You seriously doubted if the food was ever going to stop coming, though you hoped it wouldn’t: you’d tasted all your favorite dishes, and then some. It was a meal fit for a King or Queen. Or maybe a president, and in “The President’s Kitchen Cabinet” by Adrian Miller, you’ll read about First Family feasts.
Last year, while they were on the campaign trail, you might’ve noticed that presidential candidates often enjoyed small-town American cuisine. Their willingness to sample, says Miller, proves that politicians are just like us, a likeness that stops at the White House doors. Presidents, as you know, have staff and many Presidential families have dined on the efforts of African Americans in the White House kitchen.
Early accounts of the first Executive Mansion kitchen indicate the enormity of cooking for the President, even then: it was the size of a small house at 43 feet long, 26 feet wide, with fireplaces at either end. Slaves who toiled there lived in the White House basement or attic and were fed the same food the Presidential family received.
George Washington, says Miller, hired white women to cook for him at the beginning of his presidency but later “summoned Hercules,” his Mount Vernon slave, to Philadelphia, making Hercules the first enslaved White House cook.
Thomas Jefferson made sure his enslaved cook, James Hemings, was trained in French cuisine. John Smeades, an accomplished baker who “ran the kitchen” for William Taft, repeatedly ruined the president’s diet with pie; according to long-time White House maid, Lillian Rogers Parks, the Tafts irritated staff by bringing “any number of guests home… without advance warning.”