Close this search box.

7 Surprising Foods American Presidents Served at US Dinners

Are you curious about what foods used to be served at the White House parties? 

Official state dinners at the White House, in which the sitting president hosts queens, kings, and heads of state from around the world, are usually a grand and elegant affair. Presidential State Dinner foods fluctuate from plain and simple to gourmet and sophisticated entrees, most of them influenced by social and economic factors as well as who was attending the function at that specific time.

The menus in particular reflect the guests’ preferences regarding food or send subtle political messages regarding how Americans like to have fun. Let’s see which dinner had the fanciest foods and which president was among the best hosts.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

1. Franklin D. Roosevelt – foods similar to what is usually served at a Thanksgiving dinner

During Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, the state of the nation was pretty complicated and different compared to the “modern” world. Every nation was in the depths of the Great Depression, and the economic global disaster was the main problem. To set an example for other Americans when they moved into the White House, the Roosevelt family embraced a somewhat frugal diet and tried to reduce food waste as much as possible.

Dinners were less fancy, and among the foods that were served, vegetables, turkey, and chicken meals were the common ones. When Queen Elizabeth and King George VI came to visit President Roosevelt, they were served hot dogs. This dish was definitely a symbol of America that reflected the current situation from the political, social, and economic point of view.

The White House once served a sweet potato dish with marshmallow topping, and according to various reliable sources, Fulgencio Batista, the former president of Cuba, drank whiskey sours and some wine during his visit at the White House.

2. Harry S. Truman – watermelon pickles and strawberry shortcake

Nesbitt, Roosevelt’s cook, was fired by the Truman family in 1945, and the kitchen management was given to Vietta Garr, the family’s former personal chef and a woman of African American descent who had worked as a servant in their house since 1928. She gave clear instructions on how to cook “Missouri-styled foods,” and among the famous ones were pickled melons, strawberry shortcake, and fried chicken.

One of the first dinners that was held by President Truman was for Queen Elizabeth shortly after she became queen. She was served with French fried potatoes, Missouri ham, and, of course, the famous pickles. Did you know that President Truman served Winston Churchill and the Dutch Prime Minister Willem Drees Fritos? This showed that he was mainly interested in simple but tasty foods. Besides food, he was also a bourbon fan, and every dinner started with an old martini or whiskey mixed with a bit of tomato juice.

3. John F. Kennedy -French cuisine

If you know at least a few important things about John F. Kennedy, then you have to be familiar with the name Rene Verdon, the French chef of the White House who made some amazing changes regarding the menu of the Official State Dinners. The Kennedys brought an unmatched level of elegance and class to the State Dinner at the White House. In order to manage formal dinners, Jacqueline Kennedy reorganized the White House personnel and added the job of executive chef.

The main dishes were transformed from basic fried chicken to steak with black truffle sauce because chef Verdon insisted on buying only fresh foods of the highest quality. Did you know that all the foods on the menu were named almost completely in French? One of the most famous meals that was served at one of the many White House dinners was the whipped avocado and crabmeat mimosa with “Poulet chasseur,” which was known by its English name, “hunter-style chicken.”

When it comes to drinks, Kennedy made history by being the first president to serve Almaden Pinot Noir at state dinners. He was also the first president to offer Chardonnay, which took the place of “sherry” as the first-course wine, along with the occasional pinot blanc.

Photo by Bart Sherkow From Shutterstock

4. Gerald Ford – rice based dishes

During his years as president of the United States, Gerald Ford hosted 34 state dinners. For the first year, Ford menus followed the model Kennedy and Nixon had established with their French menus and names. Ford’s state dinners, though, seem to demonstrate his desire for the country to advance. By 1975, “buttered carrots” had replaced “broccoli au beurre.” Apparently, President Ford was a huge fan of nutritional foods, and his favorites were rice-based dishes.

In the following years, during the various visits to the White House, a lot of fancy foods were served. President Alfonso Lopez Michelsen of Colombia ate melon and prosciutto, filet mignon, mushrooms, and artichokes with salad, then bombe nougatine (a form of dessert), and petits fours in September 1975.

The following month, pheasant with rice and eggplant, filet of sole, cheese, peach melba (peaches, raspberry sauce, and ice cream), and petits fours were served to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. That sounds delicious!

Regarding beverages, at a dinner from 1974 where Bruno Kreisky was the most important guest, a wine from Michigan’s Tabor Hill Winery was served. That would be the first and last time this wine was drunk until 2016, when Barack Obama and his wife had it.

5. Bill Clinton – healthy and low-fat foods

It’s a fact that during his years as President of the US, Bill Clinton and his wife were keen on keeping a healthy and nutritious diet. The cheese course was completely eliminated, and more vegetables were included on the menus. Even the meat was “pushed away,” and beef was served only twice at 32 different State Dinners. In order to keep the fat percentage low, he served ginger-almond ice cream produced with 2 percent milk during the formal dinner he hosted for South Korean President Kim Young-Sam in November 1993.

But what do you think: Were really the Clintons happy with these food choices, or was it the boom in low-fat meals during the 1990s that had an influence on them?

It sounds hard to believe that someone who loved McDonald’s menus and enchiladas would switch completely to healthier foods. Maybe it was more about the message they wanted to spread to the American people: The Clintons eat healthy; you should too!

6. Barack Obama – International foods

The Obama couple dared to experiment with foods and different types of dishes on the menus. Their state dinner menus, in contrast to those of earlier administrations, have little in common with one another and swing joyously between styles. In 2010, when they hosted a dinner where Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico, was invited, the dinner menu was a delicious mixture of American and Mexican food.

In 2016, when all the Prime Ministers of all the Nordic states came to America, Barack Obama offered them a variety of dishes based on Nordic cuisine with an American twist. A lot of the foods on the menu included chicken and waffles served with seafood and tuna. There were also a lot of dumplings with red-wine braised ribs and pickled radish salad.

Continuing on the same path as his predecessor, Bill Clinton, Obama always mentioned the importance of healthy eating. And one of the few things that connect Obama state dinners is their use of the 1,100-square-foot White House kitchen garden. In this garden were planted a lot of vegetables that were used exclusively for these official dinners.

7. Donald Trump – American foods with French influence

It’s already a fact that former President Donald Trump was a controversial figure during his entire administration. Compared to his predecessor Obama, Trump is a huge fan of classical American fast food like Kentucky Fried Chicken or Mc Donald’s. And he is not the only example of someone who enjoyed eating “unhealthy” foods. Let’s not forget about those from above, the Clintons, who were mainly hiding behind “healthy eating” despite the fact that the two of them loved fast food as much as any other American citizen.

But when it came to state dinners, Trump thought that food was a badge of honor. He held his first dinner in 2018 when French President Macron and his wife came to visit America. The dishes were mainly made under the supervision of Chef Cristeta Comerford, who had already worked for two former presidents.

The menu included buttermilk biscuits, rack of lamb, a big variety of lettuces, and ice cream. Overall, the menu included dishes from regions of the United States with a strong French influence, like jambalaya with a Louisianan flavor.

Can you see a pattern in all the former President’s foods?

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our website! We have many other interesting topics. One of our favorites is: 7 Weird Extreme Historical Sports That Appear to Be Fake.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts