tv History Bookshelf Adrian Miller The Presidents Kitchen Cabinet CSPAN April 26, 2021 10:07pm-10:48pm EDT
next on history bookshelf. adrian miller talks about his book, the presidents kitchen cabinet. the story of the african americans who federer first families from the washington's to the obamas. he spoke at the 2017 roosevelt reading festival at the fdr presidential library at high park new york and focuses his remarks on the african americans who work for president roosevelt.
>> good morning. my name is kirstjen carter. i'm the supervisory archivist at the fdr presidential library. on behalf of the library i would like to welcome you again to the 2017 roosevelt reading festival. fdr plan for the library to become the premiere research institution for studying the entire roosevelt era. the libraries research from is consistently one of the busiest of all the presidential libraries. this years group of authors reflects the wide variety of research and here. if you love the roosevelt reading festival and want to
support this and other programs that we do here, i encourage you to become a roosevelt library member. you can join today at the membership -- and membership team in the hall or fdr dot arc. if you haven't already please go see our special temporary museum exhibition, images of internment, the incarceration of japanese americans during world war ii. let me quickly go over the format for the festival sessions today. at the top of each hour a session begins with a 30 minute talk followed by a ten minute question and answer period. the author and moved to the lobby to sign books and talk with you more if you have questions. during the question and answer period today this session will be taped for c-span, so we would appreciate it if you could approach the microphone and it's over here at the edge of the room to raise any questions. now it's my pleasure to
introduce our next speaker and this is adrian miller, a food writer, attorney and certified barbecue judge bug who lives in denver, colorado. he is currently the executive director of the colorado council of churches and such as the first african american and the firstly person to hold that position. miller previously served as a special assistant president bill clinton and a senior policy analyst for colorado governor -- he's been a born member of the southern food alliance. mueller's first book, soul food is a surprising story of american cuisine one plate at a time when the james foundational were for scholarship and reference in 2014. big [applause] his second book, the presidents kitchen cabinet, the story of the african americans who fed our first families from the washington's to the obamas
was published on the presidents'day. let's welcome our author. [applause] >> he's a friend of mine. [laughs] good morning. it's so great to be here at the roosevelt presidential library to talk about the subject. i just want to give you a little bit about my background. i came to write this book on african american presidential chefs and instead of my typical presentation where would go through different cooks i will focus on just those who cooked for president roosevelt and there's great stories there. i was born and raised in denver colorado and as you heard a rulebook on the history of soul food. given where i grew up -- i lose credit on that subject, right? i have two southern parents. my mom is from tennessee and my dad is from arkansas. this is the food i grew up eating. it was while i was researching that book on the history of soul food, african americans who cooked for presidents
started popping up in my research. i said once i finish that book if i could find enough stories to put a story about presidential chefs, i will do it. fortunately i've been able to do it, the presidents kitchen by -- kitchen cabinet. i'm a lawyer by training. this is not to disparage any attorneys in the audience. it just wasn't for me. that was going to open up a soul food restaurant and denver, and a law school classmate of mine from georgetown, law school called me up and said adrian, i'm working on this initiative in the white house. do you have any friends who might be interested in working on this? i said tell me a little bit more about the initiative. it was called the initiative for one america. -- it was presidents -- if we just talked to one another and listen we might realize that we have a lot more in common than was supposedly divides us. after she told me this i did the same thing that dick cheney did when george w. bush asked
-- i was the head of the search committee, only my name went on the list. and it up getting the job. moved to d.c. and work at the clinton white house. at the very end of the second term. after that i started this interest food writing in that led to the publication of soul food and then this book but i love about roosevelt's presidencies that encapsulates so many things that i found in my book. when it's just the idea that you have these african americans who are the celebrated culinary artists doing their best to make their president happy. and to keep them healthy. we also have this interplay where presidents tend to want to play hooky from their diet. and usually it's the first lady in the presidential position or saving the presidents from themselves. you have these african american cooks caught in the middle. it's an interesting personality. when i'm going to do is primarily focused on three personalities from the roosevelt administration. one is a guy named alonso fields.
