Posts filed under time travel

George W. Bush Cheeseburger Pizza.. Yuck


President 43: George W. Bush

January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009

There is one food companion so loyal; it is there with us late at night and still there in the morning. It is pizza and we love it so much that across the country Americans consume an average of 350 slices per second. From Hawaiian to meat lovers, there are plenty of topping options, but President Bush said why stop there? Behold a child’s dream and a Neapolitan nightmare: the cheeseburger pizza. It comes complete with mustard, ketchup, and pickles. Cristeta Comerford, a White House chef since 2005, told reporters about the questionable combo during his tenure. “For dinner, the President loves what we call home-made ‘cheeseburger pizzas’ because every ingredient of a cheeseburger is on top of a margherita pizza.” This bizarrely constructed hodge podge of a pie has made huge inroads. Most Pizza chains now have one on the menu and many of them are the most calorific selection. The Bacon BBQ Cheeseburger pizza from Pizza Hut weighs in at 650 calories a slice.  In the same breath, Comerford also noted the Presidents dedication to working out. A slice a day does not keep the doctor away. 

The Bush family started with the Clinton’s White House Chef, Walter Scheib. The chef was known for sophisticated and rather complex cuisine. After some stylistic disagreements, he was replaced. “If you had a grilled cheese, a peanut butter and honey, and a BLT,” Scheib told reporters, “pretty much you’ll cover the culinary universe as far as [President Bush] is concerned.” There was also the issue of the scallops. The First Lady was not a fan and the more they appeared on the table, the less she enjoyed them. What she did enjoy was fresh American produce, with beets being a favorite. She also loved fresh pea soup with mint. The family was no fuss to feed, happy with comfort staples and repeat favorites. 

Unsurprisingly, the Bush family also was (and still are) great fans of Tex-Mex; the spicier the better.  Huevos Rancheros were a particular weekend favorite which made the table most Sundays after church. Their first state dinner was appropriately given for Vicente Fox, President of Mexico. Crab and chorizo, followed by a pepita crusted bison gave both families familiar flavors they enjoyed. For snacking, it was tex-mex chex, a twist on the classic that the family created at the Texas Governor’s mansion. With hot sauce, cumin, and Worcestershire sauce, handfuls of it are quick to disappear. 

I had planned on doing Tex-Mex but this dish was too bizarre to ignore. I have included the White House pizza dough recipe and simple instructions for the assembly thereafter.  I have enjoyed more pizza than the average bear, but I think I would give this one up for President Garfield’s squirrel soup or Fillmore’s pickled eggs. You have to try everything once.

If you are in DC October 29th:  Please join “Soulfood Scholar” Adrian Miller and I on the morning of October 29th as we share recipes and explore the legacy of African American White House chefs at the Smithsonian Food History Weekend. A complete guide to the presentations and events can be found here.

George Bush’s Cheeseburger Pizza

Dough recipe from: White House Chef by Walter Scheib and Andrew Friedman

Pizza Dough

  • ½ cup plus 2 Tbsp warm water
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tspactive dry yeast (not quick-rising)
  • ¼ tsp honey
  • 1 ½ cups bread flour
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • Cornmeal to dust the pizza stone


  • 4 Tbsp. crushed tomatoes
  • 3 ounces mozzarella
  • 5 basil leaves, torn
  • 3 strips bacon, cooked till crispy then crumbled
  • ½ lb. ground beef, browned
  • 1 large pickle, sliced
  • Sprinkle of catchup and mustard
  • 1 ½ ounce shredded cheddar, optional

Put a pizza stone on the center rack in the oven. (If you don’t have a pizza stone, use an inverted 12 inch cast iron pan that’s been greased with olive oil). Preheat oven to 450F

Put 2 Tbsp. of the water, the flour, yeast, and honey in a stainless steel bowl. Stir together, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size (20 minutes).

Add the bread flour, oil, salt and remaining ½ cup water, stir together, cover, and let it double again (20 minutes.)

Knead the dough a bit to get any air out. Roll out the pizza dough on a heavily floured surface until ½ inch thick. Let sit for 15 mins. before baking. 

Top the dough with crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

Bake for 12 mins. Add bacon, beef, pickles, and additional cheddar (if desired). Return to oven for additional 3 mins. 

Dress with ketchup and mustard. Serve.

Posted on October 25, 2016 and filed under main event, time travel, pizza.

