Dining with the presidents at Georgian Court

What an absolute delight it was to withdraw from the bruising verbal battles of this presidential election season and spend a Sunday afternoon in the gilded ballroom of Georgian Court University, Lakewood, savoring a presentation on the favorite foods and libations of presidents of yore by food historian Judith Krall-Russo.

With Krall-Russo’s sparkling, anecdote-rich delivery on the culinary tastes of George Washington, Thomas  Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Rutherford B. Hayes, John Garfield, Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and Harry S. Truman, the time flew by.

Among her tasty tidbits of information: Washington savored onions glazed with honey and, in the fashion of the day, only ate one food at a time; Jefferson, a true foodie who, she theorized, would subscribe to Bon Appetite magazine were he alive today, favored round tables accommodating no more than 12 to 14 at dinner.

Oh, and lest I forget, he was also a tea lover, serving up 20 lbs. of tea a year in his tea room, which, Krall-Russo figures, works out to 126 cups a pound.

Jackson loved hickory nut soup, Lincoln craved fruit pies; Hayes enjoyed serving his guests “ala Russe” on individual plates of astonishing beauty; Garfield was another tea drinker and also enjoyed squirrel stew; Teddy kept things casual and enjoyed liver and bacon for breakfast; Coolidge preferred the soft drink “Moxie,” loved pickles and leftovers.

And Harry Truman, for sure this Plainsman was no gourmet. He loved brownies, ginger snaps, corn soup and chicken cooked up just about any old way. A man after my own heart!

Krall-Russo, a member of the Culinary Historians of New York, is also a graduate of the The Tea School in Pomfret, Connecticut, a certified, level four tea specialist by the Specialty Tea Institute, New York and a member of the Tea Association of America among other associations.

She delivered such delish bon mots to the audience that they enjoyed the presentation and chatting with her at the conclusion of the talk and during the lovely buffet lunch prepared by the GCU food service immensely.

A frequent visitor to Georgian Court, her programs on all manner of food and tea have become extremely popular at the Lakewood campus, lovingly maintained by the Sisters of Mercy, which was once a resort home of financier George Jay Gould.
She expects to be back in the New Year with another of her enthusiastic looks at the foods we love.

She did offer some recipes culled from various books on presidential cookery and since we are coming into the Thanksgiving holiday season, “Coolidge Custard Pie” from “The Presidents Cookbook” by Poppy Cannon in its original text, looks like a winner to me.

Ingredients – sugar, flour, salt, eggs, milk, nutmeg.

Directions: combine ¾ cup sugar, 1-tablespoon flour, pinch of salt, 2 beaten eggs and 2 cups of milk. Pour into a 9 inch unbaked pie shell, bake in hot (450 degrees) oven for 10 minutes, reduce heat to moderate (350 degrees) bake another half hour until custard sets. Top with sprinkled nutmeg and cool before serving.


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