another woman was blamed lizzy mcdonough fee, primarily a made in the roosevelt administration, but she also did a lot to help cook in the food service and then daisy, who was a cook for fdr when he would stay for long periods of time in georgia. the way i organize this book is because i am dealing with so many people, i eventually found 150 people who have cooked from our presidents, from george washington to the current administration. i finished my book during the obama administration. i found 150 people and decided the best way to tell the story was to create different categories of these cooks and started out with these ingredients of presidential food waves as i call. them all the things that are created at interplay for the food ways of the white house. then i started out what used to be called the presidential stewart. these were the people that were in charge of all the domestic operations of the white house. now they're called the chief
ushers. but in the earliest days they were called the stewards, so they would do the shopping, they would plan the minions, they would hire the cooks and oversee all the operations. then i moved to the enslaved people who cooked in the white house for a presidents. because a lot of our presidents have been slave holders. and i talk about cooks, one -- then i talk about cooks when the president is troubling. what happens when the president is on a train, both, air force one? what happens when they stay a period of time? then i spent an entire chapter on. drinks one of the longest cat and mouse games is whether or not our president drinks. if i was our press secretary i would think that's the strategy. one, denied they, drink when someone proves you can drink say you can't drink that much. denied there's even a white house wine cellar. when someone proves that you see there's not much in it. it's a huge cat and mouse game and i would say that fdr was partly our bartender and chief
threat presidential history. then i end by talking about the future of african american clubs. there's nothing that's stopping an african american from being named the white house chief executive chef, executive chef, so it's just a matter of presidential taste. i go into that. that is how i ended the book. first let me begin with this cat and mouse game between the first lady and the white house physician. as you know, eleanor roosevelt was fundamentally an interested in food. and, yes she is the brainy type. the fact that on sunday night she would have these scrambled eggs. which the staff called scrambled eggs with brains because she would invite intellectuals over and they would talk about it. there is a little bit of controversy over whether or not eleanor roosevelt cooked the scrambled eggs or stored the middle last-minute before they were's third but in any case, she had scrambled eggs a lot. the white house housekeeper was the one in charge of the food. but president roosevelt was on
a diet. often, he would straight from the diet. so the white house physician, eleanor roosevelt, would team up to save the diet. so she in her maria memorialized an exchange between eleanor roosevelt and the doctor. he was a navy u.s. admiral, mcintyre, he told roosevelt call on me if you need help. dr. mcintyre told to roosevelt. -- that's what the president would call it when he would get upset about. something he tried in every way to get the presidents appetite back to normal. he sent him to new york for a specialist and finally brought in doctors from a navy hospital and dietitians arrived in uniform for a time. the president ate everything that he was ordered to eat simply because is ordered by the navy. his reduced diet came from the navy and it was on record cut out all fried foods. that was directed from the
doctor. but typically, the president is going to get what they want to get. and the african american staff is caught in the middle because they often have to help the president out. i love this exchange which is dealing with losing duffy and -- . listen mick duffy was the wife of o.j. mccarthy. -- she eventually comes to the white house and works as the made. she would often accompany roosevelt on long trips. really interesting thing about lizzy mick duffy is that she has an outsized personality so she would entertain the president by doing puppet shows. she had a early iteration of the muppets and one draw was called suicide, the other bill was called decibel and she would have -- so she was a favorite of the president. and actually she would campaign for the president. in 1936, an election that was
-- for roosevelt she was in a slump in major cities across the united states. i will give you an example of the kind of campaigning that she's doing. this is from the baltimore african american, an african american newspaper, it says no man is a hero to his valley. for over 150 years since -- may the above statement the world has debated on both sides of. it last, week mrs. elizabeth each month, the white house -- roosevelts valley taking the -- classed roosevelt with lincoln whose love for his fellow man has been something akin to the divine. here's a way for whom the employer is a hero. that's the. news the bigger news is the white house club doing a slow job as a campaign speaker. mrs. mike duffy was cheered in chicago, st. louis, and indiana. she went out to make one. speech did make. three could have made 24 more before returning to washington
to cook the presidents meals. so she went to a lot of cities that had a large african american voting constituency. campaigned for the president. in my view, the federal hatch act was in place, but for whatever reason nobody tried to prosecute her on that. but she made such a difference that after the election was over, president roosevelt actually calls her to the oval office and thanks for personally for what he did for them. so it just shows you the kind of relationship that they had. there was a movie executive dining at the white house and he took one look at her, does anyone want to guess what movie that was? gone with the wind. she was in consideration for the oscar winning role. eleanor roosevelt wrote a letter on her behalf. lobbying for.
