Dinner with Dead Presidents – A Patriotic Dinner

As many of my readers know, I am a member of a fabulous Cooking Club.  Twelve ladies get together once a month for a themed dinner party sans husbands and kids.  Heaven, I tell you!  Anyway, it was my turn in November to host.  I was inspired by the fact that the dinner date fell during election week.  I decided to create a menu based on favorites of our American presidents and their first ladies, but first I focused on the decor (of course!).   Blue and white tissue balls are fun and reusable. 


I used my white hobnail dinner plates I bought years ago – 48 for $100!  I had planned to make these patriotic origami place name holders and bought scrapbook paper from Joann’s for the project.  I got home and found the 12×12 scrapbook paper made for great colorful plate chargers – so I took the lazy way out and did that instead!   I found about 30 of these flags at an estate sale a few months back, all for $2.  I placed one on each plate and used the rest in this blue vase to create a patriotic centerpiece.


When visiting my in-laws in Kentucky a few weeks ago, my mother-in-law and I snagged a few election signs that littered every corner of her neighborhood.  I felt like a crazy delinquent teen-ager, but it was her idea.  Did I mention she is a preacher’s wife?  Great party decor, and since they were from a small town in another state, I stayed politically neutral among my friends!


I had a few vintage books with a presidential or white house theme, so I used them in the tablescape.  


I used vintage campaign buttons to scatter across the table, also from an estate sale.  The red and blue stars are from Joann’s.  And I already had this White House Cookbook, but that’s not where I got my recipes . . .


I created a menu from these cookbooks at the library – all but one of the recipes were in Politics & Potroast by Sarah Hood Salomon.  Not only did it contain favorite recipes of presidents and their first ladies, but it was also chocked full of interesting presidential trivia relating to food.  You can purchase this book by going to my Amazon Book Store.  My 10-year-old homeschooled daughter read this book cover-to-cover and totally loved it.  I used this as a learning opportunity and encouraged her to come up with her favorite bits of trivia and short stories about a variety of American presidents to share with the group between courses. 


The Dinner with Dead President’s Menu of delicious but simple recipes is available to The Decorologist’s readers at the end of this post.  Some of the older recipes were updated to make it simpler for modern-day cooks to make, like this hasty pudding that John Adams’ wife and other early Americans ate before the meat course to fill up empty bellies. 



These are the beautiful ladies in my Cooking Club, discussing the recipes after we had dessert!


I hope you enjoyed this dinner party theme.  The food was so old-fashioned and delicious, there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t make again.  The recipes were all simple enough for even the culinary-challenged, like me!

The recipes from this menu are detailed below.  If you’d like to download the menu with patriotic graphics, click Presidents Cooking Club.

 Dinner with Dead Presidents Menu (serves 12 guests)


George W. Bush’s Guacamole

 4 ripe avocadoes (preferably Haas)

2 jalapenos, seeded and diced

1 lime, juiced

1 clove garlic, finely minced

2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, washed, dried, and finely chopped

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Tortilla chips

 Halve and pit avocados and scoop flesh into a bow.  Mash avocado to desired consistency.  Using rubber gloves, seed and dice jalapenos.  Mix in remaining ingredients.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate about an hour before serving.  Serve with tortilla chips.


Hasty Pudding (John Adams) – double, please  

3 cups milk

4 tbs cornmeal

1/4 cup butter

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup raisins

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 cup sugar

pinch of salt

Pour milk into saucepan and scald over medium heat.  Slowly stir in cornmeal.  Cook 5 minutes over low heat.  Mix well, then remove from heat.  Add butter and stir.  Cool, then mix in remaining ingredients.  Pour into large, greased rectangular pan.  Bake 2 hours at 300 degrees, and then put in individual serving cups.  Make well in center and put in butter or syrup.


Mrs. Kinley’s Chicken Croquettes

5 cups diced cooked chicken, cold

4 cups bread crumbs

1 tsp sage



2 tsp mustard

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten

5 tbs oil

parsley for garnish

 Knead together chicken, 2 cups of bread crumbs, sage, salt, pepper, mustard, and butter until it resembles sausage meat.  Form the mixture into cakes and dip them in beaten egg. Press them into the remaining bread crumbs.  Fry in oil until they are light brown.  Serve hot, garnished with sprigs of parsley.


