BY PRESIDENTIAL DECREE…LET THEM EAT SOUP

WHITE HOUSE COOKBOOKS 002

 

“Beautiful soup so rich and green,

Waiting in a hot tureen

Who for dainties would not stoop

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!”

–the Mock Turtle  in Alice in Wonderland

Is there anything quite like a bowl of hot soup? It nourishes and sustains us on a cold and wintry day. Nothing restores us quite like a bowl of hot soup. On a hot summer day, it’s a marvelously light meal that cools us off, and what could be tastier, then, than a chilled bowl of gazpacho!

French peasant for many centuries recognized the value of having a soup pot simmering on the back of the stove every day. Any leftover bits of meat or vegetables were tossed into the soup kettle. Nothing was ever wasted. A bowl of nourishing soup was available, then, at any time.

Decades ago, housewives knew the value of feeding a nourishing beef bouillon (sometimes called beef tea) or chicken broth to an invalid. A pot or kettle of soup can be very simple—beef broth, for instance or consommé,  or it can be hearty, like a clam chowder or beef stew.  Today’s thrifty cook knows that he or she can toss bits and pieces of leftover meat or vegetables into a container and FREEZE them; when she is ready to make a pot of soup she can just toss the saved beef and vegetables into the soup pot. My sister Becky called it “CLEANING OUT THE FRIG SOUP” – when the plastic container was full, she started out with whatever she found in the frig and added the frozen container of meat & vegetables. I was non-plussed when she decided to add leftover spaghetti to the soup pot – but she cut the spaghetti into bite size pieces and it was wonderful. And I learned a new lesson about spaghetti.

If you think of soup as just something that comes out of a can, are you in for a surprise! Homemade soup is one of the easiest, most nourishing foods you can possibly serve to your family and it can be very, very inexpensive, made from leftovers in your refrigerator–the remains of a pot roast or a ham bone can get you started. If I have leftover roast, carrots and potatoes and some beef gravy or au jus—it  can all go into the pot for stew.  If all you have is some roast beef, into the pot it can go, with fresh vegetables – carrots, onion, potatoes – or to make it easier on yourself – skip the fresh vegetables and add canned mix vegetables or  a package of frozen mixed vegetables. In the office where I worked for many years, some of my coworkers lost a lot of excess weight and maintained their weight loss by mixing up batches of a simple “diet soup” over the weekend and then having it for lunches through the week. The recipe couldn’t be any simpler (it was mostly made up of all kinds of green vegetables) and the soup could be eaten anytime, in any amount.

When I was a little girl, vegetable soup was served at dinner first as a broth  sometimes with homemade noodles added to it, then as an entrée we had the potatoes, carrots and meat from the soup pot—while my father and brothers spread the cooked marrow from the soup bones onto crackers. (NOW marrow bones are roasted and served as a fancy dish on the Food Network).

It may surprise you to know that many American presidents were very partial to soups—enough so that history has left us a legacy of their soup preferences!

Our first president, George Washington, loved seafood and was especially partial to wife Martha’s crab soup. According to Poppy Cannon in her book “The PRESIDENTS COOKBOOK” it also became a favorite recipe of FDR’s as well as that of President Eisenhower and Mrs. Eisenhower. Many decades later, Martha Washington’s Crab Soup was served at the Senate Wives Red Cross luncheon.  First Lady Mrs. Ford liked it so much that the recipe was sent to the White House chefs to reproduce the crab soup to Mrs. Ford’s satisfaction, whereupon it became a Ford family favorite. (I would imagine that President Washington, with his ill-fitting dentures, found soups easier to eat and digest, too!)  George Washington also had a favorite vegetable soup.

To make Martha Washington’s Crab Bisque, you will need the following:

Enough crab to make ½ pound crabmeat

1 TBSP butter

1½ TBSP flour

3 hard-cooked eggs, mashed

Rind of 1 lemon, grated

Salt & pepper to taste

2 ½ cups milk

½ cup sherry

½ cup heavy cream

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Boil enough crabs in salted water* to make ½ pound crab meat (or use canned crab or frozen). Combine the butter, flour, eggs, lemon rind, salt and pepper. Put the milk into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour it slowly into the egg mixture. Now combine the crab meat with the milk mixture and boil gently 5 minutes. Add the cream and take it off the stove before it comes to a full boil. Now add the sherry and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Serves 4-5.

