Presidential Aspirations … Crazy Cookbook Guy for President?

Well, let’s just say no and leave it at that, okay?

One of the problems with collecting anything is the question of categorization.   Cookbooks are vexing in that regard because there are so many options available to a collector.  Some are obvious like General Cookbooks and Regional Cookbooks.  Community Cookbooks have almost too many options available … church, armed forces, symphonies, museums, schools, almost anything you can imagine.  I have one somewhere that is from the school cafeteria workers association of Iowa.  Lunch Ladies? Absolutely.

I’m always looking for trends to focus on a unique aspect … I call some of these sub-collections.  One of my favorites is Bicentennial cookbooks … it was a very popular commemoration tool, combining fund-raising with the 200th anniversary celebration of our country.  Another is autographed cookbooks.  I have such a large number of signed cookbooks, that is another sub-collection.  A lot of them are even from cookbook authors nobody has ever heard of.  It is still fun.

This past weekend (25 cent sale!) I stumbled onto yet a new sub-collection idea: Presidential Cookbooks.


imageThis weekend I picked up a copy of THE JAMES K. POLK COOKBOOK.  If  you’ve lost count, he was our eleventh president.  Mint condition, 1978 copyright.  It might be a later printing but it does say First Edition (more on this later).  It was put together by the James K. Polk Memorial Auxiliary to help fund restoration of the Polk ancestral home in Columbia, TN.  Oddly, the very next day after I bought it someone on a FaceBook cookbook page (The CookBook Junkies) posted a picture of this very same book … she’s had it for thirty years and still loves it.

It is a very nicely done cookbook, and is even locally printed.

A lot of fundraiser cookbooks solicit celebrity inclusions and this one is no exception …  they solicited recipes from living first ladies.  We have Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jackie O, Ladybird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, and Nancy Reagan.  That is quite an array.

Wait, Nancy Reagan?  It said it was printed in 1978!  I guess it IS a later pressing!  Either that or the committee had a clairvoyant.  This is the kind of subtle thing you have to look out for when collecting.

imageMost of the other recipes are from the committee members and are a cross-section of Tennessee cooking.  I’ve picked one at random to share … another Fall-ish recipe:
Granny McCalls’s Gingerbread.   Love Gingerbread.  Who can argue with a something from Granny McCall?


I was on my way out of the aisles when I saw THE WHITE HOUSE FAMILY COOKBOOK by former White House Executive Chef Henry Haller.

I hesitated when I saw it was published in 1987, because that is outside of my usual preferred date range  …


… Ah, but when I opened it to check the publish date, I saw  immediately that  IT WAS SIGNED.  I pick up about 95% of the signed copies I see.  Thanks, Ruby and Jim!

In thumbing through this cookbook, it is obvious that it is essentially FIVE cookbooks, one for each of the administrations he served.  Each presidential family had different regional preferences and different traditional favorites as well.  He includes memorable menus (for instance there are quite a few special inclusions from the Nixon era White House weddings).

Chef Haller obviously did his best to adjust his menu to fit his clients’ preferences, which was no doubt why he served so successfully for so long.  I mean, my gosh, he served almost as many administrations as J Edgar Hoover!
Each section has a LOT of family recipes from each presidential family.  He also has no problem giving credit where credit is due.

imageI’ve chosen to share a Barbeque Sauce recipe he included, … he credits BBQ master Walter Jetton with the recipe.  I actually have a copy of Walter Jetton’s cookbook … he was the real thing and was one of President Johnson’s favorite cooks at his ranch … AKA — Pitmaster to the president.

As I said, I hesitated at first and only picked it up because it was signed, but as is so often the case, I found that The White House Family Cookbook has a lot to offer to my collection.
I think both cookbooks may be a good start for my new presidential cookbook sub-collection.


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