Freedom Fries—the bogus re-naming bestowed by right-wingers requiring simple-minded revenge during the Iraq War when France was a hesitant ally to the US—weren’t the first occasion food nomenclature became a patriotic battlefield. During World War I, Herbert Hoover, then the head of Woodrow Wilson’s Food Administration and years prior to his own presidency, decided sauerkraut was too Germanic to stomach. He renamed it Liberty Cabbage. If tasty bits of trivia like that entertain, they will be one of the many motors propelling you through Alex Prud’homme’s extensive and entirely fascinating Dinner with the President: Food, Politics, and a History of Breaking Bread at the White House.
Believing “the president is the eater in chief,” Prud'homme explores not only what was eaten and with whom in the White House, but also the history of U.S. food policy. In his introduction he asserts, “[The President’s] messaging about food touches on everything from personal taste to global nutrition, politics, economics, science, and war—not to mention race, class, gender, money, religion, history, culture, and many other things.” Overall, the enlightening volume — complete with 10 presidential recipes so you can play White House chef at home — provides Prud’homme with the opportunity (as he told me in an interview I conducted with him for a different publication) “to look at American history through the lens of food, which, oddly, has never been done before. I was surprised to find out there hadn’t been a book quite like this, so that was a blessing for me.”
Care to read the rest then do at the California Review of Books.