Reagan Gazpacho

President 40: Ronald Reagan

This week I had intended to pay homage to Reagan’s most famous edible obsession, the Jelly Bean. I made a couple of test batches and decided my homemade variety was woefully inadequate to the handfuls of synthetic heaven we all adore. I ended up following Nancy’s lead and going healthy, but I suggest popping some jelly beans throughout your cook to ease those sugar shakes. During his gubernatorial race in California, Reagan traded his pipe smoking addiction for an addiction to the bean, with licorice being the flavor of choice. His sole supplier was Goelitz Mini Gourmet Jelly Beans out of Oakland, who kept them coming to the White House. Goelitz even put together a red, white, and blue variety pack for inauguration day in 1981 and made a candy jar with the Presidential seal for White House guests so they could get sugar high on the way home. They were his guilty pleasure, which he scarfed down while Nancy wasn’t watching and one of the many surprising eccentricities in his home life and diet.

It seems every staunchly Republican family has a child or a lab named Reagan, which is quite humorous considering the Reagans weren’t actually that cookie-cutter. President Reagan, in his former life as a Hollywood actor, was originally considered for Bogart’s lead role in Casablanca. Those acting skills came in handy when dealing with the lunacy of the Hill, and Ronald Reagan loved the limelight. He was also the first President to get one of those pesky divorces (no judgment here). He then met Nancy, who was also working in Hollywood at the time. Nancy had dated celebrities before, including Clark Gable, and she quickly learned to love being a political wife. She took the reins on a lot of things, including what the President ate. It was a healthy high fiber diet for the day-to-day, though there was occasionally wiggle room for the President’s beloved macaroni and cheese. Fruit (and secret jelly beans) were for dessert, unless it was a holiday and her pull-apart monkey bread made the table.

Breakfast was normally cereal and fruit. Eggs were served once a week. The coffee was decaf as caffeine didn’t agree with the President.  It was light lunches of soups, with Hamburger soup being the most requested, and salads. For dinner, they occasionally enjoyed a frozen meal, or at least pretended to, in order to humor the manufacturers and their lobbyists.  President Reagan made March 6th National Frozen Food Day and it is still being celebrated by families, every day, across the nation. The preservatives and high sodium in most of these foods pair perfectly with ketchup, which the Reagan administration tried to officially make a vegetable in their bid to rework school lunch funding. It makes five a day a lot easier. Some actual family dinner favorites include: Veal Scaloppini, Beef and Kidney Pie, and broiled fish with lemon butter. 

The First Lady loved healthy fashionable food with that razzle dazzle. Cold soups, including gazpacho and curry soup with a dollop of chutney, made a perfect starter or lunch for her hosted events. The White House adapted this recipe from the original from the housekeeper at the Reagan’s Rancho del Cielo, north of Santa Barbara, California. Chef Henry Haller served it as starter at a luncheon for the United States delegation to the U.N. Decade for Women’s Conference. It has enough zest to avoid the feeling that you are eating pasta sauce (tip: don’t blend it to oblivion), and enough bite to feel almost full after a large bowl.


Adapted from: The White House Family Cookbook by Henry Haller

My changes are in italics

·         4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled

·         1 cup peeled, chopped cucumber

·         1 cup chopped green bell pepper

·         1 cup chopped red bell pepper

·         1 garlic clove

·         1 cup clear vegetable stock

·         1 garlic clove

·         2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

·         2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

·         2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil, or 1 tsp dried

·         2 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon, or 1 tsp dried

·         1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce

·         6 drops Tabasco sauce

·         1/8 tsp ground pepper

·         1 cup peeled, finely diced ripe tomato

·         ½ cup peeled, seeded, and finely diced cucumber

·         ½ cup finely diced green pepper

·         ½ ripe avocado, chopped

·         Sesame seeds for garnish

-In a blender, combine whole tomatoes, chopped cucumbers and red and green pepper, and garlic clove with the vegetable stock. Puree until smooth.

-Add chives, parsley, basil, tarragon, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and pepper. Blend until thoroughly mixed.

-Refrigerate soup or set bowl in a pan of ice for 2 hours

- Pour soup into individual serving bowls. Top each with a sprinkling of finely diced tomato, cucumber, chopped avocado, and green pepper. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, black pepper, and chili flakes.

Posted on September 27, 2016 and filed under appetizers, main event, salad, snacks, soup, time travel.

