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Franklin Roosevelt was a man of many wise words–as young children we all learn something about fearing fear itself. My favorite FDR quote however is, “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on”. This is probably because I’m perpetually at the end of my metaphorical rope, but that’s a whole other topic not really worthy of a blog entry. Let’s refocus on a man who, when he wasn’t solving the nation’s greatest crises, enjoyed the simpler pleasures in life–like coffee and donuts, hot dogs and beer, and soup with toast, on our 4th installment of Presidents! They’re just like us!

Franklin Delano “Simple Pleasures” Roosevelt

Presidency: 1933-1945

Notable Accomplishments: Was so awesome, he served 3 full terms, and elected to a 4th. Led the nation from a wheelchair, soothed hearts and minds with his Fireside Chats and remarkably kept his calm through the Great Depression and WWII. With his New Deal acts, berthed governmental organizations such as Social Security and the FDIC. Plus, he married a kick-ass woman, which we all know is the real key behind every man’s greatness.

Favorite Foods: Fish soup, bread pudding, fried cornmeal mush, cheese, coffee and donuts. Sunday supper was a big deal in the Roosevelt house, where the special was often Mrs. Roosevelt’s famous scrambled eggs–scrambled by Eleanor herself, served tableside in a hot silver chafing dish.  Hold up–breakfast for dinner at the White House? The Roosevelts just replaced Brangelina as my most favorite power couple ever. If FDR led the nation fueled on what he ate then I’m planning on scrambled eggs for dinner every Sunday.

Like many things the Roosevelts did, their dinner table and dining habits were a mash-up of high society learnings and low-brow gumption. Many a visitor left confused, intrigued, informed and inspired with both the attitudes as well as dishes served up by the well-intentioned, born-elite, and extremely-educated couple. Though FDR was raised in well-to-do environments, Eleanor Roosevelt, the most social-minded of all First Ladies, made sure that these ways never got the best of him. The First Couple served hot dogs and beer to the King and Queen of England on their visit to the Roosevelt’s summer home in Hyde Park, NY. Yep, grilling up wieners for the Royal Family. Keep it real, ‘Merricuh.

But if Eleanor wasn’t the main influence on FDR’s eating habits, then it was certainly the White House cook, Henrietta Nesbitt. Upon her arrival at the White House kitchen, she shook her head at the old brick ovens and cast iron pans, then Extreme Home Makeover’d the White House kitchen. “…New equipment included 6 roasting ovens, a 16-foot-long stove, 8 refrigerators, 5 dishwashers, a soup kettle, a meat grinder, waffle irons, multiple mixers, a 30-gallon ice-cream storage freezer, and a deep-fryer that held 5 gallons of fat”.¹ When the nation was scaled back on consumption of meat during the Great Depression, Nesbitt stretched the White House allotment of steaks and roasts. Depression who?

Franklin Roosevelt himself was perhaps too busy to really care what exactly he ate. After all, he wasn’t a man of great luxury like Chester Arthur or James Buchanan, and rarely feasted on (though enjoyed) delicacies such as foie gras and caviar. The only gourmet indulgence that Roosevelt loved was cream. Rich heavy cream, in his scrambled eggs, in his coffee, whipped into desserts and as thick as could be. A man of simple pleasures, a man of great feats.

¹excerpt from A Taste of the Past, White House Kitchens, Menus, and Recipes

Scrambled Eggs in Chafing Dish

From The Presidential Cookbook: Feeding the Roosevelts and Their Guests, Henrietta Nesbitt

1 tbsp butter 6 eggs 3 tbsp cream ½ tsp salt
Melt butter in pan, stir in lightly eggs and cream beaten together. Don’t overcook. Two eggs to each portion.