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The Quick 10: 10 Political Figures' Favorite Family Recipes

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Just in time for Thanksgiving, we dug up some treasured holiday recipes from political eras past and present. Here are ten families’ rhetoric-free contributions to the holiday.

© Louisa Gouliamaki/epa/Corbis

1. Mitt Romney’s favorite carrot soup. In 2007, Romney for President launched AnnRomney.com as part of the official campaign website. Though it’s now defunct, Mrs. Romney’s site included a section titled “Ann’s Recipes,” many of which were shared around the web, thus preserving Willard's favorite soup. If that’s not your thing, you can whip up some of the Romney clan’s famous Welsh skillet cakes.

2. Walter Mondale’s turkey dressing and pumpkin bread. You might be surprised to learn that Mondale was a comfortable and regular cook, preparing meals for family gatherings and weeknight dinners to relax before and after his term as vice president. According to a 1984 Esquire article, Fritz’s turkey dressing has a bit of a twist: it calls for 18 one-day-old hot dog buns, because “regular bread simply won't do.” His pumpkin bread recipe is suspiciously like my grandmother’s (or perhaps it’s the other way around).

3. George W. and Laura Bush’s ‘dijongate’ deviled eggs.

Crawford Ranch is no stranger to holiday meals, and these deviled eggs turn up at all of them. The Bushes shared the recipe in 2004 as part of a 4th of July feature on WhiteHouse.gov. Five years later, there was a minor uproar over these eggs--which use Dijon mustard instead of the standard yellow--after Sean Hannity called Barack Obama “fancy” and “President Poupon” for putting the condiment on his burger; a few days later, the former First Couple’s egg recipe reappeared to somewhat less ridicule and, thankfully, the whole topic was dropped.

4. Herbert Hoover’s sweet potatoes. These sweet potatoes were Hoover’s favorite food; in 1915 they were served at a special Thanksgiving celebration in Brussels, alongside imported (and mysteriously quoted) “turkey,” while Hoover was there as chairman of the humanitarian Commission for Relief in Belgium. Seven years later, they were still well-loved and served often enough at the White House to end up in Eating with Uncle Sam: Recipes and Historical Bites from the National Archives.

5. Nancy Reagan’s uber-fancy pudding flambé (not pictured). If you were a guest at the White House during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, you might have had the First Lady’s impressive persimmon pudding, which is steamed for two-and-a-half hours and set aflame at the table, then served with brandy cream sauce. Bonus recipe: monkey bread, for those of you who prefer something with less fire.

6. Rick Santorum’s apple tarte tatin. There’s no prepackaged pie crust action at the Santorum house. This apple tart is a family favorite. Karen Garver Santorum says, “I usually use Granny Smith apples, but you can also use peaches or pears. I love making this dessert with my children Elizabeth, Johnny, Daniel, Sarah Maria, Peter, and Patrick.” With that many hungry mouths, you need a big dessert—this one calls for 14 apples. That should do it.

7. Michelle Obama’s apple cobbler. The not-yet First Lady shared this unfussy cobbler back when Barack was still campaigning. It’s easy-peasy, and Michelle admits she’s been making it so long that she “usually just eyeballs” the measurements. Her cookbook, American Grown, is set to release in April 2012.

8. Jimmy Carter’s special cheese ring. Back in 1984, Esquire ran this appetizer recipe from Jimmy and Rosalynn’s personal favorites. It’s about as easy as food gets, but the cheese-mayo-onion mixture could probably use a little update. His peanut butter pie is super simple, too, but reportedly perfect as-is.

9. Bill and Hillary Clinton’s desserts. Though the former president didn’t personally develop this lemon chess pie recipe (it’s from the Arkansas governor’s mansion chef, who included it in her cookbook, Thirty Years at the Mansion), it is reportedly his favorite pie. At least it used to be; no word on whether he’s adapted it to fit his vegan diet. For her part, Hillary’s chocolate chip cookies and spice fruit bars are apparently both quite good and yield approximately 90 pieces each, so there are plenty to share.

10. Joe and Jill Biden’s Sweet-and-Spicy Pecans. Here’s an easy get-together snack from the VP and family, which one reviewer calls “quite addictive.” Joe’s a big fan of oatmeal raisin cookies, too; this recipe is from his mother-in-law.

For more inspiration, check out the Congress Cooks! recipe index and Eating with Uncle Sam: Recipes and Historical Bites from the National Archives.

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Inside the Quest to Save 42 Giant Presidential Statues
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Gary Knapp // Getty Images

In 2004, Presidents Park opened in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was a huge open-air museum containing 42 two-story-high busts of the presidents to date at the time. Visitors could perambulate among the presidents, reading plaques about them. (Note: There are only 42 busts in total because of Grover Cleveland's two nonconsecutive terms.)

In 2013, local builder Howard Hankins was hired to remove and destroy the busts, after the attraction itself went bust. Hankins had another idea. He carefully transported all the busts to his family farm. This cleared the way for an Enterprise Rent-a-Car facility now located on the former grounds of Presidents Park. It also left him with 43 giant statues, many of them slightly damaged, to deal with.

