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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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Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images
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8 Surprising Facts About the Presidential Yacht
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Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images

If you consider a boat to be a suboptimal way of ferrying the President of the United States, you’re not alone. No sitting president has used one for official travel purposes since 1977, when the USS Sequoia was decommissioned. But for a good chunk of the 20th century, the POTUS was able to jump on a yacht and set sail for both recreational and government business, getting a change of scenery without having to hop on a plane. Take a look at a few things you might not have known about this unique—and extinct—political retreat.

1. THE SEQUOIA WASN’T THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL YACHT.

The idea of toting presidents in a floating White House for social engagements dates back to 1893, when the USS Dolphin flew the presidential flag for Grover Cleveland and William McKinley. In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt anointed the USS Mayflower, a luxury steam yacht, that was occupied by three successive presidents until it was decommissioned in 1929. Two other ships were in service before the Sequoia was selected in 1933.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY A DECOY SHIP DURING PROHIBITION.

The Sequoia wasn’t custom-built for presidential purposes. Constructed in 1925, the 104-foot-long vessel was originally owned by a Texas oilman and purchased by the U.S. government in 1931. It was used as a decoy ship to intercede rum runners during Prohibition before being rehomed with the U.S. Navy. Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt enjoyed fishing off the ship—in Hoover’s case, so much so that he put a picture of it on the White House’s official 1932 Christmas card. Hoover soon declared it the official presidential yacht in 1933.

3. EACH PRESIDENT CUSTOMIZED IT.

The Sequoia underwent several minor facelifts as each new sitting president decided they wanted a custom yacht experience. Lyndon B. Johnson was so tall that he had to have the shower on board extended so he could bathe comfortably; John F. Kennedy had a king-sized bed installed. An elevator was added to make it wheelchair-accessible for Franklin Roosevelt; Johnson later ripped out the lift and used the space for a wet bar.

4. NIXON LOVED THE BOAT.

Of all the presidents to board the Sequoia, Richard Nixon did so with the greatest frequency and zeal. He reportedly stepped on the ship at least 88 times, sailing to Mount Vernon and insisting staff salute Washington’s tomb. Later, when Watergate began to consume most of his final days in office, he insisted an anti-bug electronic shield be installed in case the ship was being tapped for sound. Nixon also made the decision to resign while on board, mournfully playing “God Bless America” on the piano that Truman had installed.

5. JFK HAD HIS LAST BIRTHDAY PARTY THERE.

On what turned out to be his last birthday, John F. Kennedy devoted the night of May 29, 1963 to a celebration on the Sequoia. Just 24 guests were invited, and only three Secret Service members were on board—the rest populated security boats trailing behind.

6. ELVIS BOUGHT ONE.

For Franklin D. Roosevelt, the USS Potomac was his ship of choice: The 165-foot-long ship was big enough to accommodate more Secret Service staff and was in use from 1936 to 1945. After passing through other hands, Elvis Presley decided he wanted to make sure the ship was preserved and bought it at auction in 1964 for $55,000. The King immediately donated it to Saint Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, where it continued to change hands until being designated a National Historical Landmark in 1987.

7. JIMMY CARTER SOLD IT OFF.

By 1977, the Sequoia had been in service for over four decades, and the cost to maintain it was significant: $800,000 a year. Because Jimmy Carter had made campaign promises to cut extraneous expenses, he had little choice but to trim the fat by decommissioning the yacht. The Sequoia was sold off for $236,000. In 1999, a collector of presidential memorabilia bought it for nearly $2 million and began renting it out to visitors for $10,000.

8. IT BECAME FULL OF RACCOON POOP.

Once the Sequoia entered the private sector, its seaworthiness became a very costly pursuit. In 2016, a judge ruled that FE Partners, which restores historic ships, could have the vessel free of charge after it was declared to be rotting and infested with raccoons while idling in a Virginia shipyard: The animals reportedly pooped on presidential carpets. The group hopes to restore the Sequoia and have it back on the water sometime in the next few years.

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Courtesy Sotheby's
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You Can Buy the Oldest Surviving Photo of a U.S. President
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Courtesy Sotheby's

The descendent of a 19th-century U.S. Congressman has discovered a previously unknown presidential portrait that is likely the oldest surviving photograph of a U.S. president, The New York Times reports.

Previously, two 1843 portraits of John Quincy Adams were thought to be the oldest photographs of a president still around. Currently hanging in the National Portrait Gallery, one of them was found on sale at an antique shop in 1970 for a mere 50 cents. Now, an even older photo of the sixth president has been uncovered, and it’ll cost you more than 50 cents to buy it.

Adams sat for dozens of photographs throughout his life, so it’s not entirely surprising that a few more surviving portraits would be uncovered. At the time this newly discovered half-plate daguerreotype was taken in March 1843, Adams had already served out his term as president and had returned to Congress as a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts. The photo was taken by Philip Haas, who in August of that same year would take other daguerreotypes that we previously thought were the oldest surviving photos. (Despite his apparent willingness to be photographed, Adams called them “all hideous.”)

John Quincy Adams sits in a portrait studio in 1843.
Courtesy Sotheby's

After having three daguerreotypes taken that day in March, Adams gave one of them to his friend and fellow Congressman Horace Everett, inscribing it with both their names. Everett’s great-great-grandson eventually found it in his family’s belongings and is now putting it up for sale through Sotheby’s.

It isn't the oldest picture of a U.S. president ever taken, though. The first-ever was actually a portrait of William Henry Harrison made in 1841, but unlike this one, the original has not survived. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns a copy of it, which was made in 1850.)

The head of the Sotheby’s department for photographs, Emily Bierman, told The New York Times that the newly discovered image is “without a doubt the most important historical photo portrait to be offered at auction in the last 20 years.” (She also noted that the former POTUS is wearing “cute socks” in it.)

The daguerreotype will be on sale as part of a photography auction at Sotheby’s in October and is expected to sell for an estimated $150,000 to $250,000. Start saving.

[h/t The New York Times]

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