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September 28, 2013 / Tony

Two Presidential Recipes

I found a gem of a cookbook lately at a local thrift store:

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This cookbook was created by the Cocoa Beach Woman’s Club of Cocoa Beach Florida in 1973.  Dedicated to “all those who have had a part in the Space Program on the Ground, or in Outer Space, or on the Sidelines”, the proceeds from the sale of the book went towards the building and maintenance of the Space Coast Community Center at Cocoa Beach.  A two minute web search provided no detail on whether this center was ever built.  But no matter, our focus is on food.  Check out these two recipes from the “Sips, Nips, and Dips for VIP’s”:

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Please pay attention to the two authors, Mrs. Gerald Ford and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson.  Given the cookbook’s publication date of 1973, President Johnson had already served as President and President Ford became Vice-President that same year.  I surmise that Mrs. Johnson needed little in the way of introduction due to her husband’s significant involvement with the space program.  I further surmise that Gerald Ford was certainly less well-known than the President Johnson at the time but he still had some stature as being the Republican Minority Leader in the House of Representatives.   All of which is to say: these were wives of two men with an interest in the public’s perception of them. 

It is that point which makes these recipes so curious-they are so very plain.  They both rely on commercially available, processed food.  They both are exceptionally easy to make.  And they must have been accessible and familiar to the average American.  I think that is in stark contrast to what kind of recipe submission we would get from a modern politician.  If I can indulge in imaging a recipe submission from Michelle Obama, one can think of semi-exotic ingredients (so as not to seem too out of touch) and an emphasis on fresh/organic/locally sourced food.  (Check out this site for confirmation of my indulgence.)

What explains this difference?  I think the answer is twofold:  First, food has improved in the U.S. since 1973 in variety, quality, and technique.  Second, food is now a way to show sophistication and class.  Whether or not food should play that role, I have to say that even now I find some kinship with Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Johnson now that I know they made and served something that my mother and grandmother would have made.  That sense of connection between “ordinary Americans” and our representatives  would certainly be something always to be desired.  Perhaps President Obama’s “Beer Summit” wasn’t as terrible an idea as it seemed at the time. 

I suppose I should talk a little bit about the recipes.  The Cream Cheese Roll seems impossible on first glance as slicing cream cheese thinly is a tall order.  But, with the addition of butter, the roll might be stiff enough to slice thinly after refrigeration.  The addition of onion juice is interesting as well.  I hope my assumption that this is a fresh ingredient is correct.  It brings to mind tomato water and the creative things chefs have done with that ingredient.  Chile con Queso is purely processed food but I was interested to see all of the suggested uses and the exhortation to use it as a flavoring ingredient in other recipes.  The modern recipe instructs the use of a microwave instead of a double boiler.  I must add that the modern suggestion to put the dip over pasta is an abhorrent idea.  

 

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