President 26: Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt
September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909
Let’s send Donald Trump on own of those outward bound wilderness trips and see how he fares. Since he is such a lover of reality TV perhaps a cameo on Naked and Afraid is the way to go? Let’s just make sure they black out his entire body. I’m sure that is what Melania does every night anyways. We should throw in Sarah Palin as his teammate and they might last a solid five minutes. For all the self- proclaiming badass political types of our generation, may I introduce you to Teddy Roosevelt?
After McKinley’s assassination, Roosevelt became the youngest President ever at the age of 42. By this time, Roosevelt had already authored a book on the War of 1812, had lived on a dude ranch in the Dakotas, served as Assistant Secretary to the Navy and had earned acclaim as a Rough Rider (alas not as a rapper but as a volunteer cavalryman in the Spanish-American War). He continued this achievement streak in office, by cracking down on corruption, establishing conservation efforts across the country, promoting the construction of the Panama Canal, and by achieving diversity in his staff appointments. He was also heavily involved in foreign policy efforts, some for the better and some for the worst, and coined the phrase to “speak softly and carry a big stick”; a practice that has been all but forgotten in our age of angry tweets.
As for his palate, President Roosevelt and his brood of six children enjoyed the classics and kept to simple meals when the White House was not entertaining. Teddy ate hard boiled eggs almost every morning for breakfast and enjoyed hominy, liver and bacon, freshly baked rolls, and other family classics with his brood. He wasn’t a teetotaler but only took a drink on occasion. His most exotic indulgences were foreign teas, notably caravan and hu-kwa, that he picked up on his travels. On those inescapable formal occasions, his team put together appropriately elaborate meals, almost always to include oysters.Compared to his predecessor’s laundry lists of courses, the Roosevelt household was not over the top.
In June 1906, the Washington Post seemed to have had a slow news day and published a column which criticized the first family for having extravagant dining practices. Teddy wrote to the Post the next day and addressed the attack. His retort included a detailed description of the White House’s menus and their buying practices, with the premise that “creating the widespread impression that the President and his family sit down to a four or five course breakfast, a six or seven course luncheon, and a ten-course dinner” was worthy of a response. He also added a dash of charming humor to the column’s assumptions that “every article of food that goes to the White House table is carefully inspected” noting that “the cook looks over the potatoes to see that no bad ones get into the pot”.
Sagamore Hill Sand Tarts with Chocolate Mousse
His real weakness at the dinner table was for sweets. No amount of sugar was too much for his palate, as he put seven lumps in his “bathtub sized” coffee cup. He then dunked these cookies straight in. Named “Sagamore Hill” Sand Tarts, after his beloved property on Oyster Bay in Long Island NY, this recipe was found scribbled on the inside cover of one of Edit Roosevelt’s many beloved cookbooks. Instead of coffee we are going with a dark chocolate mousse for dipping, in honor of Teddy’s break from the Republican Party to form the Bull Moose Party, or the “Progressive Party”, in 1912. Teddy called for limits on campaign contributions and raising the minimum wage for women. Yup, we are still talking about the same old stuff.
· 1 cup butter
· 2 cups sugar
· 2 eggs
· 2 tsp vanilla extract
· 4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
· cinnamon, to taste
Cream 1 cup butter until it is as smooth as mayonnaise. Then add 2 cups sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs, one by one, beating after each addition. Beat in one additional egg yolk and 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Stir in 4 cups sifted flour. Mix again well. Roll the dough on a lightly floured board until quite thin. Cut with a 2 ½ inch cooky cutter. Then beat remaining egg white just enough to stir it up a big. Brush the egg white on top of the cookies. Sprinkle with a cinnamon-sugar mixture and bake on a greased cooky sheet in a moderate (350° oven for about 8 minutes).
Adapted from: Rufus Estes’ Good Things to Eat, 1911
This mousse-like recipe is easy and from one of the most interesting cookbooks I have discovered on this journey. Born a slave, Rufus Estes, began working as a cook for the Pullman Company, a rail car manufacturer, following emancipation. He became the first African American rail chef to publish a cookbook, and the fifth African American to publish a cookbook nationwide. His recipes are easy to follow and concise, as he had to work his magic in tight galley kitchens as they clanked down the track. In celebration of Teddy’s love for travel, I thought it was perfect. I substituted 1 4.4 oz melted dark chocolate bar for the vanilla that Rufus Estes recommends and it worked splendidly.
Cook a half cup each sugar and water over the fire until it threads. Do not stir after the sugar has dissolved. Beat the whites of three eggs until very stiff, pour the syrup slowly over it, beating constantly. [add melted chocolate bar]. Flavor with vanilla, and when cold fold in a pint of cream whipped stiff. Pour into a mold and pack.