him there were newspaper reports of her getting the part. i think it was because walter leafed that without verifying his sources. can you imagine that happening today? so there was a story that he got the part. obviously she helped him get the part. but she would often accompany roosevelt towards georgia where he would sit for long periods of time to get treatment for his polio and he started going to georgia when he was governor of new york. there he met a woman named. d.c. is one of my favorite characters in this book. days he was the private cook for a local family. when she would go to warren springs, georgia, for a long period of time to ingratiate themselves with the president the family lent daisy toí+z fdr. so she would stay at a cottage at little white house in warren springs and cook. she introduced them to all sorts of specialties like country captain. i don't know if you've ever heard of this. it's a dish that is very
popular in georgia and it's essentially a chicken curry dish. she and president roosevelt would joke about having a secret recipe with 45 ingredients that was not the case. it was another private joke. she has also cooked a lot of southern delicacies. but the one thing that fdr loved by d.c. was pigs feet. he loved pigs feet. now the way that d.c. would cook these pigs feet is that she would boil them and then she would take them out of the pot and then broil them. put them and broil them and then butter them. stay with me. it will get worse for a second. so one of the other interesting stories was that fdr served pigs feet in the white house to winston churchill. [laughs] and what he served were sweet and sour picks feet. now alonso field was a long time butler in the white house, he starts working in the hoover
administration, and then stays on well into the eisenhower administration, wrote about this in his diary. so this is the scene that he paints. it was this type of picks feat that he requested be served in the luncheon for the prime minister, winston churchill, himself -- in maryland, during the war, had a -- four preparing picks feet, she brought the president his dish, this is sweet and sour picks. feet he had a twinkle in his eye when he said let's have it for the lunch and tomorrow with the president. when the election was served and the president started to help himself he inquired what is? this he was told so this is picks. feet six feet! i've never heard of them. then he heartily helped himself. after tasting them he said very, good but sort of slimy. the president said yes they are but i am fond of them. something we will have them fried. where upon the president said
no thank. you i don't care for them fried. then they both had a hearty laugh. so that's the big feat. but an interesting dish that easy water made, i have the recipe in my book, a cheese soufflé. now is anybody here a cook? anybody here cook soufflé? okay what is the big concern about making a soufflé? rising it and falling? ladies and gentlemen i'm about to tell you about a miracle. one that will rattle your soul and maybe your baby. in this miraculous chief soufflé is -- on the last day of his life. the new york times offers this account. at 1:15, she had the cheese soufflé ready and she told the valet get the president to the table, the soufflé is ready. the president always said never put the soufflé in the oven until i get out of my room. he was reading the atlanta constitution when the supply was ready. the papers had come late
because of the bad weather and mr. roosevelt had been worried. he asked for the third time for the papers and he went right to reading when he came out. the artists were sketching him. he never sit for. her she just had to catch him as he could to cook. says just as he went in the president says what it terrific headache he had and slumped over in his church. he never ate a simply but it never foul until the moment he died which was two hours later. that's the meriko part. the soufflé didn't fall for two hours because he had his cerebral hemorrhage at 1:12 and the soufflé was time to come out at 1:15. i have to say soufflé making is a strong concern of white house cooks. the white house cook for jfk, rene, had this strategy. jfk was chronically late. with the cooked it was he made for soufflés. and he timed them at 15 minute intervals. home made. so that jfk would arrive at
time. those are the perils of making soufflé for our presidents. but daisy was very moved by the president's death. they had a very warm relationship and if you ever go to warren springs, georgia, in the kitchen area where she could she actually wrote on the wall, d.c. wrote -- it is encased in plastic. you can see how move she was there. she always wanted to be considered the first lady of presidential cooking. and actually had plans to open up a museum entirely dedicated to mute food and president roosevelt but she died before she could put it together but daisy is another interesting character in the book. i also want to talk to you about drinks. as i mentioned, there's a cat and mouse game about trends in the white house. fdr embraced drinking culture. i talked about several drinks in my book. wine, eggnog, i will read you a
