Monday, March 28, 2011

Presidential Palate 5: Johnson, Hayes, Garfield

Even though it didn't align with any holiday, we continued eating our way through the presidents with our fifth Presidential Palate dinner.  This meal was centered around the presidencies of Andrew Johnson, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James Garfield.  "But wait!"  surely someone out there will say.  "You forgot about Ulysses S. Grant."

Actually, we haven't.  However, as I've written during some of the previous Presidential Palate meals, we're having a hard time eating these four-course dinners.  And Grant's presidential dinners epitomized the Gilded Age that was blossoming during his terms, often serving 29 courses in the course of one meal.  So we figured we had better do him as a meal in itself.  Stay tuned for that story.

Johnson, Hayes, and Garfield, however, all seemed to have much simpler tastes.  Johnson is believed in our area because he came from North Carolina.  So we made a traditional North Carolina fish stew called Pine Bark Stew that was supposed to be a favorite of his.   No one knows where the name originated, but leading theories include:

  • pine bark was used to either flavor or cook the meal
  • the stew was thick enough to serve on a piece of pine bark
  • it was the color of pine bark
I have no idea how authentic the recipe I used was, but it doesn't support any of those theories, at least in my opinion.  Take a look at it cooking and let me know if you disagree...
Andrew Johnson's Pine Bark Stew

Rutherford B. Hayes was from Ohio, and favored simple meals that reminded him of home.  For his contribution, we used an actual recipe of his wife, Lucy Hayes.  However, being one of those old fashioned recipes, it was kind of short on exact measurements and details about how things were supposed to be done.  So once again, I'm not sure that what we ended up with reflected what the family themselves would have served.
Rutherford B. Hayes Corn Fritters

I'm thinking now that the corn should have been mashed or creamed or something, but the recipe didn't say anything about doing that.  Anyway, I thought they were pretty good, but they didn't go over well among the menfolk in the family.  But the fish stew was good, except a little bland--nothing that some liberal application of our totally non-time-period chipotle hot sauce couldn't cure!

And when I combined it with a green salad (I probably should have done collard greens or something more Southern in honor of Johnson, but I don't know how to cook those properly and I don't like eating them), it made a pretty and colorful meal:
Johnson, Hayes, and Garfield meal

James Garfield was an even more...OK, let's just be honest--BORING eater.  It appears that he rejected fancy European cooking for simple, nutritious meals, with his favorite drink being milk and his favorite foods being bread, potatoes, and the ubiquitous apples.  One of preferred items was soda bread, so we made some of that to go along with the soup.  
James Garfield Soda Bread

One thing Garfield HATED, though, was oatmeal.  So we finished the meal with Oatmeal Cookies in kind of a reverse memory of him.  

And while we didn't have a 29 course banquet, we did make a very special meal for Grant the next day, but I'll save that for tomorrow's blog.


  1. The stew was good, but the fritters were abdonmable!

  2. I think you mean abominable, and they were not!