The Fords Strawberry Shortcake

President 38: Gerald Ford

August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977

I can’t decide if being a kid in the White House would be the best or worst way to grow up. On a positive note, you are pretty much guaranteed Ivy League admission, unless you really mess up, and have a backstage pass to anything cool happening in the District. This comes with a price. Every time you smile and flash those braces and awkward break outs, the world knows.  You are at press conferences during your sleep-in times and state receptions when your friends are out buying beer with their fake IDs. From administration to administration, I am sure the kids of the White House have had varying opinions on their special treatment. One teen who embraced the role was Susan Ford, the youngest of the Ford kids. She hosted her Senior Prom in the East Room, frequented the in-house bowling alley, and, with her brothers, had the cooks whip up late night snacks. As the First Family pays their own grocery bill, thekids racked up quite the tab. Gerald Ford and his family had a unique experience in the White House from the get-go as they weren’t prepared at all for it.  After the resignation of Spiro Agnew and President Nixon, the Fords packed their bags and moved to Pennsylvania Avenue. His biggest task was to keep order in Washington and faith alive in the public. He had the distinct advantage of being able to conduct himself without the pressure of fulfilling campaign promises and being constantly tested by a public who didn’t elect him.  With his calm demeanor, President Ford fulfilled his duty and earned himself a positive place in the history books. 

As a family, the Fords were an extremely athletic bunch and kept their meals healthy and hearty.  For breakfast, it was normally English muffins and fruit. There is actually a famous picture of the President toasting his own, a planned photo opp.  For weekend brunches, it was waffles with sour cream and strawberries, flavors similar to our strawberry shortcake this week. The family normally ate dinner late, starting around nine pm, in the White House family dining room.  Jackie Kennedy had redone the space with shockingly expensive French wallpaper, complete with scenes of the French revolution.  Betty Ford had it replaced as the violence understandably ruined her appetite. President Ford’s favorite dinner was pork chops with stewed red cabbage and apples. Cabbage was his favorite. Mrs. Ford’s simple beef stew with walnuts recipe was also served often, including their anniversary every year. Their chef, Henry Haller, remembers the family as easy to please and approachable. It was this approachability, especially in Betty, that made her a brave advocate for breast cancer and, more famously, for addiction awareness. 

Desserts were not commonplace on the Ford table but this strawberry shortcake was requested by Susan on those days when a teenager just needs something sweet, no matter the cost. The President had sugar removed from the table and from almost everything in their diet in protest of its high price at the time. The Sugar Act of 1934, stemming from the Great Depression, made sugarcane a basic commodity and gave sugar farmers a pretty sweet subsidy to keep prices low. It expired in 1974. Economists coined the term “white gold” and until President Carter’s term, it stayed ridiculously expensive. When the price came back down, the nation shoved it in every packaged product we could find. This strawberry shortcake is well worth the indulgence. I have made some adjustments, including the use of coconut oil instead of butter and balsamic vinegar as a marinade for the strawberries. Weird you say? The tangy vinegar brings out the best flavor in the berries, making their full flavor shine. Just remember to add sugar to balance it out. 

Susan’s Strawberry Shortcake

Adapted from the White House Family Cookbook by Henry Haller

My changes are in Italics

  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Grated peel ½ lemon 
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • ½ cup melted coconut oil
  • 3 pints strawberries, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 additional Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar


  • Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 10-inch cake pan; dust lightly with flour. 
  • In a mixing bowl, beat eggs with the granulated sugar until fluffy. Transfer to the top of a double boiler.
  • Set over hot water and continue beating until doubled in bulk and thickened, about 7 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat. Continue beating until cooled. Fold in grated lemon peel.
  • Fold in one-third of the sifted flour; fold in one third of the coconut oil.
  • Repeat twice to fold in remaining flour and oil. Do not overmix.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake on lower shelf of pre-heated over for 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown and firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • Let pan cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
  • Turn cake out onto wire rack and let cool completely. Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate overnight.
  • Cut strawberries into bite size pieces. Reserve several smaller berries for garnish. Add 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and 2 Tbsp sugar. Mix and refrigerate overnight.
  • In acold mixing bowl, whip the cream with vanilla. 
  • Use a long serrated knife to slice cold cake horizontally. 
  • Spread the bottom layer with whipped cream and cover with the other cake layer, cut side down. Add ½ of the strawberries.
  • Frost entire cake with a thin layer of whipped cream, leaving enough to use for decoration. Garnish top with the rest of the strawberries. 


Posted on August 22, 2016 and filed under baked sweets, dessert, time travel.