little bit about eggnog. this is from lillian rogers park, a longtime made in the white house. she gives us some insight into why eggnog played a role in the roosevelt white house. speaking of liquids i'm going to give once more the recipe of one of the other drinks that is under my department. cocktails were served upstairs and i had nothing to do with them. new year's eggnog was a tradition. the entire white house was concerned with it. the cream mixture was prepared in the same way. the great punchbowl was carried before the president in each time raising his cup, president roosevelt give the same. toast to the united states. -- declared after tasting some of the eggnog. president eisenhower made in his upstairs kitchen was very strong. but the one that roosevelt had was also very strong. so you see a lot of really strong eggnog. not only from the roosevelt administration but at the
present day. i don't know but the trump white house right now but the ones that the obamas served and also president clinton, would knock you out. so that's just the tradition. but i think president roosevelt is probably most known for the martini. that's where he got his identity. again, lilian rogers parks renest. he claimed today know the exact formula of his martinis because it had been conjured up by a -- his son, jimmy, like the mild martini. -- then johnny demanded to be heard, he insisted on a martini so dry it could be mistaken for sand. the formula of seven to one. all this time the president was seriously mixing, mysteriously mixing vermouth and gin so that nobody could see what his formula was. when he was finished, he would say that as a chairman of the committee he had the power to decide the ultimate taste of a
martini. he would austin team chilly add -- to his concoction. people aghast at the concoction were not sure they want to the martini after. all missy would zipper favorite hague while fdr mixed his own martin or sometimes a old-fashioned. when they had guests fdr would insist on mixing martinis for everyone and he would write that he was the best martini mixer in the east. now there are references to a run based drink that fdr would drink called a high shun lay basin. by all accounts it was god awful. it was something that fdr really like to make. another thing that i wanted to mention that plays into white house food history is presidential pets. believe it or not the white house executive chef has often been in charge of making recipes for the dogs, those kinds of things, but there was a time when the white house pet
actually messed up the plans for the white house cook, this involves a dog called winks. he was on the scene before the fallout. according to white house reports on the morning of march 24, there were five sets of -- that were set up for the residence staff, he stepped away to do something else and when the white house cook returned all of them are gone. they realized it's because winks had helped himself to a nice hearty meal. the president had fun with that. they staged a photo of winks heating ham and eggs. the white house cook was upset with this. soon afterwards it was announced that winks was leaving the white house to spend more time with his family. that paved the way for the more familiar coffee --
dog. one thing that's interesting about these cooks is overtime these cooks fit into three boxes. when is they were culinary artists celebrated in their time. if you know anything about the food reputation of the fdr white house, it was not great. people would have second thoughts about whether to come to a state dinner. that's how nasty the food was. i have to admit i was engaging in a little bit of -- all these african american cooks on stuff. how could the food be that nasty? a lot of the blame rests on henry, as it often does. lilian parks rodgers in her diary really sheds light on this. the african americans who cooked for roosevelt would often be doing their thing and henry would come up behind and season it. whatever they were making she just messed it up. the food never really worked. i want to point out when i
found in my research. i did a lot of research here looking in the archives for discrepancies to residents staff. the main bloom for my research was actually all newspapers. a lot of companies are digitizing old newspapers and they are work searchable. if you could just figure out the terms that were used at that time you could find out a lot of the cooks. the people i found were ida, the chief cook. let me just back up and say the term white house executive chef does not come into existence until 1961. jacqueline kennedy is the one who created that term. before that they were called the first cook. head cook or chief cook. and then there's armistead barnett. he started out as an entry man. works in the white house for a long time and then he leaves during the johnson administration to start his own catering business. he was a well-known caterer in the washington, d.c. area. elizabeth blake was an assistant cook. daisy bonjour when mention now. james carter.
