President 29: Warren Harding
In office: March 4, 1921 – August 2, 1923
“It’s waffle Hard[ing] to be alone: feeding the President’s notorious posse”
I play the lottery religiously. It is only a five dollar weekly commitment that affords me hours of Sotheby’s realty webpage bliss, as I search for villas big enough for my Wu Tang Clan-sized posse. Like clockwork, I then write off my loss as a donation to the state so they can try and fix the schools or potholes or both. I can’t decide if I did ever win, if I would tell anyone (other than good ole mom and dad). You seem to always read about lotto winners who have fifth cousins who crawl out of the woodwork in search of cash and opportunity. Well, Warren Harding won the Presidential jackpot. His political bros, who became known as the “Ohio Gang”, were eagerly awaiting their appointments. It was scandal after scandal thereafter.
The most notorious of these scandals was the Teapot Dome scandal, which centered on the Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall’s acceptances of bribes from oil companies. It was the country’s biggest political scandal until Watergate. There were also scandals in the Justice Department and Veterans Bureau. It is widely contested if Harding even knew about the bad business his friends were getting in to, though he may have gained wind of it later in his Presidency. Truman claimed Harding once asked, "If you knew of a great scandal in our administration, would you for the good of the country and the party expose it publicly or would you bury it?" After his death in 1923, it all really came out.
Elizabeth Jaffray, the longtime housekeeper of the White House who documented her experiences in “Secrets of the White House” (1926), wrote about Harding’s home life and named him the “best dressed” President. Perhaps “biggest flirt” would have been a more accurate superlative. Mr. and Mrs. Harding slept in the twin beds used by the Tafts and Ms. Jaffray noted Florence Harding’s unpredictable temper, peculiar disposition and particularly harsh treatment of the President. It seems he probably deserved it. Oh, if only she had the rhythm and artistic vision of Beyoncé to make “Lemonade” out of her lemons. Harding had passionate affairs with multiple women; the most controversial of which was with Nanna Popham "Nan" Britton, daughter of a friend. She wrote an exposé named, “The President’s Daughter” in 1928, claiming Warren fathered her child when he was serving in the Senate. In 2015, Ancestry.com tested the family’s DNA and proved she had been telling the truth. Elizabeth, who died in 2005, was Harding’s only child.
Harding’s taste in food was not as fancy as his dress or as varied as his women. He loved raspberries and strawberries and made sure there was a standing rib roast on the table on Sundays. Alcohol was not served during events, as the country was in the thick of prohibition, but Harding would enjoy a drink or two with his friends in private. Even though he was not a fan of eggs, he was of breakfast. He would have his “bros” over in the morning to enjoy the first meal and Ms. Jaffray provided a large spread. To keep you and your squad happy, we have done both a savory and sweet waffle option. Florence’s recipe was kindly sent to us by the Harding Home Presidential Site in Marion, Ohio, which is hosting a waffle cook-off this weekend.
Florence Harding’s Waffle Recipe
c/o: The Harding Home Presidential Site, Marion OH
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 heaping Tbsp. butter
1 pint of milk
1 pint of flour
2 heaping tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Beat yolks of eggs, add sugar, milk and flour; next, add melted butter and just before ready to bake, add baking powder and beaten whites of eggs. Cook in hot waffle iron. Don’t eat them on a full stomach. Cover well with butter and then pour maple syrup over the plate.
These waffles aren’t particularly sweet so you can choose to enjoy them the savory way as well. My sweet option is with fresh cherry syrup (recipe noted below) and my savory is with sausage gravy (like the Southerners make) and a poached egg. If you want to stay authentic, President Harding like chipped beef gravy and a host of recipes are online.
Quick Cherry Syrup: Bring one bag cherries (pitted) and 1 cup pomegranate juice to a boil. Reduce and simmer for 20 mins (about half). Add 1.5 cups granulated sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and 2 Tbsp. butter. Continue to reduce until syrupy consistency (coats the back of spoon). Remove from heat. Makes 3 cups.
Quick Sausage Gravy: Remove sausage meat from the casings of 5 breakfast sausages. Brown in a skillet. Add 2 Tbsp. of flour to the browned sausage crumbles. Make sure it is well mixed. Add a little bit of milk at a time, constantly stirring. Keep adding until desired consistency (I prefer mine thicker). Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. A tiny little spoonful of maple syrup also does wonders.