Over the ensuing years, Hankins has walked among the busts, weeding the grounds and struggling to figure out what to do with these "giants of men." He loosely envisions a similar attraction, this time called The Presidential Experience. Ideally it would have a better location to attract tourists. But Hankins lacks the funding to make it a reality. Since the original haul, he has managed to secure a tiny template for an Obama bust, but couldn't afford to purchase the full-size version. No word yet on a Trump bust.

In the short film All the Presidents' Heads directed by Adam Roffman, we meet Hankins, see the busts, and learn about the possible second coming of a presidential roadside attraction. Enjoy:

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9 Fascinating Facts About John Quincy Adams

Today marks the 250th birthday of John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States (and son of our second POTUS, John Adams). Born on July 11, 1767 in a part of Braintree, Massachusetts that is now known as Quincy, the younger Adams was a pretty interesting guy. From his penchant for skinny-dipping to his beloved pet alligator, here are some things you might not have known about the skilled statesman.

1. HE WAS ELECTED PRESIDENT DESPITE LOSING BOTH THE POPULAR AND ELECTORAL VOTES.

The election of 1824, which saw John Quincy Adams face off against Andrew Jackson, is the only presidential election that had to be decided by the U.S. House of Representatives, as neither candidate won the majority of electoral votes. Despite losing both the popular and electoral vote, Adams was named president by the House.

2. HE LOVED MORNING CARDIO.

When it comes to personal fitness, early birds have an edge. Studies have shown that morning workouts can curb your appetite, prevent weight gain, and even help you get a good night’s sleep later on. Nobody understood the virtues of morning exercise better than Adams. As America’s foreign minister to Russia, Adams would wake up at five, have a cold bath, and read a few chapters from his German-language Bible. Then came a six-mile walk, followed by breakfast. 

3. HE WAS AN AVID SKINNY-DIPPER.

As president, Adams got his exercise by taking a daily dip in the Potomac … naked. Every morning at 5:00 a.m., he would walk to the river, strip down, and go for a swim. Sadly, the most famous swimming anecdote likely never happened. The story is that when Adams refused an interview with reporter Anne Royall, she hiked down to the river while he was swimming, gathered his clothes, and sat on them until he agreed to talk. But modern historians tend to agree that this story was a later invention. That’s not to say, however, that Adams never talked about Royall. In his diaries he wrote “[Royall] continues to make herself noxious to many persons; treating all with a familiarity which often passes for impudence, insulting those who treat her with incivility, and then lampooning them in her books.”

4. HE ENJOYED A GOOD GAME OF POOL.

Adams installed a billiards table in the White House shortly after becoming president. The new addition quickly became a subject of controversy when Adams accidentally presented the government with the $61 tab (in reality he had paid for it himself). Nonetheless, political enemies charged that the pool table symbolized Adams’s aristocratic taste and promoted gambling.

5. HE WAS AN AMAZING ORATOR, BUT TERRIBLE AT SMALL TALK.

Although Adams was nicknamed “Old Man Eloquent” for his unparalleled public speaking ability, he was terrible at small talk. Aware of his own social awkwardness, Adams once wrote in his diary, “I went out this evening in search of conversation, an art of which I never had an adequate idea. Long as I have lived in the world, I never have thought of conversation as a school in which something was to be learned. I never knew how to make, to control, or to change it.”

6. HE KEPT A PET ALLIGATOR IN A BATHTUB AT THE WHITE HOUSE.

Adams had a pet alligator, which was gifted to him by the Marquis de Lafayette. He kept it in a tub in the East Room of the White House for a few months, supposedly claiming that he enjoyed watching “the spectacle of guests fleeing from the room in terror.”

7. WHEN IT CAME TO POLITICS, HE PLAYED DIRTY.

The presidential election of 1828—when incumbent John Quincy Adams got crushed by longtime rival Andrew Jackson—is famous for the mudslinging tactics employed by both sides. Adams’s side said Jackson was too dumb to be president, claiming that he spelled Europe “Urope.” They also hurled insults at Jackson’s wife, calling her a “dirty black wench” for getting together with Jackson before divorcing her first husband. Jackson’s side retorted by calling Adams a pimp, claiming that he had once procured an American girl for sexual services for the czar while serving as an ambassador to Russia.

8. HE’S RESPONSIBLE FOR ACQUIRING FLORIDA.

Next time you find yourself soaking up some rays in the Sunshine State, take a moment to thank Adams. As Secretary of State, Adams negotiated the Adams-Onís Treaty, which allowed the U.S. to acquire Florida and set a new boundary between the U.S. and New Spain. That’s right: Walt Disney World might not have been built if it weren’t for the sixth president.

9. HE KIND OF HATED BEING PRESIDENT. 

Adams once reportedly stated, “The four most miserable years of my life were my four years in the presidency.” But even if he hated being commander-in-chief, Adams couldn’t bear to be out of the political loop for too long. After finishing his term as president, Adams served 17 more years in the House of Representatives, where he campaigned against further extension of slavery. In fact, he died shortly after suffering a stroke on the House floor.

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