Sandy’s Cooknote* whenever I cook shrimp or crab—any kind of seafood – I store the liquid from the seafood in a jar in the refrigerator—for a future batch of clam chowder.

Martha Washington also favored a Mexican Black Bean soup; these recipes found their way into Martha’s manuscript cookbook.  Quite possibly her recipe was given to her by President Jefferson, as he, too, had a favorite Mexican Black Bean Soup. Martha did obtain recipes from other notables of her time. Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, many decades later, were also partial to the black bean soup.

To make President Jefferson’s Mexican Black Bean Soup you will need:

2 cups dried black beans

2 ½ quarts water

2 lbs short ribs of beef

Salt & pepper

1 cup wine

3 slices toast made into croutons

Wash a quart of black beans; add them to a pot with a gallon of cold water. Add 2 or 3 pounds of stewing veal or beef or soup bones and cook the mixture 2 or 3 hours or until the beans have become soft.   (letting the dry beans soak overnight is recommended). Pour off the liquid from the cooked beans and save; mash the beans through a sieve season with salt and pepper. Add them to the soup liquid and simmer 15 minutes. Serve the soup with small squares of bread that has been browned and toasted in melted butter. Makes about 2 quarts. (or use some croutons))

There is a more elegant black bean soup recipe in the Mount Vernon cookbook but the above recipe is simple and nourishing. We have all become familiar with black bean—they are now readily available in dry or canned. I had never eaten black beans until I became friends with a woman from Puerto Rico, when we lived in Florida. It was traditional in her family to have a meal of ham and black beans for good luck on New Year’s Day. That was my introduction to black beans which were also called turtle beans but only in connection with dried, not canned, black beans.

President Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and fittingly one of his favorite soup recipes was Gumbo. Another favorite soup of President Jefferson was potato soup, as prepared by his cook at Monticello.

Yet another well-liked soup recipe of President Jefferson was pea soup—made, of course, with peas from his own garden. Every Monday at Monticello, tomato soup was served. Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, who shared his interest in recipes (called “receipts” back then) gave the recipe to Martha Washington. Yet another favorite recipe written by President Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, was a recipe for okra soup. Per Poppy Cannon, okra soup was more or less a simple forerunner of Brunswick Stew which was later to become a favorite in Brunswick, Virginia, as well as other places in the south. This recipe is listed in Martha Jefferson Randolph’s name at Monticello;

Okra

Water lima beans

Fresh meat or chicken

Tomatoes

Butter

flour

Add 1 quart chopped okra, young and crisp, to 2 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook 1 hour. Add 1 cup of lima beans (fresh or dried), a pound of fresh meat or chicken cut in serving size pieces. Simmer gently for 1 hour.  Add 5 tomatoes, cut into small pieces. Add more water if needed. Let simmer slowly. When almost done, add 2 tbsp butter rolled in 1 tablespoon flour. The soup should not be too thick. (Fresh corn, cut from the cob, may be added at the same time as the lima beans, if desired). And a thicker version may be made by simmering longer, until the meat and vegetables are a porridge-like mass. Makes about 2 quarts. – From The Presidents’ Cookbook by Poppy Cannon

John Adams, like all early pioneering Americans, learned to use corn in many different ways. It was a legacy give to us by the American Indians. A favorite soup of President Adams was corn soup. Another favorite dish was succotash soup. Perhaps the Adams’ who spent some years living in Philadelphia, developed a taste for the Pennsylvania-Dutch corn soup. The following corn and tomato soup with dumplings is credited with Ohio origins but it might have originated in Pennsylvania.

To make Corn and tomato Soup with Dumplings you will need

A meaty soup bone

½ onion, sliced,

Salt & pepper to taste

1 dozen ears of corn

1 dozen tomatoes

Dumplings

Cover bone with cold water; add seasonings and onion. Shave off the grains of corn and also scrap out the pulp and add to the soup pot. Peel, then cut up the tomatoes and let it come to a boil. Then reduce  the heat and cook slowly 3 hours.

To make dumplings:

1 egg

1 cup sour milk*

½ tsp salt

Flour

½ tsp baking soda

Beat egg slightly; stir soda into milk and add. Mix in enough salted flour to make a very stiff batter.  Drop into boiling soup from a tablespoon. Cover and cook 20 minutes.  Serve at once.

*I take it for granted that everybody knows these things but in case you don’t know how to make sour milk just add a tablespoon of white vinegar to regular milk. Wait a little bit…and it will become “sour milk”.

**

Many presidents have enjoyed turtle or terrapin. According to history, one of the first presidents to receive a gift of turtle was President John Adams. A friend bestowed a 114 pound turtle upon the president.

In his diary, his son – John Quincy Adams – mentions that at a July 4th dinner served at the White House during the Tyler’s Administration, turtle soup was served, made from a turtle weighing “three hundred pounds” – a present from Key West. It is said that John Quincy Adams never failed to mention with whom he dined, or how often, but seldom made mention of the food itself—so that when he mentioned in his diary having eaten turtle soup at a dinner it must have been an impressive occasion.

I can’t resist mentioning that many species of turtles are on the brink of extinction if not already extinct. Like buffalo, early Americans could not imagine that reckless killing of animals would eventually make many of them extinct. In 2003, National Geographic said that leatherneck turtles were on the brink of extinction.

More about turtles later!

Dolley Madison, considered for many decades to be the quintessential Washington hostess served as hostess for Thomas Jefferson, who was widowed.

Dolley Madison was First Lady in her own right when James Madison was president. Dolly, who left neatly handwritten notes containing her favorite recipes and home remedies, treated visitors—even drop-ins—with a bouillon laced with sherry at her afternoon  receptions. “When the weather was  cold and  dreary,” wrote one observer, “it was a comforting practice”. Perhaps it was such small but thoughtful gestures as this that gave                                                                                                 such luster to Dolley Madison’s reputation for hospitality.

To make Dolley Madison’s Hospitable Bouillon you will need:

4 lbs beef

1 veal knuckle

3 small carrots

2 turnits

1 good hot pepper

3 small white onions

1 bunch parsley

8 quarts water

Sherry

Put 4 pounds of juicy beef, a knuckle of veal and a bouquet garni of herbs tied in cheesecloth into a large kettle along with 6 quarts of water. Add remaining ingredients, except sherry, and simmer together for 6 hours. When finished strain the bouillon through a fine sieve. Allow the soup to stand overnight to congeal. Skim off all the grease. Put the soup back into the kettle to heat. Just before serving, add sherry to taste (made with stock instead of water it is even better although Dolley’s recipe says simply water.

It’s just a guess on my part, but I imagine that Dolley had a kettle of beef bouillon cooking every day in order to serve all the guests in cold weather. She would have to have one kettle of soup cooking while another was being reheated to serve to guests.

Chef Rysavy in A TREASURY OF WHITE HOUSE COOKING also mentions Dolley liked to let her bouillon stand overnight before skimming off the fat. She would store the bouillon in a cool place and heat a portion of it as needed. Just before the bouillon was server, a little sherry was added.

As someone who makes large batches of different soups as well as my own beef and chicken stocks, I have been chilling these soups in gallon jars for years. I have a second refrigerator in the garage in which to keep these things (as well as soft drinks and juices for the grandchildren) – so that I am able to remove the fats from any stock before continuing on with a soup recipe. I’ve been doing this so long that I no longer remember where I learned it – quite possibly from reading my White House cookbooks!

President Fillmore may not be well remembered by American historians, or school children, but he did install the first real bathtub with centrally heated running water and his wife installed the first library in the White House. In  addition, President  Fillmore installed the first  real STOVE in the White House kitchen. Prior to that time, all the Fillmore cooking was done over open fireplaces. There is a story that the Fillmore cook was horrified at the idea of cooking on such a “thing” [as a stove] and the President had to go visit the patent office to get detailed directions for operating it. But, like all new contraptions, once the White House staff got used to it, they couldn’t imagine how they had gotten along without it.

President Fillmore was a thrifty man—it seems only natural that one of HIS favorite soup recipes was an old fashioned vegetable beef soup, which was more like a stew. Again, according to Ms. Cannon’s book THE PRESIDENTIAL COOKBOOK, WHEN President Fillmore’s soup was ready to serve, the solids were removed from the soup kettle to a platter.  The soup was served, consumed, then the soup bowls filled with the meat and vegetables from the platter. (I wonder if my mother could have known that an American President enjoyed vegetable soup served just like hers—I was curious about Fillmore’s birthplace and wondered if it was Ohio, where my parents were born—but no, President Fillmore was born in New York).

A favorite soup of Andrew Jackson’s was “Old Hickory Nut Soup”, also a favorite with natives of Jackson’s North Carolina home state. The recipe begins with “Crack one gallon hickory nuts…” (I found directions for making hickory nut soup but it is far too convoluted to type, much less re-create). However, in Poppy Cannon’s THE PRESIDENT’S COOKBOOK, she provides a simpler recipe for making Hickory Nut Soup.  You need

Hickory nuts

Sugar

Hot water

Crack a gallon of hickory nuts;  remove the hulls and crush together [the   nuts]  into a mass. Pour a quart of hot water over the nuts ; allow to stand for 10  minutes. Strain, add 4 tablespoons of sugar and serve hot.

Julia Tyler seems to have been partial to a “torup” stew, torups being a variation of huge turtles that were native to the Eastern Shore of Long Island, where Julie grew up. (Julia was President Tyler’s second wife and many years younger than he. The marriage created something of a stir in Washington). The torup stew was said to taste a lot like chicken.

Oyster stew and Terrapin Stew were amongst the many dishes listed on President Lincoln’s second inaugural ball menu. This was a bit of a far cry from President Lincoln’s first inaugural ball menu at which mock turtle soup was served. While most food historians claim that the President was not interested in food or eating, it seems that President Lincoln actually  planned the menu for his second inaugural luncheon and it seems that President Lincoln loved fruit pies.  Some of the ladies in Springfield shipped fruit pies to him—no small feat in the mid 1800s.  (I sometimes wonder if the President just didn’t like the way most foods were prepared for him.  I grew up thinking I hated rice and cabbage, I hated rabbit—what I really didn’t like was the way these foods were prepared. My mother’s rice was a lump of sticky glue and cabbage was cooked from 9 am until 6 pm until it bore no resemblance to a vegetable…and rabbit? The only rabbit I was ever acquainted with as a child was a wild rabbit killed by my father during hunting season and cleaned in the kitchen sink in front of impressionable eyes. It was then soaked in a vinegar and spice concoction for 3 days to create “hasenpfeffer” – a dish that was the bane of my childhood).

The Benjamin Harrisons were a soup-loving family with corn soup and fish chowder amongst their favorites.

Another favorite served by Mrs. Harrison was “Amber Soup” which was a hot, clear soup that she served at White House teas and receptions. It was  made from both chicken and ham, along with assorted vegetables. Poppy Cannon writes that we may serve it under different occasions today but it is still a splendid soup.

To make Amber soup you will need

Chicken

Water

Ham

Soup Bone

Bouquet Garni

Celery

Carrot

Onion

Parsnip

Parsley

Cloves

Egg Whites

Ground salt & pepper

Put cleaned and washed stewing chicken in 4 quarts of water, along with a small slice of ham and a soup bone. Boil together over a low fire for about 3½ hours. Then add a bouquet garni,* 2 stalks celery, 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 small parsnip, 2 or 3 sprigs of parsley, and 3 cloves.  Cook another half hour, then strain the liquid and chill in a glass jar in the refrigerator overnight. Shortly before serving time, remove the wedge of grease that has formed at the top of the jar and pour the jellied broth in a saucepan (omit the sediment on the bottom). Beat 2 egg whites and add to the jellied mixture. Boil quickly for one minute and then pour the soup through a jelly bag. (or a cheesecloth sieve if you don’t have a jelly bag) add one teaspoon caramel made by mixing brown sugar with a little water over a low fire until browned but not burned. Add salt & pepper to taste.  Makes 2 quarts.

(Sandy’s cooknote: if I were making this soup I would add a jalapeno pepper or another mild green pepper to the original mixture of vegetables –but only briefly; I would remove the jalapeno   after 1 or 20 minutes, just to get a bit of heat in the amber soup).

TO MAKE A BOUQUET GARNI (which is a French term for a bundle of herbs): There are numerous versions of bouquet garni, which is an assortment of fresh herbs. A simple traditional bouquet garni is 3 sprigs (long stems) parsley 2 sprigs thyme, and 1 bay leaf. Put it all together in a small bag – 2 or 3 thicknesses of cheesecloth, then tie it all together to go into the soup pot but can easily be removed.

