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A Book From The Past

Updated on March 28, 2010

I was at the Thrift store the other day and I found this book called White House Cookbook. This book was copyrighted in 1899. I payed twelve dollars for it. You would not believe what the past Presidents, such as president Roosevelt, Cleveland, McKinley, Adams and Washington, used to eat back in the day. It is a very interesting book, and I have never seen one quite the same before. I am going to take you through the world of the past presidents diets to see how they used to eat over a 100 years ago.

Pigeons were one of the foods that the past Presidents ate. I never imagined eating a pigeon before. I guess if places like New York run out of food they will always have pigeons to eat.


I am going to give you a brief summary of what kinds of soups our past Presidents used to eat.

Ox-Tail soup: This soup requires two ox tails. Remember to cut up the tails, separate them from the joints, wash them and put them in a saucepan with butter. Yum, yum. I cannot wait to have my ox tail soup with a side of pigeons.

Turtle soup from beans: This soup sounds yummy. Actually this is a bean soup that is supposed to taste like turtles. Unfortunately there are no real turtles in this savory soup.

Squirrel Soup: Now this soup made me look twice. I have squirrel problems. They are getting into my garbage and tearing up my roof, so I guess I have a solution. Now to begin making our squirrel soup we will need three or four good sized squirrels. I can do that easily. Make sure that your water does not, I repeat, does not boil or you may have ruined squirrel soup.

Mock turtle soup, of calf's head: Finally we have found ourselves a turtle soup. Since the last turtle soup had no turtles, here we go, NO WAIT! Well, what do you know, this turtle soup has no turtles either, but it does have a whole calf's head and a bunch of veggies and meat balls. Two turtle soups without turtles. Very interesting. Were these Chefs trying to pull one over on our past Presidents.

Green Turtle Soup: Here we go again. Hmm, lets see, this recipe actually calls for turtles. Yea, I knew the time would come. Check this out folks. This is the real deal. This soup calls for one turtle, two onions, a bunch of sweet herbs, juice of one lemon, five cups of water, and a glass of Madeira. Huh.

Irish Potato Soup: This soup calls for an Irish man and eight medium sized potatoes. Oh wait! I am an Irish man. I better get out of here. Okay, I will come clean there is no Irish man in this recipe but there are potatoes, onions, herbs, salt, pepper, milk, and butter. I think I could handle this soup.

There were many soups that the past Presidents used to eat, these are just a few for your reading pleasures.


There are many great kinds of fish and most of them sound pretty normal to me but I could not pass up on writing about fish.

First of all, when choosing a fish (this comes straight from the past Presidents chef's lips) look them in the eyes. Now pay close attention. Make sure you choose those fish which the eye is full and prominent, the flesh thick and firm, and the scales bright and stiff fins. Sounds like a pretty good looking fish.

Fish and Oyster Pie: I know people who like oysters as well as people who like fish. All you have to do is find people who like both for this savory dish. This recipe calls for the remains of your fish. (Now, what does that mean?) And two dozen oysters. Make a crust, mix it all together, cook it, and what a treat you've got.

Sheep's head with drawn butter: As I read the heading of this recipe, I thought what does a sheep's head have to do with fish? Ah Ah another one of these kinds of recipes. A side of fish with out the sheep' head please. This recipe contains fish and herbs. You rap it in a towel, cook it, and there you have it. Why they call it sheep's head I guess we will never know.

Well what can I say, fish is fish. It was short and sweet. There were many other types of fish that the former Presidents ate but it all looked pretty normal to me. So lets be on our way.

Shell Fish

I know this is starting to get a little long so I hope you are enjoying it and lets carry on.

Shellfish is one of those kind of foods. You either love them or hate them.

Stewed water turtles, or terrapins: Okay, first of all I have no clue what terrapins are so you will just have to use your imagination on that one. Make sure you select the largest, thickest, fattest, with the female being the best. Remember, with this dish your turtle should be alive and well for best results. From what it looks like the Presidents from the past loved eating turtles. Either that or they were slipping them under the table to the dog to keep from being impolite to their chefs.

Deviled Lobster: These rascals rule the underworld being deviled and all. With a touch of cayenne, salt, and table sauce- and don't forget the mustard- This could be enjoyed by any lobster lover.

Oysters: The presidents of the past loved oysters. There are many oyster recipes that include dishes like Oyster Patties, Pan oysters. No 1, Pan Oysters. No 2, steamed oysters, oyster roast, oyster fritters, dry oyster stew, broiled oysters, roast oyster in the shell. No 1, stewed oyster, fried oysters, fresh Oysters, Pan Oyster, scalloped oysters, Oyster pot pie, boston Oyster Pie, Mock oysters, Fricasseed Oysters, small Oyster Pies. Wow! They loved oysters. Who knew there were so many ways to prepare them.

Frogs Fried: Does this not sound appetizing? Fried frogs were considered a great delicacy. Only the hind legs and quarters were used. I wonder what they do with the rest of the frogs parts? Mix it into the turtle stew?

Frogs Stewed: With this delicacy, fry the skin of a frog, add spices, water and cream and then boil gently till done. I think we are missing out. The Presidents were lucky guys for getting this frog delight.

It looks like the Presidents of the past really enjoyed their shell fish. I did not realize frogs were shell fish but that is where it is listed so I will keep it here in the shell fish section of the weird and unusual.

Poultry And Game

It looks like our past leaders had a pretty normal diet when it came to Poultry and game. They enjoyed turkey, pheasant, chicken, duck, rabbit, and venison.

There were a few weird dishes in the Poultry and Game section and I hope they stay there all the same.

Squirrel: Squirrels are cooked similar to rabbits. They are excellent when broiled or made into a stew. Some of the best tasting squirrel are black, red, gray, and fox. Now if you can not find a squirrel you can use a gopher as a substitute but you will probably be dissapointed.

Pigeons: There are many yummy pigeon dishes. Roast Pigeons, Stewed Pigeons and Pigeon Pie. Oh, and don't forget about broiled pigeons for that late night treat.

The Past Presidents had many interesting ways of eating. I guess you can not diss it till you try it, so lets cook up some Squirrel and Pigeon. Throw in some turtle for a treat and see what all of the buzz was about.

All good things must come to an end. I hope the Presidents of the past enjoyed their foods and delicacies. Maybe, just maybe, you will be brave enough to try some of the same foods that they ate back in the 1800's. Look for my next article when I write about deserts of the 1800's and the Presidents that ate them.


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great article, I really enjoy your sense of humor::))))

    • dpfitzell profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from North Dakota

      Thank you Rochelle for your wonderful comment.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      I love to read old cookbooks-- and new ones. This was fun, and I think you bought a bargain.

      Yourr comments on the recipes were great, too.

      BTW-- I think there is a fish called a Sheepshead.


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