President 23: Benjamin Harrison (March 4, 1889 – March 4, 1893)
Thank God for my ugly duckling stage. I spent over twenty years in the thick of it and with my Bridget Jones’ tendencies, I am unconvinced I have truly resurfaced. On the bright side, at least I’m not boring; I have channeled my awkward energy into interesting hobbies and questionable fashion choices (you should see my prom picture). I always wonder when coming into contact with “normal” people, something I generally avoid, if they have any sort of interesting habits or secrets lurking beneath. Well, after hours of research made possible by enough caffeine to keep a sloth on a treadmill, I can assure you the Harrisons do not.
Benjamin, the grandson of President William Henry Harrison, had barely made it to Washington. He carried the Electoral College but lost the popular vote by 100,000 to incumbent Cleveland. “Little Ben”, who stood short at five foot six, was a lawyer with a simple palate and a chilly personality. His wife, Caroline, was a pious but friendly woman who would just never have lived up to the standards of Cleveland’s hottie young wife, Frances. One of her biggest passions in life was painting fine china. She catalogued all of the White House china of past presidencies and opened classes to women who wanted to learn how to paint their own dishware. Caroline designed their family china set with ears of corn. In fact, the family had a real thing for corn, with corn soup being their number one family favorite. Yes, this was the most interesting thing I could find about them. No comment.
The Harrison’s meals were well-made, hearty, and unpretentious. Nothing terrible made it to the table but there was also nothing to write home about. Caroline did make a significant culinary contribution by collecting her favorite recipes from wives of legislators in DC and putting them together in a cookbook called “Statesmen’s Dishes and How to Cook Them” which was published in 1890. Her contributions to the collection are her handwritten recipes for sausage rolls, clear soup, and fish chowder all of which were just too boring to explore here. There are some real pearls in the collection though, with barbequed mutton from a Texas Congressman’s wife and this warm lobster salad recipe from the Postmaster- General’s wife. Lobster is pure ambrosia and a great addition to any posh spring picnic. It is expensive to be sure, but if prepared correctly can really make for a one –of-a-kind foodgasm. Live long and lobster, foodies.
By Mrs John Wanamaker, Wife of the Postmaster-General, “Statesmen’s Dishes and How to Cook Them, 1890”
Split two good-sized, fine, freshly-boiled lobsters. Pick all the meat from out the shells, then cut it into one-inch lengths, equals pieces. Place it in saucepan on the hot range, with one ounce of very good fresh butter. Season with one pinch salt and half a saltspoon of red pepper, adding two medium-sized sound truffles cut into small disk-shaped pieces. Cook for five minutes, then add a wineglassful of good Madeira wine. Reduce to one-half, which will take three minutes. Have three egg yolks in a bowl with half a pint of sweet cream; beat well together and add to it the lobster. Gently shuffle for two minutes longer or until it thickens well. Pour it into a hot tureen and serve hot.
I dropped the truffles I find their flavor is too strong for delicate lobster.
I added in some chopped celery at very end when adding the cream to give it some texture.
This is great warm in bowls or cold on rolls. It all works and is all delicious.