Moving forward to the administration of Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt—one of the first things the president did  after looking around his new home was to pitch potted palms out of the reception rooms. Notes Poppy Cannon in The Presidents’ Cookbook, that small action was symbolic of Teddy Roosevelt’s desire to change and simplify what had become what had become a most unwieldy structure, both socially and decoratively. The Roosevelts were an attractive, ebullient family. In addition to the President and his wife Edith, there were six children, ranging from the baby Quentin to seventeen year old Alice. Theodore Jr was away at school most of the time but Archie, Kermit and Ethel were natural, noisy youngsters. These      youngsters, roller skating in the upstairs corridors and playing leapfrog over the satin upholstery, had to be daunting for White House employees. There were many ways in which the Roosevelts brought fresh air into the White House.

One guest at the White  House table recalled a delicious luncheon of bouillon, salt fish, chicken in rice and fresh rolls (Dolley Madison’s recipe for bouillon, perhaps?)

The president’s daughter Alice dominated the newspapers  during the years of the Roosevelt administration,  probably more so than any other single member of the family except for the president himself. She was dubbed “Princess Alice” by the press. She made her debut not long after the Roosevelts moved into the White  House, and four years later, her wedding was considered to be the biggest White House social news since Nellie Grant’s wedding, decades before.

As for soups, there was a corn chowder with “bear’s paw” popcorn that the president tasted at an old country inn in Vermont and obviously obtained the recipe, how else would we know what it was? To make the Windham County Hotel’s recipe for corn chowder with Bear’s Paw Popcorn:

You will need

Salt pork

Onion

Potatoes

Water

Soda crackers

Milk

Corn (fresh, frozen or canned)

Salt & paprika

Popcorn

Cube 3 sliced of salt pork and sauté them in a skillet until crisp but not too brown. Add  one large sliced onion and sauté until golden. Add 3 sliced potatoes  and 2 cups water and continue cooking until potatoes become tender. Place 8 soda crackers in a large bowl. Pour 1 cup milk over them to soak. When the crackers have absorbed the milk, add to the skillet. Also add 2 ½  cups fresh corn or thawed frozen corn or whole kernel canned corn   along with 1 tsp salt and 1½ tsp paprika. Simmer the mixture over the same low heat for at least 10 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with popped corn. Serves   4

The Roosevelt family, addicted as its various members were to foreign travel, had a special interest in India and the Far East. Though normally partial to relatively simple foods, they were fond of certain dishes from the East, such as this delicious curried soup;

To make Chilled Senegalese Soup you will need:

Chicken stock

Curry powder

Chicken (cooked)

Egg yolks

Cream

Salt & pepper

Put 3 ½ cups chicken stock into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then add half teaspoon curry powder and 1 ½ cups finely chopped cooked chicken and  simmer gently. (More curry powder can be added if you like a stronger flavor) Blend 4 slightly beaten egg yolks with a tablespoon of the hot chicken stock and slowly add 2 cups warm cream to the yolks. Slowly add  into the simmering chicken and stock. Keep stirring while the soup thickens over a very low heat. Do not let the soup come to a boil. Add ½ tsp each salt and pepper to taste. Remove the soup from the fire, cool, and then put it into the refrigerator until chilled. Serve cold. Serves 6.

Not too many years went by following the administration of Teddy Roosevelt before another member of the Roosevelt family descended upon Washington and the White House. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to the presidency in 1932 and has the distinction of being elected to 4 terms. (later, a law was passed prohibiting anyone from serving more than 2 terms as president—but at the time, FDR, his wife, and children brought a ray of hope to America at a time when the country had been for some time in the throes of the great depression. FDR was Teddy Roosevelt’s cousin.  The Roosevelts enjoyed many plain dishes, such as ceamed chipped beef, bread pudding and fried cornmeal when they were alone (which wasn’t often). Mrs. Roosevelt did not cook, aside from making scrambled eggs in a chafing dish on Sunday nights—she was a busy person in her own right and traveled throughout the country, returning to report to the president what she had seen and heard. She was his eyes and ears. However, Mrs. Roosevelt – although not interested in redecorating the White House, did redesign the kitchens, equipping them with electric stoves and dishwashers to lighten the work of the staff. Her attitude towards servants was deeply considerate. Mrs. Roosevelt disliked making too much work for the cooks with highly elaborate menus. Another reason for this, of course, was that the Roosevelt regime spanned some of the hardest years the country has known—the depression, war, and rationing. She undertook to have served at the White House the series of low priced menus prepared by the Department of Agriculture during the depression.

