Festival Saturday, February 17, 2024

Time: TBD

Alex Prud’homme


Some of the most significant moments in American history have occurred over meals, as U.S. presidents broke bread with friends or foes: Thomas Jefferson’s nation-building receptions in the new capital, Washington, D.C.; Ulysses S. Grant’s state dinner for the king of Hawaii; Teddy Roosevelt’s groundbreaking supper with Booker T. Washington; Richard Nixon’s practiced use of chopsticks to pry open China; Jimmy Carter’s cakes and pies that fueled a détente between Israel and Egypt at Camp David.

Here Alex Prud’homme invites readers into the White House kitchen to reveal the sometimes curious tastes of twenty-six of America’s most influential presidents and the ways their choices affected food policy around the world. And the White House menu grew over time—from simple eggs and black coffee for Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War to jelly beans and enchiladas for Ronald Reagan and arugula for Barack Obama. What our leaders say about food touches on everything from our nation’s shifting diet and local politics to global trade, war, class, gender, race, and so much more.

Prud’homme also details overlooked figures, like George Washington’s enslaved chef, Hercules Posey, whose meals burnished the president’s reputation before the cook narrowly escaped to freedom, and pioneering First Ladies, such as Dolley Madison and Jackie Kennedy. As he weaves these stories together, Prud’homme shows that food is not just fuel when it is served to the most powerful people in the world. It is a tool of communication, a lever of power and persuasion, and a symbol of the nation.

Included are ten authentic recipes for favorite presidential dishes, such as: *Martha Washington’s Preserved Cherries, *Abraham Lincoln’s Gingerbread Men, *William H. Taft’s Billy Bi Mussel Soup, *Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Reverse Martini, *Lady Bird Johnson’s Pedernales River Chili.


Alex Prud’homme has been a journalist and author for thirty years. He is best known for co-writing Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France, a #1 NYT best-seller that inspired half of the film “Julie & Julia” (Sony Pictures), starring Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. Prud’homme’s sequel, The French Chef in America, inspired the documentary “Julia” (Sony Pictures Classics, CNN) and is source material for the HBOMax streaming series “Julia.” His book The Ripple Effect: the Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty First Century inspired the documentary “Last Call at the Oasis” (Participant Media).

In February 2023, Alfred A. Knopf published Dinner With the President: Food, Politics, and a History of Breaking Bread at the White House, a narrative history of the meals and food policies of 26 presidents–from George Washington starving at Valley Forge to FDR’s terrapin soup, Reagan’s jellybeans, Trump’s burgers, and JoeBiden’s “performance enhancing ice cream.” Covering the food of politics and the politics of food, the book asks: how did we get from there (squirrel stew, terrapin soup) to here (processed fast food, veganism)? What does that arc tell us about our leaders as individuals, their eras, the evolution of the American diet, the modernization of America, the shifting state of the world, and ultimately ourselves? The book includes sixteen pages of color illustrations and ten presidential recipes.


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