By Kara Kimbrough
Reading a national journalist’s recap of a visit to the Mississippi Delta, it dawned on me he didn’t stop by nearby Starkville, where Ulysses Grant’s Presidential Library is located in Mississippi State University’s Mitchell Memorial Library. There’s an intriguing story about how the 18th president’s library ended up in a state targeted during the Civil War. There's also a collection of Abraham Lincoln's artifacts. If you’d like to know more, drop me an email and I’ll send you a link to my previous column.
The story and subsequent reminder of the presidential library caused me to wonder why Americans are intrigued with the food our presidents and their families eat.
Politics aside, I’m proud to know former Pres. Donald Trump dined on, among other items, gulf shrimp, during his inauguration dinner. Let’s hope it originated from Mississippi Sound, since we know it’s the best. Not surprisingly, Chicago native Pres. Barack Obama was fond of deep dish pizza, a specialty of his hometown.
These reports led to a little research on the favorite foods of some of other presidents. In addition to Tex-Mex, George W. Bush also enjoyed pizza. Bill Clinton regularly dined on chicken enchiladas, while George H.W. Bush couldn’t live without pork rinds.
In previous decades, Ronald Reagan listed mac and cheese as a favorite side and Jimmy Carter enjoyed steak. The athletic Gerald Ford was a roast and red cabbage man. Lyndon Johnson liked tapioca and Fresca. Urbane presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy had simple tastes. FDR loved scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches, while JFK ordered tomato soup with sour cream or a Boston favorite, clam chowder.
Keep in mind these men served a couple of centuries ago when supermarkets selling shrink-wrapped meat were nonexistent before you judge. Presidents William Harrison and James Garfield regularly requested squirrel soup at the White House dinner table.
On a more palatable note, I discovered the favorite food of our first president was ice cream. I was disappointed to learn George Washington never chopped down a cherry tree, much less ate cherry pie. However, there’s nothing wrong with going along with a timeworn fable when it produces a recipe for a dessert that’s easy to make and delicious, especially when topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Here’s an easy recipe to honor the Father of our Country and keep cherry pie, or at least cobbler, alive and well.
George’s Cherry Cobbler
1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling
1 cup Bisquick
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
More sugar for sprinkling on top
Spread pie filling into bottom of buttered 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Place in a cold oven; turn oven to 400 degrees, heat until dish reaches 400 degrees; continue to bake for 10 minutes. Remove dish from oven. While filling is baking, combine remaining ingredients. With a tablespoon, drop dough onto hot pie filling (about 6 dumplings). Sprinkle each dumpling with a little sugar. Put casserole back into oven and continue to bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email her at [email protected].