The Roosevelt family loved soups (a good thing—what is more economical than soup?) All during their White House years, big steel soup kettles were steaming away in the kitchen and soup was served twice a day. The soups were of many varieties, good planning at a time when food was scarce. A presidential favorite was Pepper Pot, a White House tradition since the days of George Washington.  To make Philadelphia Pepper Pot you will need:

Tripe

Water

Veal joint

Bay leaves

Onions

Potatoes

Parsley

Mixed herbs (Bouquet Garni)

Red pepper

Salt

Cayenne pepper

Flour

Beef suet

This recipe takes 2 days to prepare. Scrap 4 pounds of tripe and wash in 3 waters. Put into cold water to cover and boil gently for 7 or 8 hours. Cool in its own liquid, then cut into ½” squares. The next day, simmer a veal joint with its meat on it, for 3 hours in 3 quarts of cold water. Skim off the scum as it cooks. When it is cooked, cool and then separate the meat from the bones and simmer another hour.  Strain the soup and add 2 bay leaves and 2 onions, chopped coarsely, and simmer another hour. Strain the soup and add 4 diced potatoes, 2 teaspoons minced parsley, a bunch of mixed herbs (a bouquet garni) and 1 red pepper cut into dice. Also add the meats, 2 tsp salt, ½ tsp cayenne and dumplings which you have made out of   2 cups flour, ½ lb beef suet and salt. Make these dumplings small , about ½” in diameter. Drop them into the simmering soup, cover tightly and cook about 5 minutes longer.  Serve at once. Serves 6.

(I don’t know anyone who would go to all the work of making Philadelphia Pepper Pot nowadays.

President Roosevelt was extremely partial to fish sops. His mother supplied the Roosevelt cook with recipes for her son’s favorites. One was this excellent fish chowder.

To make Sara Delano Roosevelt’s Fish Chowder you will need:

Salt pork

Onions

Flour

Milk

Salt & pepper

Whitefish

Cut 3 slices of salt pork into cubes and brown in frying pan. Skim off excess fat and add 4 sliced onions. Fry until onions are clear. Skim out the  pork and onions and set aside. Make 1 cup of white sauce using the fat in the  pan and enough flour to make a  thin paste. When white sauce is smooth, add 1 quart milk. Return pork and onions to pot  along with a pound or more of raw white fish, boned, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Simmer 15 minutes or until fish has turned white and flakes easily. This serves 4 hearty or 6 as a first course.

For some reason, Poppy Cannon reports, Mongole soup was an inaugural day favorite during the Roosevelt Administration. A number of these occasions were rainy as well as cold, and the hoards who showed up for lunch found this to be a satisfying and warming addition to the standard cold cuts, salads and rolls. It also made a hearty midnight snack for the Roosevelt guests who were often a little peckish (hungry) in the late hours.

To make Mongole Soup you will need:

Yellow split peas

Tomato juice

Onion

Salt & pepper

Soak overnight ½ cup yellow split peas. In the morning, drain the peas and    set over low heat with 2 cans tomato juice. Simmer several hours or until peas disintegrate. Season with 1 tsp grated onion and salt and pepper to taste.

Another midnight favorite was oxtail soup while green gumbo was a luncheon favorite for  FDR—but what I want to share with you is FDR’s GREEN TURTLE SOUP  recipe.

Like many American presidents, FDR loved turtle and terrapin soup. Soon after his inauguration, some terrapin was sent to the White House. Mrs. Henrietta Nesbitt, the  housekeeper the Roosevelts had brought with them from Hyde Park, was entirely unaccustomed to turtle life “and the huge brute” as she told it “would crawl around in the cellar”. When Mrs. Nesbitt spoiled the first terrapin, FDR was furious. The next time a terrapin arrived, he arranged to have someone from the Metropolitan Club to prepare it.

