President 41: George H.W. Bush
January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993
Every kid has that one food that gives them the shivers. I would rather have a lobotomy than eat a vat of tuna salad. For the veggie haters, resisting the steamed greens on your plate is always futile. You have to close your eyes and cram them down in pursuit of dessert. Complaints don’t help the mission. Well, President Bush Sr. waited until he was leader of the free world to seek his ultimate revenge, banishing broccoli from all White House and Air Force One menus. “I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. Now I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more damn broccoli,” he famously proclaimed. Barbara, a lover of the green veggie, playfully threatened to serve him dish after dish of the stuff followed by broccoli ice cream. To be fair, he isn’t a fan of cauliflower either. At 92, I think George Sr. deserves that dessert.
President and Barbara Bush weren’t snobby gourmands during their time in DC and are still fans of comfort foods. The President, who still likes to fish, doesn’t care for seafood. They both enjoy Mexican and Chinese cuisine, odes to places lived and jobs past. One of his White House staff remarked that after watching the President eat his nachos that he eats, ''like a big teen-age boy, unembarrassed by hunger.” When it comes to snacking, Bush is a fan of popcorn and, more famously, pork rinds covered in Tabasco. His love for the snack became well known during his Presidential campaign, and sales rose 11%, making him no stranger to pork barrel spending (about $2.50 a bag).
The Bushes reportedly weren't big drinkers, only downing the occasional beer or vodka martini socially. To be fair, they have led a very social life. It is estimated that before Barbara even moved into the White House, she had hosted almost 1,200 events and attended a similar number. Many of these were fancy affairs, including the President’s inauguration dinner, which featured the colonial favorites of George Washington in a “George to George” themed menu. As we get closer to the end of the series and we are in the thick of apple season, I think an all-American apple dessert is most appropriate. For those unfamiliar, a brown betty is similar to a crumble, only it uses bread crumbs instead of flour crumbles. I found this gem in the Library of Congress archives. It was printed for the public in the Washington Post in 1999 as an apple-cranberry brown betty but the allure of fresh blackberries at the market was just too strong to resist. Feel free to substitute cranberries back in. I have added additional changes in italics.
Apple-Blackberry Brown Betty (10 servings)
Adapted from: “George to George” Inaugural Dinner, 1989
Butter and sugar for preparing the soufflé dish
10 Granny Smith apples
1 teaspoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons butter, plus additional 1/2 cup melted
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups fresh blackberries, washed and dried
Zest of 2 oranges
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon mace
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups stale white-bread crumbs, crusts removed
1 cup ground almonds
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Butter a 2-quart straight-sided glass soufflé dish and then sprinkle with sugar.
Peel, core and quarter the apples, then cut each quarter into 3 chunks. Reserve in a bowl.
Sprinkle the lemon juice over the apples and toss to combine.
In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter until hot and add 1/3 of the apple pieces.
Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and sauté over high heat until the apples are lightly caramelized.
Remove the apples from heat and reserve in a large bowl.
Repeat process until all the apples are cooked.
Combine the apples with the blackberries, orange zest, brown sugar, mace and cinnamon and mix well.
Mix the bread crumbs and ground almonds with the remaining 1/2 cup melted butter.
Line bottom of soufflé bowl with 1/3 of the bread-crumb mixture.
Add 1/2 of the apple mixture, then sprinkle with 1/3 more of the bread crumbs.
Add rest of apple mixture, then top with the remaining bread crumbs.
Bake in the preheated oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.
Top with vanilla ice cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon