New England clam chowder was said to be a favorite of John F. Kennedy's.
Though Kennedy was Irish-Catholic, chowder actually comes from the tradition of French fishermen hundreds of years ago. After returning from a day of fishing, French fishermen tossed their day's catch into a huge copper pot, which then fed the entire village. La Chaudière included fish and shellfish.
New England clam chowder, loosely based on La Chaudière, is mainly made up of clams and salt pork (or bacon).
Sailing near Massachusetts was one of Kennedy's favorite activities, and Boston's Union Oyster House, which has been around since 1826, has a commemorative plaque for JFK at the Kennedy Booth, where the president apparently enjoyed bowls of clam chowder and lobster stew.
According to John R. Hanny, author of Secrets from the White House Kitchens, Kennedy used to play tag with his son, John F. Kennedy Jr., and would often chase him through one of the White House's kitchens. As he was running through, he'd stick his finger in a pot to taste what was cooking. "If he came back and stuck two fingers in, you’d know you did a good days work," says Hanny.
Check out the slideshow below for more about U.S. Presidents and their favorite foods.
Image via the John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.
U.S. Presidents and Their Favorite Foods
History buff and former visiting chef and culinary advisor to the White House, John R. Hanny, spills on presidential eating habits and on some of the most powerful first ladies.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
The food surrounding FDR's presidency was very simple and homey. This trend continued on through Truman and Eisenhower's terms. "In those days people ate on TV tables and played bridge after," said Hanny. Roosevelt, like most presidents between President Monroe and President Kennedy's administrations, brought his own cook from home with him to the White House.
To make a related dish at home, try this Simple Roast Chicken.
Image Credit: FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
"Ike just really liked good, old-fashion foods," says Hanny. He had an affinity for stews and was a stanch meat eater. After leaving the White House, Eisenhower raised cattle in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Eisenhower likely would have liked this meaty stew: Beef Stew with Italian Vegetables.
Image Credit: Abbie Rowe/PhotoQuest/Getty Images
John F. Kennedy
According to Hanny, Kennedy used to play tag with his son, John F. Kennedy Jr., and would often chase him through one of the White House's kitchens. As he was running through, he'd stick his finger in a pot to taste what was cooking. "If he came back and stuck two fingers in, you’d know you did a good days work," says Hanny.
Still, Kennedy "really wasn’t a huge eater," he explains. "He just liked good food and lots of different things on the plate -- just like the French people do." Kennedy's favorite dishes were Boeuf Bourguignon and chowder.
For a creamy chowder, fit for JFK, try this New England Clam Chowder.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Harvey Georges
Jackie Kennedy Onassis
When the Kennedys came to the White House, they brought back "French protocols" that had been missing since the days of Washington and Jefferson. Jackie Kennedy played a huge role in this, bringing in her favorite chef, René Verdon. The culinary model in the White House today is widely based on the changes Kennedy made while in the White House.
"One of the things that Mrs. Kennedy loved, as thin as she was, were potatoes suzette (today we might call these twice-baked potatoes)," explains Hanny. "It's [made] with butter, heavy cream, egg yolk, salt, pepper, grated Parmesan cheese, chives, and a little bit of anchovy paste."
Image Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Lyndon B. Johnson
Johnson loved Southwest, Mexican and barbecue cuisine and despised fish. When he took over for President Kennedy, Jackie's beloved chef, René Verdon, was still working in the White House kitchen. Johnson decided to keep him on the job until Verdon, fed up with Johnson's non-French eating habits, told the press of his distaste for the president's diet. "Johnson walked right down into the kitchen and fired him," explains Hanny.
For a taste of the Southwest, try this Southwest Skillet.
Image Credit: AP Photo
"Nixon had a real appetite for sweets (and scotch)," says Hanny. "I created a dish [for him on] a day when he needed some sweetening up: apricot coconut balls." Hanny used to pack a few fruity ingredients together into little balls to form a non-bake cookie. "He had them everyday until he resigned, with his coffee in the morning."
When it wasn't sweets, Nixon also enjoyed an unusual culinary combination: "If he would eat veal, he wanted cottage cheese with it and a bottle of ketchup."
Try these No-Bake Cookies. They only require five ingredients: peanut butter, honey, coconut, graham crackers and raisins.
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"Reagan appreciated chicken and beef," says Hanny. These favored foods likely came from his mid-western roots. He had a huge appetite and had a special weakness for chocolate mousse, which the kitchen used to make for him three-inches thick.
If you also have a weakness for chocolate mousse, feast your eyes on these Chocolate Mousse Cups.
Image Credit: Frank Carroll/NBC/NBC NewsWire
"Nancy and President Reagan had one of the most beautiful love affairs I've ever seen or heard of in my life," Hanny explains. "She was very concerned about his image." If she ever went out of town, the first lady would head to the kitchen and plan out meals for the president because she didn't want him to gain weight. The chefs would most often ignore the request once the president asked what was for dinner. The staff would instead make him thick porter house steaks and au gratin potatoes while she was away.
For a fun au gratin potato recipe, check out this recipe for Potato Chip Au Gratin.
Image Credit: NBCU Photo Bank
George H. W. Bush
Bush loved foods like pickled pig's feet and fried pork jowls. For both his Inauguration and George W. Bush's, a baked potato stuffed with lobster was served.
For flavorful, stuffed baked potatoes, try Baked Potatoes with Wild Mushroom Ragù.
Image Credit: PH1 Harry Gerwien/National Archives/MCT
When Clinton was first elected, he used to go out for a jog and run right through a McDonald's drive-thru to pick up some grub to bring home. Once an avid meat eater, Clinton became a vegetarian and now practices a vegan diet.
Image Credit: Shawn Thew/Getty Images
"In the old days you could use frozen vegetables or canned vegetables and doctor them up," says Hanny. "You can’t do that today, and that’s because of Michelle Obama’s influence." The chef is seeing her influence at his family's restaurant where today, they are selling tremendous amounts of salmon and vegetables.
As a couple, the Obamas are foodies. They travel far and wide to simply have a date night with a good dinner.
Get your veggies and protein when you make this Salmon & Vegetable Salad recipe.
Image credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
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