notes and would bring back pieces of kit like waffle irons from Amsterdam and have staff bring him back what was then exotic ingredients such as Parmesan from Italy and figs from Marseilles. He would also keep charts of what was in season and no doubt if Instagram had existed he would have been snapping his daily dinner.
According to the records, Abraham Lincoln held outrageously elaborate banquets although he was a very plain and disinterested eater, but he had a soft spot for apples and large quantities of coffee.
Physicians had to be called in and the staff trained in studying Woodrow Wilson’s diet as there was great worry at his lack of weight. He did love home-made strawberry ice cream and charlotte russe – but bizarrely he was also keen on having two raw eggs in grapefruit juice for breakfast (an idea I won’t be trying on any clients soon).
Calvin Coolidge was adamant chickens were only tasty if they lived next to the kitchen door, so had them directly outside the backdoor of the White House. The meat had a rather unusual fragrant quality which was eventually explained by realising the coop had been placed directly where Teddy Roosevelt had had his mint garden.
Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor were rather rebellious and are famed for serving hot dogs to our King (George VI) for lunch on one visit. This is pretty cool, but what I love even more is that they were so fond of doughnuts they even had them for breakfast. Not particularly healthy but if you can’t have what you want when you are president – when can you?
Harry Truman and his wife were not fussy and staff noted they were very affable when it came to dining but she was keen to up the standards of cooking so bought in some new top chefs into the kitchens.
At the time that Julia Child was hitting the screens, JFK was in power and America was embracing French cuisine. It is not clear if the man himself was keen on this trend but we do know he always wanted soup for lunch and inevitably had to be reminded to eat at dinnertime as he was so engrossed in his work.
Nixon got the USA obsessed with meatloaf (the food not the band) as his wife would make it once a month. Piqued with curiosity, the public was keen to have the recipe for themselves, so the office printed thousands to hand out on official White House paper.
George Herbert Walker Bush hated broccoli and was bold enough to publically admit this, much to the outrage of broccoli farmers who then sent 10 tons of the stuff to DC (this was then used to feed the needy).
In more recent times we have had Bill Clinton who is allergic to milk and chocolate but loves fast food and George W Bush who is not interested in food but has a soft spot for pretzels.
Then there is president Barack Obama who is said to be keen on burgers, hot dogs and generally American style food. He did once answer broccoli, when asked what was his favourite food, but it is not clear how true this is! Michelle Obama is heavily involved in the campaign to reduce obesity in children and has planted a vegetable garden at the White House.
And the next president? We shall have to wait and see but I would be greatly surprised if they didn’t enjoy these very American cookies.
For me a cookie should have a crunch on the outside and be chewy in the middle, this recipe when cooked right gives you exactly that. You can use different flavoured chocolate like chilli, orange or mint depending on your taste.
225 g room temperature salted butter
200 g granulated sugar
220 g soft brown sugar
2 large free range eggs
10 ml vanilla extract
375 g plain flour
5 g bicarbonate of soda
10 ml hot water
2 tbs cocoa powder
300 g chocolate cut into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F /175 °C degrees. Beat the butters and sugar till smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl mix the bicarb and hot water then add to the batter. Add the flour and cocoa powder and briefly mix in. Finally add the chocolate chips. Line a baking tray with baking parchment then drop large spoonfuls onto it. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are just browned.
For more of Philippa’s postcard recipes visit www.philippadavis.com
Pictured are Philippa’s chocolate chip cookies and some of the famous buildings and landmarks around Washington DC.