If you're interested in recreating the magic of the Carter White House for your family on Thursday, though, stick to the classics: roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie. But perhaps your inclination is to have a more conservative Thanksgiving, in the style of President Ronald Reagan or President Bush or President Bush. Or maybe you're a Clintonian New Democrat. Whatever. Here's what the presidents have eaten each year since 1980, as reported contemporaneously by the media.
He wasn't president yet, but the media still wanted to pass along what the president-elect was going to eat.
The Reagan Thanksgiving menu includes turkey with corn bread dressing and gravy, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, peas with onions, grapefruit salad, fresh cranberry sauce and pumpkin chiffon pie with whipped cream. (UPI)
Presidential favorites on the Thanksgiving menu include cornbread dressing and persimmon pudding with brandy sauce. For years, the pudding has been made by Caroline Deaver, wife of Reagan's deputy chief of staff. "She's spread the recipe around," said Sheila Tate, Nancy Reagan's press secretary. "They get through all of Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie somehow," Mrs. Tate said. "Their tradition is persimmon pudding." The rest of the menu is fairly standard, with one exception. There will be turkey, giblet gravy, French-cut string beans, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, fresh cranberry mold, and olives, carrots and celery strips. And, there will be monkey bread.
A year ago, when the Reagans were spending their first Thanksgiving as the nation's first family, a hullaballoo arose over monkey bread. What, exactly, was it, the White House press corps kept asking. After some doing, the recipe was acquired. A baker in Santa Monica, Calif., produces the item in question -- and Mrs. Tate revealed it. It is really quite simple to bake -- if you want 14 pounds of dough. And, with the exception of the name, it has nothing to do with monkeys. Nor is it the monkey bread described in the New World Dictionary: "The fruit of the African baobab tree, eaten by monkeys." (AP)
The Reagan's Thanksgiving menu includes turkey, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, peas, mashed potatoes, cranberry mold, monkey bread and jam, olives, carrots and celery strips, and persimmon pudding. Monkey bread is a sweet molded bread that is traditional at the president's Thanksgiving dinner. (AP)
People still had questions about monkey bread even after reelecting Reagan by a landslide. As this report notes, it's like a sweet roll. Here's the recipe.
The Reagan Thanksgiving menu included turkey and cornbread dressing. It also featured cranberries, peas with pearl onions, monkey bread, mashed potatoes, Waldorf salad, and persimmon pudding with whipped cream. (AP)
This was a less happy Thanksgiving. This article begins, "White House chief of staff Howard H. Baker Jr. described President Reagan Thursday as embittered by an Iran-Contra report 'he didn't like a bit.'" Why not drown your sorrows in monkey bread?
Details of the first President Bush's early Thanksgiving were not as widely reported, probably since they lacked an interesting animal-related side. In 1990, the country was involved in the first of many conflicts in the Persian Gulf, and Bush stopped by.
This year, President Bush, of course, decided to spend Thanksgiving with his troops in the Gulf, but Americans in Britain, too, were doing their best to meet other Americans and to re-create, as near as possible, their traditional Thanksgiving atmosphere with all its trappings. (Sunday Times)
Bush aside, here was a very in-the-moment update:
Newly harvested sweet potatoes will be on the first Thanksgiving menu in Biosphere II, a giant terrarium. (USA Today)
"A giant terrarium." If you're not old enough, understand that this is sort of a dis.
Out with the old.
The Bush Thanksgiving menu will include roast turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans with almonds, cranberry sauce, mixed green salad and pecan pie. (Los Angeles Times)
In with the new.
The following are items on the menu for today's Thanksgiving Day dinner for President-Elect Clinton and family members.- Turkey
- Sweet Potatoes
- Irish Potatoes
- Cranberry Sauce
- Bread Dressing
- Cornbread Dressing
- Green Beans
- Bing Cherry Jello
- Relish Tray with Pickled Watermelon Rolls
- Lemon Pie
- Pumpkin Pie
- Pecan Pie
- Mincemeat Pie
- Carrot Cake
- Tea (Newswire)
Democrats like pie, but more on that later.
The Clintons ate at Camp David, "the Marine-guarded presidential hideaway, once known as 'Shangri La,'" according to the UPI.
The Clintons' Thanksgiving menu was traditional, including: roast turkey with dressing; giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry mold, relish tray with watermelon rind pickles, celery, tomatoes, green onions, green and black olives, carrots and pickles, fruit salad and cranberry salad. And dessert included two kinds of pies, pumpkin and pecan.
A spokesman also said there would be "a lot of football watching."
A first: prime rib.