Despite the fact that terrapin appeared not infrequently at the White House, Mrs. Roosevelt never liked it.  This turtle soup recipe always created a great fuss in the kitchen of the White House when special cooks came in to prepare it. Nevertheless it was trotted out for a number of appreciative visitors, among them Will Rogers. (When you read the directions for obtaining turtle meat, you may never want to make it yourself,

To make FDR’s Green Turtle Soup  you will need

Turtles

Pickling spices

Celery

Onions

Carrots

Green peppers

Mace

Cream (light)

Butter

Flour

Salt & pepper

Sherry

Plunge 2 turtles into boiling water to kill. (if you are using snapping turtles, scrub and then scald them).  (ew, ew) Boil turtles whole, with ½ pound of pickling spices tied into a bag, 2 stick celery, 2 onions, 3 carrots, 2 green peppers and a blade of mace (or powdered mace) for 40 minutes until skin turns white on legs and head and it separates and can be slipped off. Another ew, ew. Cool and remove turtles. Separate the meat from the bones and can be slipped off.  Cool and remove turtles. Strain the broth.    Mix 2 quarts  light cream with ½ cup butter and ½ cup flour to make a white sauce. Add the bits of meat and 2 quarts of liquid reduced by boiling for an hour. Season with salt and pepper and add 1 cup sherry. Serves 16.

Sandy’s cooknote: I know there is no chance at all that I would ever kill and cook a turtle—and reading the directions for making turtle soup only confirms my aversion for cooking them. It’s amazing that so many species of turtles are on the brink of being extinct!   However, I have had mock turtle soup many times growing up – made with ground beef (although the original recipes for mock turtle soup called for cooking one calf’s head. Ew, ew.  I think I have a family recipe for mock turtle soup that is made with ground beef.

The Truman family followed FDR and were adamant about guarding their privacy. This was a whole new ballgame in the White House. The Trumans treasured their privacy  and resisted attempts to change it. Surely no family before or since zealously  protected their privacy, which extended to family recipes, to the extent of the Trumans. I did find a recipe of Mrs. Truman’s for Ozark Pudding in a Key West cookbook (their summer White House was located there) there and Poppy Cannon managed to include some recipes that may or may not have been authentic recipes of Mrs. Truman).

That being said, when the Trumans took over as the First Family Mrs. Truman very quickly made herself loved by the entire White House Staff. She knew what she wanted; she knew how things should be done, and she knew how to give orders in a pleasant way. President Truman referred to her as “The Boss”. She hid, whenever possible, from the press. The Truman ways were not the Roosevelt ways. Mrs. Truman took the household bookkeeping in hand and ran it herself. She ruled out breakfast  for the daily sleep-out employees*, to cut the huge food bills. Every day she sat at her desk and tried to run the White House like a business. (*I am unable to find a definition for “daily sleep-out employees” This appears to be an expression used in the 1940s).

Mrs. Truman’s attention to detail was typical towards food. She gained the reputation of serving the best of home cooked food even for guests who came to the White House teas. But no one was ever able to penetrate the Trumans’ insistence on protecting their privacy and that included Mrs. Truman’s collection of recipes.

Despite Mrs. Truman’s intense dislike of having to be in the spotlight, she went about the duties of being First Lady with a dignity which soon commanded the public’s respect.  If Mrs. Truman had a favorite soup recipe, it remained private.  Not even the First Ladies Cook Book published by Parents Magazine Press offers a soup recipe. The Ozark Pudding recipe is included, however.  After serving as President 3 years following the death of FDR (Truman was vice president when FDR died), Truman was elected to another 4 years which was a huge surprise victory as everyone expected Dewey to be elected—Truman served those four years and then (certainly to Mrs. Truman’s relief) they went back home to Missouri.

General Eisenhower was elected President and moved into the White House with wife, Mamie, in 1953. The Eisenhower Administration was notable for entertaining more royalty and heads of state than any other president and soups were a favorite dish of the Eisenhowers—the president himself sometimes cooked them if he was in the mood.  Other times he and the First Lady enjoyed the excellent soups that the White House chefs prepared for them.

Here is a Cold Curry Soup recipe that was served to Nikita Khrushchev and his wife enjoyed when they visited the White House—Mr. Khrushchev even brought along his own taster.  To make Cold Curry Soup you will need

Butter

Onion

Celery

Salt & pepper

Flour

Curry powder

Milk
Chicken Bouillon Cubes

Coconut

Melt 1/3 cup butter in a saucepan over low heat. In it sauté ¼ cup of minced onion and ¼ cup diced celery. Continue cooking over low heat until transparent. Blend in a teaspoon of salt, 1/8 tsp pepper, ¼ cup flour and 1½  to 4 tablespoons curry power (depending on the strength of the curry powder and the durability of your palate). Add 1 quart of milk stirring constantly. Cook until smooth and thickened. Add a chicken bouillon cube and stir until blended. Chill thoroughly. Serve in chilled bowls sprinkled with freshly grated coconut. Serves 6.

