Presidents Day-Fun Facts about the Presidents #1 Who was a good cook?

In honor of Presidents Day, and of all the Presidents who have served our country, I thought I’d do a series of blog posts with interesting information about individual Presidents. First up:

President Dwight Eisenhower had a reputation as a very good cook. According to the information found in the SCHOLASTIC ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE PRESIDENTS, he enjoyed making cornmeal pancakes and vegetable soup. He and his wife Mamie often hosted barbeques on the roof of the White House.  Supposedly even during World War II as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, he would occasionally cook as a way to relax. I couldn’t find any original source material to confirm that, but it makes a nice story and I plan to keep looking.

He shared his recipe for vegetable soup with a women’s church group in Savannah, Georgia to include in their cookbook. It’s not written in traditional recipe form, so it’s a little hard to follow, but it seems like it would be fun to try:

“The best time to make vegetable soup is a day or so after you have had fried chicken and out of which you have saved the necks, ribs, backs uncooked. (The chicken is not essential, but does add something.)

Procure from the meat market a good beef soup bone, the bigger the better. It is a rather good idea to have it split down the middle so the marrow is exposed. In addition, buy a couple pounds of ordinary soup meat, either beef or mutton, or both.

Put all this meat, early in the morning, in a big kettle. The best kind is heavy aluminum, but a good iron pot will do almost as well. Put in also the bony parts of the chicken you have saved. Cover it with water, something on the order of 5 quarts. Add a teaspoon of salt, a bit of black pepper and, if you like, a touch of garlic (one small piece). If you don’t like garlic put in onion. Boil all this slowly all day long. Keep on boiling until the meat has literally dropped off the bone. If your stock boils down during the day, add enough water from time to time to keep the meat covered. When the whole thing has practically disintegrated pour out into another large kettle through a colander. Make sure the marrow is out of the bones. Let this drain through the colander for quite awhile as much of the juice will drain out of the meat. (Shake the colander to help get out all the juices.)

Save a few of the better pieces of meat just to cut up a little bit in small pieces to put into your soup after it is done. Put the kettle containing the stock you now have in a very cool place, outdoors in the winter or in the ice box; let it stand all night and the next day until you are ready to make your soup.

You will find that a hard layer of fat has formed on top of the stock which can usually be lifted off since the whole kettle full of stock has jelled. Some people like a little bit of the fat left on and some like their soup very rich and do not remove more than about half of the fat.

Put the stock back into your kettle and you are ready to make your soup.

In a separate pan, boil slowly about a third of a teacupful of barley. This should be cooked separately since it has a habit, in a soup kettle, of settling to the bottom and if your fire should happen to get too hot it is likely to burn. If you cannot get barley, use rice, but it is a poor substitute.

One of the secrets of making good vegetable soup is not to cook any of the vegetables too long. however it is impossible to give you an exact measure of the vegetables you should put in because some people like their vegetable soup almost as thick as stew, others like it much thinner. Moreover, sometimes you can get exactly the vegetables you want, other times you have to substitute. Where you use canned vegetables, put them in only a few minutes before taking the coup off the fire. If you use fresh ones, naturally they must be fully cooked in the soup. The things put into the soup are about as follows:

  • 1 quart of canned tomatoes
  • 1/2 teacupful of fresh peas. If you can’t get peas, a handful of good green beans cut up very small can substitute
  • 2 normal sized potatoes, diced into cubes of about 1/2 inch size
  • 2 or 3 bunches of good celery
  • 1 good sized onion, sliced
  • 3 nice-sized carrots diced about the same size as potatoes
  • 1 turnip diced like the potatoes
  • a handful of raw cabbage cut into small pieces

Your vegetables should not all be dumped in at once. The potatoes, for example, will cook more quickly than the carrots. Your effort must be to have them all nicely cooked, but not mushy, at about the same time.

The fire must not be too hot but the soup should be kept bubbling.

When you figure the soup is about done, put in your barley, which should now be fully cooked, add a tablespoonful of prepared gravy seasoning and taste for flavoring, particularly salt and pepper, and if you have it, some onion salt, garlic salt, and celery salt. (If you cannot get the gravy seasoning, use one teaspoonful of Worcestershire Sauce.)

Cut up the few bits of meat you have saved and put a handful in the soup.

While you are cooking the soup do not allow the liquid to boil down too much. Add a bit of water from time to time. If your stock was good and thick when you started, you can add more water than if it was thin when you started.

As a final touch, in the springtime when the nasturtiums are green and tender, you can take a few nasturtium stems, cut them up in small pieces , boil them separately as you did the barley, and add them to your soup.”

Here’s a few more posts about the Presidents:

How to memorize the Presidents in Order X-Men Style:

Who were the smartest Presidents?

Which President noticed the White House was about to fall down?

Which President got married in the White House and who was the youngest First Lady?

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5 Responses to Presidents Day-Fun Facts about the Presidents #1 Who was a good cook?

  1. Pingback: Who were the smartest U.S. Presidents? | Dee Garretson

  2. Pingback: How to Memorize the Presidents in Order, X-Men Style | Dee Garretson

  3. Pingback: Fun Facts about the Presidents #3 – Which President got married in the White House and who was the youngest First Lady? (It wasn’t Jackie Kennedy.) | Dee Garretson

  4. Pingback: Presidents Day-Fun Facts about the Presidents #2 Which President noticed the White House was about to fall down? | Dee Garretson

  5. Pingback: Fun Facts about the Presidents #4 – Which President loved animals and let his children have a piebald rat named Jonathan live at the White House? | Dee Garretson

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