Roasted turkey and prime rib were on this year's Thanksgiving menu at Camp David along with traditional fixings, including dinner rolls, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes and maple-glazed sweet potatoes, corn, greenbeans and yellow squash and giblet gravy. Apple, pecan and pumpkin pies and ice cream were on the table, too, according to the White House. (AP)
Welcome to the post-9/11 era.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer for some reason declined to reveal the first family's Thanksgiving menu. No matter. We hear from other sources in the White House that the Bushes' traditional feast consisted of roast turkey with maple butter glaze, corn bread dressing, sweet potato puree, green beans with anchovy butter (that's tradition?) and a pumpkin pie with ginger made by White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier. Friends and family gathered with the Bushes at Camp David, where they attended a church service, bowled, and the president said grace before the meal. (Washington Post)
That was in the Style section. The next item began, "'Baby Spice' Emma Bunton told British pop magazine Smash Hits that though the Spice Girls have been concentrating on their solo careers, the four could go on tour together as early as next year."
Two years later, the White House was happy to publish the menu -- as a distraction. Bush (like a Bush before him), snuck off to the Gulf to be with the military.
The shroud of secrecy around the visit came off like a scene from an Ian Fleming novel. For the duration of the 10 1/2-hour flight from Washington to Baghdad, the whereabouts of the most powerful political leader on Earth was not publicly known. At one point, White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said, a British Airways pilot was heard via radio saying, "Did I just see Air Force One?" The White House went to the extraordinary lengths of publishing the president's Thanksgiving menu at his Texas ranch, as it would any other year. Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, who were expecting to see their son at dinner, were not told until after he had left. (Los Angeles Times)
The meal as it appeared on the TelePrompTer of Action News, Cleveland:
A ROASTED FREE RANGE TURKEY IS ON THE THANKSGIVING MENU FOR PRESIDENT BUSH AND HIS FAMILY. >> THEIR HOME IN CRAWFORD, TEXAS THE ENTIRE BUSH FAMILY INCLUDING FORMER PRESIDENT AND BARBARA BUSH AND THE CURRENT FIRST LADY'S MOTHER WILL GATHER FOR A TRADITIONAL SPREAD. THE SIZE TURKEY, IT WILL INCLUDE CORN BREAD DRESSING, PAN GRAVY, MAPLE WHIPPED SWEET POTATOES, ONE OF MY FAVORITES AND ROASTED ASPARAGUS AND RED PEPPERS. TWO DESSERTS, TEXAS PECAN PIE AND PUMPKIN. SOUNDS LIKE SOME MIGHTY GOOD EATS TO ME. >> TWO KINDS OF DESSERTS. CAN'T GO WRONG. >>
Emphasis added. Can't go wrong!
An interesting addition here. See if you can spot it.
The menu for President Bush's Thanksgiving celebration at the Camp David retreat, as released by the White House:
- Oven roasted turkey
- Cast-iron skillet cornbread dressing
- Jellied cranberry molds
- Sautéed green beans
- Zucchini gratin
- Whipped sweet potato soufflé
- Buttered mashed potatoes
- Giblet gravy
- Morelia-style gazpacho
- Fresh clover rolls with honey butter
- Pumpkin pie with whipped topping
- Apple pie
- Apple crisp
- Pumpkin mousse trifle
The Bushes had "Morelia-style gazpacho" in 2008 as well. Here's your recipe; it's gazpacho, but yellow.
A new president and new enthusiasm. This is from a TV station in Honolulu.
The White House Thanksgiving menu featured SIX kinds of pie: banana cream... pumpkin... apple... sweet potato... huckleberry and cherry. President Obama says pie is his favorite food group. (UPI)
Democrats like pie.
Anyway, here's what they ate besides pie.
The Obamas and their guests will dine on a feast including turkey, ham, both cornbread and oyster stuffing, greens, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole. Topping off the meal are six different kinds of pie: banana cream, pumpkin, apple, huckleberry, cherry and sweet potato pie. The Obama family has kept the same menu since their first Thanksgiving in the White House in 2009. (The Hill)
If you are not a Bush Republican or a Reagan Republican (or a Reagan Democrat) or a Clinton Democrat or an Obama Democrat, but are instead a Teddy Roosevelt Republican or Democrat or Bull Mooseian, here is what you might want to serve, echoing Teddy's 1904 fare:
Oysters on the half shell, cream of chicken soup, fried smelts with sauce tartare, roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, baked squash, boiled onions, parsnip fritters, olives, chicken salad, venison pastry, pumpkin pie, mince pie, Charlotte Russe, almond ice cream, lemon jelly, hickory nut cake, cheese, fruit, nuts, coffee.
The Bull Moose Party is not as enthusiastic about pie, which is probably why it never caught on. Or maybe it was this:
We cannot at this time report how chloroformed turkey tastes.