A wonderfully entertaining, often surprising history of presidential taste, from the grim meals eaten by Washington and his starving troops at Valley Forge to Trump’s fast-food burgers and Biden’s ice cream—what they ate, why they ate it, and what it tells us about the state of the nation—from the coauthor of Julia Child’s best-selling memoir My Life in France
"[A] beautifully written book about how the presidential palate has helped shape America...Fascinating."—Stanley Tucci
Some of the most significant moments in American history have occurred over meals, as U.S. presidents broke bread with friends or foe: Thomas Jefferson’s nationbuilding receptions in the new capital, Washington, D.C.; Ulysses S. Grant’s state dinner for the king of Hawaii; Teddy Roosevelt’s groundbreaking supper with Booker T. Washington; Richard Nixon’s practiced use of chopsticks to pry open China; Jimmy Carter’s cakes and pies that fueled a détente between Israel and Egypt at Camp David.
Here Alex Prud’homme invites readers into the White House kitchen to reveal the sometimes curious tastes of twenty-six of America’s most influential presidents, how their meals were prepared and by whom, and the ways their choices affected food policy around the world. And the White House menu grew over time— from simple eggs and black coffee for Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and celebratory turtle soup after and squirrel stew for Dwight Eisenhower, to jelly beans and enchiladas for Ronald Reagan and arugula for Barack Obama. What our leaders say about food touches on everything from our nation’s shifting diet and local politics to global trade, science, religion, war, class, gender, race, and so much more.
Prud’homme also details overlooked figures, like George Washington’s enslaved chef, Hercules Posey, whose meals burnished the president’s reputation before the cook narrowly escaped to freedom, and pioneering First Ladies, such as Dolley Madison and Jackie Kennedy, who used food and entertaining to build political and social relationships. As he weaves these stories together, Prud’homme shows that food is not just fuel when it is served to the most powerful people in the world. It is a tool of communication, a lever of power and persuasion, a form of entertainment, and a symbol of the nation.
Included are ten authentic recipes for favorite presidential dishes, such as:
- Martha Washington’s Preserved Cherries
- Abraham Lincoln’s Gingerbread Men
- William H. Taft’s Billy Bi Mussel Soup
- Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Reverse Martini
- Lady Bird Johnson’s Pedernales River Chili
ALEX PRUD’HOMME is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and other publications. He is the coauthor of Julia Child's memoir, My Life in France, and has authored or coauthored The French Chef in America, France is a Feast, Born Hungry, The Ripple Effect, Hydrofracking, The Cell Game, and Forewarned. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.
"A deeply researched and beautifully written book about how the presidential palate has helped shape America. I found it fascinating." —Stanley Tucci
Dinner with the President is a splendid and captivating book about the power of food in American politics. “Breaking bread” around the table creates a unique and powerful setting to bring conflicting people together and achieve positive outcomes." —Jacques Pépin
"Mr. Prud’homme has come up with a slew of entertaining believe-it-or-not tidbits...Dinner With the President opens with an epigraph by Anthony Bourdain: “Nothing is more political than food.” Mr. Prud’homme’s fascinating book drives the point home." —Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal
★ "With much insight into human behavior, Prud’homme has confected an appealing, panoramic history of power dining for both foodies and students of politics and statecraft." —Mark Knoblauch, Booklist; starred review