Nancy Reagan’s Sweet Potato Souffle(double, please)

 1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 egg yolks

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp brown sugar

4 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Prick potatoes with fork and place in buttered baking dish.  Put in oven at 400 degrees and bake 1 hour.  Remove and slice potatoes in half and scoop flesh into bowl.  Whip until smooth with wire whisk or electric mixer.  Transer 1 3/4 cups to a separate bowl.  Reserve remaining potatoes for another use.  Lower oven to 350 degrees. Blend potatoes and cream.  Add egg yolds, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Mix well.  Fold in egg whites.  Transfer fixture to a buttered 1-quart souffle baking dish.   Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.


Lady Bird Johnson’s Spinach Parmesan  

4 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, cleaned

9 tbs grated Parmesan cheese

9 tbs minced onion

9 tbs heavy cream

7 1/2 tbs melted butter

3/4 cup cracker crumbs

Cook spinach until tender.  Drain thoroughly and add the cheese, onion, cream, and 6 tbs of the butter.  Arrange in a shallow 1 1/2 qt baking dish, and sprinkle with the crumbs mixed with remaining butter.  Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.  Serves 12.


Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt’s Pumpkin Biscuits

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

15-ounce can pumpkin

3 tbs butter, melted

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp nutmeg


12-ounce can evaporated milk

2 1/2 cups flour, sifted 1 cup raisins (optional)

Beat eggs lightly in medium-sized bowl.  Mix in sugar.  Stir in pumpkin, butter, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.  Mix in half of the milk, then stir in half of the flour.  Mix in remaining milk and flour. Add raisins if you like.  Generously grease and flour muffin tins.  Don’t use paper liners.  Fill each muffin tin almost to the top.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for about 30 minuters or until done.  Serve hot.  Yields 18 muffins.


Petticoat Tails (James Madison)Jennifer D. 

5 cups flour

1 cup powdered sugar

2 cups butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

Sift together the flour and sugar.  Mix all ingredients thoroughly.  Shape dough into a roll about 2 inches in diameter.  Chill dough overnight.  Slice dough thinly and bake on greased cookie sheets at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.


Jackie Kennedy’s Souffle Froid au Chocolat (double, please) – Missy

2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup milk

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

3 tbs cold water

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups heavy cream

Put chocolate in top of double boiler.  Melt over hot, not boiling, water.  Stir in powdered sugar.  Heat milk just until a thin film shows on the surface, then slowly add to chocolate and mix well.  Remove from double boiler and place on low heat. Stir constantly until just before mixture reaches the boiling point. Remove from stove.  Soften gelatin in cold water for 3-5 minutes.  Then stir into chocolate.  Add granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Put in refrigerator until slightly thickened.  Remove from refrigerator and whip until light and fluffy.  Whip cream until it holds a shape, then fold it into the chocolate.  Pour into 2-quart mold or serving dish.  Chill 2-3 hours or until ready to serve.

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Dianne Tant
Dianne Tant
11 years ago

what a great idea….you must haunt the estates sales all the time?

Lisa D.
Lisa D.
11 years ago

Hi, Kristie,

I did it! I finally finished painting my living room and dining room and I want you to come see it when you have a chance. (It only took me a year!) Come have a cup of coffee in my comfort gray room. Hope Kelta is feeling better!!


Jennifer Driver
Jennifer Driver
11 years ago

It was an awesome dinner!

11 years ago

I was waiting to see the pics from this one! thanks for sharing! Looks like a ravishing success. Thanks for sharing the recipes. that was fun to see too! I love the image of you scurring around fields of Kentucky stealing signs. Scandalous!!

11 years ago

Sounds like fun … I especially love how you got your sweet daughter involved! GREAT idea!!

Naturally Carol
11 years ago

I was totally entranced reading about your political dinner party, right from the room decor and table setting to the recipes….I love a fresh idea and you executed it so well!

11 years ago

such a fun idea for a party! I’m going to look for those books at my library. We’ve been trying to cook our way through the 50 states as a homeschooling project and this looks like it will fit right in!
I’m also giving you big kudos for using these all-from-scratch recipes that use plenty of cream and butter. Thumbs up from Well Fed Family 🙂

Kelly, The Brave New Home
Kelly, The Brave New Home
11 years ago

Oh my gosh – I LOVE it. What a fun dinner party. And all the way to the books and recipes??? I wish I was closer – I would’ve crashed this one.
Beautiful job, Kristie. (I have a vintage White House book too, but it doesn’t rival that White House Cookbook. Very cool!)

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