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Presidential Food: A Resource Guide

From culinary diplomacy to favorite foods of U.S. presidents, cuisine has played a significant role in every administration. This guides provides suggestions for researching presidential food history and culture at the White House and beyond.


Presidential food can be as complicated and elaborate as a formal state dinner—but the topic is not always governed by pomp and protocol. United States Presidents and First Ladies have made news by simply stepping out for cheeseburgers, snacking on pork rinds, or keeping a jar of jelly beans in the Oval Office. Several presidents have been known to set up their grills in the White House roof area, while another earned media attention by toasting his own English muffins in the White House family kitchen. At the same time, there are many ways in which politics, diplomacy and ceremony can intersect with presidential food. In what was referred to at the time as "barbecue diplomacy" Lyndon Johnson held at least one state dinner at his LBJ Ranch, with Walter Jetton, the well-known "Barbecue King" from Ft. Worth, Texas officiating over the open-pit barbecue. And presidential culinary diplomacy has been known to travel far beyond the White House. Before his historic trip to China, Richard Nixon spent time learning to use chopsticks, preparation that served him well during the series of elaborate banquets given during his visit.

The purpose this guide is to offer a starting place for this wide-ranging topic and to assist the researcher interested in menus, recipes or the culinary culture of any given administration. Not intended to be an exhaustive list, the aim is to offer a collection of resources that will help give an introduction to the breadth of the overall topic. Suggested resources include cookbooks, histories, memoirs, journal articles, news stories, current and archived websites and manuscript collections. Background and history can be explored through books and articles by and about White House kitchen staff over the years. Also a good resource for historians and researchers, Presidential Libraries can hold menus and other food-related history.

About the Science Section

Part of the Science & Business Reading Room at the Library of Congress, the Science Section is the starting point for conducting research at the Library of Congress in the subject areas of science, medicine and engineering. Here, reference specialists in specific subject areas of science and engineering  assist patrons in formulating search strategies and gaining access to the information and materials contained in the Library's rich collections of science, medicine, and engineering materials.