there was a jimmy carter before president carter. florida deems who was an assistant cook. elizabeth moore and catherine smith. in her diary there's a lot of praise for ida allen. even though she was temperamental she was one that could work magic and make everything happen if it needed to happen. you get an idea of the interplay in the white house staff. the interesting thing that happens when the roosevelts come to the white house is they actually, in a way, they ended segregated practice. back in the time as president taft, he hired women segregationist called mrs. jeffrey. even though there was a multiracial white house cooking staff, she created a segregated eating spaces. before all the service a together, but she had a separate table for whites and separate tables for blacks. by the time eleanor roosevelt gets to the white house, she
rectifies the situation by firing most of the white people. i will let you decide that is progress or not, but it's no longer segregation, because there's only one race working in the kitchen. but overall we see that overall we have these cooks that are culinary artists and many times family confidence. presidents go to their funerals, their weddings, they send them notes, gifts one significant family events happen. we see presidents terribly moved when they have to leave the white house. and a change of administration there is a tradition where the resident staff lines up in the president goes known align and thank them all for their service. the other thing is we see there are often civil rights advocates. they're pressing for african americans to have their humanity accepted and the brighter society. we saw with lucy magnified it for fdr while campaigning, but another example is the front right, a longtime private cook for lyndon johnson.
lyndon johnson, when pressing for the 1964 civil rights act, he actually uses her jim crow experiences to persuade members of congress to support that bill.
the family which drive back and forth from texas to washington, d.c.. zipper rights suffered so many indignities that she actually says i will not make the ride anymore. so he would tell people it's a shame that the presidents cook has to suffer these indignities, and when the 1964 civil rights act passed, he signs all of the bills and gives her one of the pence and says you deserve this as much as anyone. one of the big takeaways from this book is that these african americans, because of the relationship with the president and the first family and their professional excellence, gave our presidents a window of black life that they may not have had otherwise. a lot of our presidents chose not to open that window, but for the ones who did, i think our nation has been much better for it. thank you so much.
we have time for some questions if you have questions. >> you have to go to the microphone. >> i
have a question about how the fdr ministration -- from herbert hoover. we know from anecdotes hired help had to go into closets. what happened with african american cooks? in the administration? >> great question. under the roosevelt administration there was more openness. there seemed to be a lot more camaraderie and openness between the staff and the first family and others. there didn't seem to have that rigidity that you saw. not only in hoover but the coolidge administration. coolidge would actually come into the kitchen and critique with the servants were eating. he said it seems like you guys were eating a lot of food here. he was very nosy. which is not his persona, right?
he was a hands off. but not with the food. >> what about the wilson administration? he segregated the civil servants. >> yes. even during the wilson ministration -- they saw the segregation in place from the taft ministry, but wilson, i don't know if you know this but he was a southerner. there are a lot of reports of him celebrating the southern food cooked by the white house staff. so i don't know about interaction between wilson and those others. there was more -- during the harding administration, but he left their food. >> the hearting administration did when? >> the harding administration, there was this feeling of camaraderie and hearting was really big on waffles, so -- he loved waffles. he would eat a lot of waffles. so the cook that would make these waffles was celebrated a newspaper articles. he talked about how much he loved their waffles. her name was alice howard. >> thank you.
doug >> don't waffle on waffles. he waffled in a good way as a president. >> simple question. do you know if daisy honor and mrs. nested ever met? that is one question and secondly, i haven't read your book yet, but mrs. next bits dismissal was, i believe, by the next administration -- can you expand on that? >> yes great story. i do not know they actually met. i just did not find a record of that. i just don't know. but to the second one, it was over something really silly. the first lady, mrs. truman wanted a stick of butter. mrs.-ness bit refused to give it to her. it's really interesting. and they had a few tassels before that but i think that was the final blow. she was not a short time after that. big and that's a great question because after that alonso fields, which was his longtime
butler became a treaty. there was another guy named charles. he was the major the. butler feels starts to get prominent in the white house and eventually he becomes the majority later. you would think if the first lady wants something she's going to get it, but that doesn't always happen. yes sir. >> the position of chief executive chef -- are these tenured appointments or do they carry over from an administration to administration? >> great question. like everybody else they serve at the pleasure of the president. so typically in the white house kitchen, if there's gonna be change it's usually the executive chef and maybe the pastry chef, the wood has happened is when a president comes in they could decide who to staff in the kitchen. most presidents just decide to carry over the previous cook, that they may bring in an additional cook to make meals for the family. jacqueline kennedy also created a second floor kitchen and
dining space in the white house. she turned margaret truman's bedroom into a small kitchen and pantry. because the family used to it in the state dining room and she felt it was to tavern assist and not intimate enough. now there's a dining space on the second floor. lyndon johnson before president obama -- lyndon johnson was the last president to have a second cook just cooking for the family. most presidents have the white house chief executive chef do everything. cook for the family and four guests and state dinners. >> including recommendations for replacements? >> no, sometimes they will make a recommendation, but typically somebody on the staff may be elevated or somebody the president knows. i'm sorry, most cases it's someone the president knows from their prior life before the presidency that they bring into the white house kitchen if they will make a change. but most, since 1960, most presidents have kept a holdover on the previous administration.
