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Officers and Ivy League Gentlemen

Food fit for an Officer or an Ivy League Gentleman.

By Colleen Walsh Fong

Many Americans associate the Ivy League with our Northern East Coast region, and think of Ivy Leaguers as coming from that area. So it may surprise some to read that Thomas Woodrow Wilson, a graduate and President of Princeton University, was born in Virginia, raised in the South by parents who supported the confederacy, and had a law practice in Atlanta, Georgia.

He served as our nation’s 28th President from 1913-21, and won the Nobel Peace Prize for sponsoring the League of Nations, which the United States declined to join.

Our-7th ranked President was by all accounts indifferent to food. Some sources suggest that both he and his mother may have been hypochondriacs. Whether true or not, Wilson suffered from delicate health for much of his life. He is known to have enjoyed chicken salad, strawberry ice cream, and Georgia Kiss pudding. His favorite breakfast may remind some of Rocky Balbo: two raw eggs in grape juice.

Thirty-fifth President John F. Kennedy ranks 8th. Another Ivy Leaguer, he graduated cum laude from Harvard University. He is our only Pulitzer Prize winning Commander in Chief, winning for his book “Profiles in Courage.” He was born in Brookline Massachusetts, the grandson of Boston Mayor “Honey” Fitzgerald. His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, was a successful businessman and a United States Ambassador to Great Britain during the Franklin Roosevelt administration. John Kennedy occupied the oval office from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963.

When he took time to eat, Kennedy remained true to his roots, often requesting his favorite food, New England Fish Chowder. He also enjoyed steak, baked chicken, baked beans, seafood, lamb chops, and mashed potatoes. And like Lincoln and Washington he was partial to a corn-based grain for breakfast—corn muffins. But, by all accounts food took a back seat to politics for JFK.

Our 9th and 10th-ranked Presidents were Army officers. Generals to be exact.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas but raised from age 2 in Abilene, Kansas, which he considered to be home. Our 34th President graduated from West Point and rose through the United States Army ranks, ultimately holding its top spot during World War II when he was made a 5-star General and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. In 1951 he became NATO’s first Supreme Commander. He made Commander in Chief in 1953 and held that rank until JFK took office in '61. We owe our space program and our Interstate system of highways to him.

“Ike,” as he was called, famously enjoyed golf and oil painting, but was also an enthusiastic cook. His favorite meal was beef stew, and he is known to have prepared it for guests at the Presidential Retreat named for his grandson, Camp David. His original recipes can be found in his own cookbook, which resides in the Eisenhower National Museum and Archives.

10th-ranked and 7th U.S. President, Andrew Jackson, may have been the first self-made man elected to the nation’s highest office. Like Lincoln, his early education was intermittent at best, but he ultimately studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1787. He specialized in disputed land-claims, living on the Western frontier in what eventually became northern Tennessee. He also became a successful planter and merchant. He came to prominence for his role as Army General in the 1814 Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

Despite humble origins, Jackson had a robust appetite for savory foods including lamb chops with rosemary, custard tarts, and his favorite dish, beef tenderloin with biscuits and jezebel sauce. A 1400-pound wheel of cheddar cheese was served at his first inaugural ball.

Slicing a hunk of cheddar cheese is definitely quick and easy, like Easy Weekly Meals recipes, but I’m not sure it would be a big hit at a current-day inaugural ball. You can find cheddar in several Easy Weekly Meals recipes, though. Give one a try and let me know what your favorite recipe is.

Image courtesy of Sailom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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