Chicken Noodle Soup was a favorite of the Eisenhowers. This is what you need to make the Eisenhower’s Chicken Noodle soup:

Stewing chicken

Water

Carrots

Celery

Onions

Salt & white pepper

Noodles

Parsley

Stew a chicken in cold water to cover, until tender, with 3 sliced carrots, 3 stalks of celery, sliced, 1 sliced onion, 1 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp white pepper. Remove chicken and strain the stock. Take the chicken liver and slice it fine and add it to the soup. Garnish with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley. Serves 6. This chicken recipe was also used for sandwiches or creamed chicken.

It’s just a guess but I am inclined to surmise that the Eisenhowers may have enjoyed soups more than any other president—if Poppy Cannon’s book THE PRESIDENTS’ COOK BOOK is any kind of indicator. Included in her book are five more recipes for different kinds of soups. Along with Oxtail Soup and Stone Crab Bisque, there are recipes for Cream of Almond Soup and a Cream of Celery Soup that was renamed by Mrs. Eisenhower (Cream of Celery-Clam Soup Rysavy) in honor of Chef Rysavy in his second month at the White House.  Chef Rysavy said the recipe was one he invented in France, which he thought would please the Eisenhowers.

To make Cream of Celery-Clam Soup Rysavy, you will need

Canned cream of celery soup

Bottled clam juice

Chicken Consomme

Chives

To one can undiluted celery soup, add twice as much clam juice and half a can of chicken consommé. Whir in blender until creamy. Heat thoroughly and serve in small cups. Sprinkle with chopped chives. Serves 6.

(forgive me if I am rolling on the floor laughing – the thought of a White House French chef making a soup for the President and  First lady using canned cream of celery—cracks me up).

But  before I finish writing about the Eisenhowers, I would like to include the President’s recipe for old fashioned beef stew. Poppy Cannon writes (and I believe I read this somewhere else a long time ago) – while President Eisenhower left the running of the house to his wife, there was one exception. He was fond of cooking an occasional dish of a homely variety. Beef soup was one of his specialties and he would leave the soup simmering on the stove in the kitchen for hours, causing much mouth-watering among the kitchen staff.  As the president and First Lady differed on the subject of onions (he loved them; she hated them) this was an opportunity for him to indulge in one of his favorite tastes. Quantity didn’t faze the president. His beef stew recipe serves sixty and although he had help from the staff preparing the vegetables, he was there in the kitchen, in his favorite apron, stirring, tasting and seasoning.  To make President Eisenhower’s Beef Stew for Sixty, you will need:

Beef cut for stew

Beef stock

Small Irish potatoes

Small carrots

White onions

Fresh tomatoes

Bouquet Garni

Flour

Salt & pepper

Stew 20 pounds of beef in  3 gallons beef stock until partially tender, about 2 ½ hours. Season and add 8 pounds peeled potatoes, 6 bunches scraped carrots, 5 pounds peeled onions, 15 quartered tomatoes, and a bouquet garni (bay leaf, parsley, garlic, thyme tied in a cheesecloth bag). When vegetables are tender, strain off 2 gallons of stock and thicken with enough flour to make a medium thick sauce. Remove cheesecloth bag; add thickened gravy to the meat and vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook for another half hour.

I’ve included President Eisenhower’s recipe for beef stew to serve 60 just for fun although I can think of occasions when I would be inclined to make this recipe,  if I wasn’t making Cincinnati Chili for a large crowd.  Poppy Cannon does provide Eisenhower’s Beef Stew for SIX that you might want to try instead!

Poppy Cannon’s book goes on to include recipes of achievements of the Kennedy’s and the Johnsons—and I have numerous other books by or about White House chefs and presidential favorites—if my readers enjoyed reading this blog post, then I hope you will let me know and I will do a second part.  – Sandy

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2 responses to “BY PRESIDENTIAL DECREE…LET THEM EAT SOUP

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