Taft’s Thanksgiving turkeys competed for attention on his holiday tables with chubby Georgia possums, each with a potato stuffed in its mouth. Taft was a Cincinnatian by birth but a Southerner in his tastes, the newspaper accounts of the day noted. His Thanksgiving meal in 1910, thusly, was prepared by three cooks, “all Negro women, the very best of southern culinary artists,” the Detroit Free-Press observed. Sadly, the names of these artistes do not appear, this being long before the era of White House chefs appearing on “Iron Chef America” and becoming nationally recognized advocates for healthful cuisine.
In the not-so-calorie-conscious early 1930s, Eleanor Roosevelt talked about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s love of oyster stew and browned sausages as Thanksgiving Day mainstays. The Roosevelts’ Thanksgiving chestnut stuffing recipe called for roasting the nuts in “fat” (though it doesn’t say what kind), sauteing celery and onions in bacon fat, then tossing it all in melted butter: an artery-clogging trifecta.