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Fit For A President

Thomas Jefferson walked back from his inauguration to lunch with his fellow boarders at Conrad and McMunn's boarding house at C Street and New Jersey Avenue. Curators at Monticello have never discovered just what he ate but say that it's recorded that the third president "took his usual seat at the end of the table farthest from the fire."

Perhaps the most rambunctious inaugural meal occurred in 1829 after the swearing-in of Andrew Jackson. The celebrated frontiersman and democrat, who instead of receiving bows had bowed to the people after taking the oath of office, had planned a modest reception at the White House featuring wines, cakes, ice cream and orange punch. He was, after all, still mourning the death of his wife a short time before.

_____A La Carte_____

Jan. 20, 2005

Inaugural Luncheon Menu in honor of The President of the United States and Mrs. Bush and The Vice President of the United States and Mrs. Cheney

Scalloped Crab

and Lobster

Roasted Missouri Quail


Brined Root Vegetables

Steamed Lemon Pudding

Apple Wild Cherry


So enthusiastic were his rough-hewn followers, however, that 20,000 men, women and children stormed the White House, brawling, tracking in mud, breaking furniture and china, sucking down all the punch and sending Jackson fleeing out a side window to refuge in a nearby hotel. Harried White House cooks filled tubs on the lawn with whiskey to lure the merrymakers out of the executive mansion.

By the 1845 inauguration of James A. Polk, the nation was expanding, which was naturally reflected in the celebrations. Polk's inauguration included a four-foot high cake adorned with a flag for each state and territory.

For James Buchanan's inaugural meal in 1857, the concept of real celebratory repast had taken hold. Buchanan's included $3,000 worth of wine -- a huge sum for the time -- 400 gallons of oysters, 50 quarts of chicken salad (presumably more robust than FDR's), 60 saddles of mutton and four of venison, eight rounds of beef, and 1,200 gallons of ice cream.

After taking the oath of office in 1861, Abraham Lincoln returned to the Willard Hotel for the sort of homespun luncheon one might associate with the rail-splitting lawyer from Illinois: mock turtle soup, corned beef and cabbage, parsley potatoes and blackberry pie. That night, things were more elaborate. The centerpiece of the inaugural dinner was a spun-sugar model of the Capitol, whose dome was then under construction. Rowdy guests nearly wrecked the event, however, some snatching whole patés, chickens and legs of veal off the table and carrying them off for private consumption.

A century after George Washington's inauguration, 800 guests celebrating its centennial made up for its initial modesty. They tucked into an eight-course banquet that was a monument to both Federalist ambitions and French cuisine. Green turtle soup, salmon with Hollandaise, filet of beef in Madeira sauce, sweetbreads with truffles, snipe in pastry -- the dishes went on and on. Mushrooms, haricots verts, flageolet beans, pâté de foie gras, spring chicken in watercress -- plus several palate-cleansing sorbets, cakes, pastries and elaborate sugar constructions, all washed down with Sauternes, sherry, port, a Chateau Romanee Contee burgundy and, from Bordeaux, cases of Chateaux Leoville Barton.

Not all the food on Inauguration Day has been elaborate. Calvin Coolidge, who always looked like he was sucking on a pickle, had pickles for breakfast on his 1923 Inauguration Day. And for all the expansiveness of his inaugural supper, William McKinley for lunch grabbed a corned beef sandwich and a cup of coffee in a Senate committee room in 1897.

For all its later culinary swagger, the Kennedy administration began with relatively straightforward American fare -- crab gumbo, lobster Newburg, roast beef, stuffed mushrooms with pureed spinach and molded tuna salad -- on that bright, snowy day in 1961.

The sparest inaugural meal may have occurred a little less than three years later. Vegetable soup and crackers. It was served to Lyndon Baines Johnson aboard Air Force One in Dallas: Nov. 22, 1963.

Longtime Post reporter Ken Ringle does not need an inauguration to overeat. Washington Post researcher Bobbye Pratt and researcher Jonnie L. Jacobs-Percer contributed to this report.

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