so for instance, a guy named henry holler big -- hail or. who is a swiss born guy served from johnson all the way to reagan. and there was a reagan chef and people generally have the same chef. then walter tsai came in with the clintons. served till the end of the first term of george w. bush. then the assistant chef already who came in under the clinton administration got elevated to white house executive chef and she has been there ever since. so she is the executive chef right now. >> one more. was there a food budget? >> yes, there is. here's an interesting thing. before you get to truman, essentially our presidents had to pay for food out of their own pocket. so truman eventually gets a budget. so if you order food on air force one, the presidential -- when we had a yacht in the kitchen, they would get billed against that account. it's not a free-for-all in terms of food. there is a budget that gets
allocated by congress for that. that's another thing that kind of goes to the story. just to give you a little more history than you ever wanted to know, the creation of the white house mess is a reflection of this because after the white house is renovated in the 19 fifties there was more need for staff because of the installation of eric initialing. truman was not going to get any more money from congress to have more resident staff. he called them a do nothing congress and that kind of sticks -- so what he does is he takes the staff off the white house of the presidential yet and makes them the staff of the white house mass which is a private kitchen and dining space for the senior staff in the white house. that's why the navy operations existed to this day for running the white house mass. a lot of the food that was cooked at the white house mess was cooked by navy chefs, not the white house kitchen staff. yes. >> thank you very much for speaking today. was there any elaborate meals
that stood out while you were investigating in your book that you just said wow, that sounds delicious? and one more thing. was there ever a case in which someone had an allergic reaction to something that was eaten among the dignitaries? >> yes. the first example i would say is the state dinner that was cooked for nelson mandela. that was actually created by an african american chef named patrick clark who was offered the white house executive jeff job under president clinton. patrick clark was a well-known african american chef in new york. tavern on the green. audio on. but he turned it down because it was too much of a pay cut. yes. he was making six figures well into the six figures, as a cook at the adams hotel across the street from the white house. but at that time the white house executive chef's salary was 58,000. so it is a definite drop off from the private sector. he had several kids so he turned it down. the clintons asked him to create this meal. it was a sesame crusted halibut
with red curry and lemongrass vegetables. it was the cornerstone of the meal. i have the recipe in my book if you want to replicate it. i just thought that was an amazing meal. at the last second, the clintons asked him to actually come and be the guest of honor along with nelson mandela at that meal. he actually did not cook the meal, but he created it. in terms of the allergies only when it comes to mind is president george walker bush after he had sushi or whatever in japan. that's the only one i know of. this leads to another question. people often ask me is there a presidential taste tester? yes there is. it tends to be the opposition leader in congress. [laughs] [applause] now it's actually the white house chef. they are the taste tester. for the last ones to taste before the president. >> thank you, i've enjoyed your discussion. my question is can you give us an insight into our present
president trump. does he have any -- i know he does not drink. >> yes, so we don't get a lot of information about what president trump likes. what we have heard and what i've seen in the press so far is he loves meatloaf. he loves a well done stake with ketchup. that's what i saw on the news. there is a lot of chronicles about fast food but the fast food label is unfair because when you're on the campaign trail that is what you are getting a lot of times. c loves meatloaf. a kind of comfort food like that. other than that we just don't get a lot of information about what is going on in the trump white house kitchen. thank you. thank you so much. [applause]
programs as a preview available every weekend on c-span 3. next on american history tv, historian henry lewis gates talks about reconstruction which lasted from the end of the civil war until 1877. the amendments passed during this time -- for african americans. the subsequent jim crow law. measures used in southern states to