Dinner with the President: Food, Politics, and a History of Breaking Bread at the White House
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Food, drink, and politics are an ancient combination. In this well-researched and readable history Alex Prud'homme explores the ways that United States presidents have reflected their widely varying ambitions, priorities, and prejudices through what they ate, how they ate it, and with whom.
Among the many books he has written, Prud'homme cowrote My Life in France with Julia Child, whose husband Paul was the twin brother of Prud'homme's grandfather. Julia helped shed light on White House dining practices with a 1968 television special about a state dinner for the Japanese prime minister. This was followed by another show nine years later focused on a dinner for Elizabeth II.
Inspired by Julia and Paul Child's research for those show Prud'homme began investigating the long history of presidential provender, examining how a chief executive reflected the times for better or worse and how food and drink were tools of diplomacy and power.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, there are chapters covering the very different approaches of the first four presidents (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison), as well as Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.
For the two subsequent centuries, Prud'homme chronicles the White Houses of every president, right up to Joseph Biden. Reflecting the very different characters of the men who served as chief executive, the chapters vary in emphasis. While it's easy to come away from Dinner with the President with abundant trivia and anecdotes—Eisenhower cooked! Coolidge called every meal "supper"—it's also clear that the evolutions in White House dining have sometimes led and sometimes followed changes in American society as a whole.
This is entertaining and fun, but based on careful investigation. And those who might be interested in further exploration on their own will be gratified to know that the book comes with both endnotes and a bibliography.
Hardcover. Black-and-white photos and illustrations.