First Bites: Presidential Inauguration Meals Through the Years Slideshow
President Obama’s 2009 inaugural luncheon was modeled after foods former President Abraham Lincoln ate. The luncheon was held in Congress’s National Statuary Hall, where President Barack Obama and vice president Joe Biden and their families dined with congressional leaders, justices of the Supreme Court, and pending members of the Obama Cabinet on brace of American duck with cherry chutney and roasted pheasant with wild rice stuffing, molasses sweet potatoes, and winter vegetables like asparagus, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and wax beans. The first course, seafood stew, was served on replicas of the china picked out by then-first lady Mary Todd Lincoln at the beginning of her husband’s term. Dessert was an apple cinnamon sponge cake with sweet cream glacé. The menu was catered by Arlington, Va.’s Design Cuisine, who is also catering Obama’s second inauguration luncheon.
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After his swearing-in, the general hopped on his horse and headed to The White House, trailed by a motley crew of 20,000 well-wishers who ended up trashing The While House in an effort to celebrate the inauguration and get their hands on refreshments rumored to be served. The White House staff eventually served them orange punch, but the crowds upended the furniture, glassware, and punch. Jackson escaped through a window and headed to Gadsby’s Hotel, where he ate a sirloin steak with vice president John C. Calhoun and friends. Eventually, the White House staff lured the party-goers outside by dragging the barrels of punch onto the lawn.
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Lincoln’s inauguration ball at the Patent Office featured dancing and a sumptuous midnight buffet, but it turned out the timing was off. After hours of dancing, the crowd rushed the buffet table and jostled for the terrapin stew, leg of veal, beef à l'Anglaise, foie gras, pâté, cream candies, fruit ices, tarts, and cakes. When the melee was over, the buffet, some of the patent exhibits, and presumably some guests were in shambles.
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While the four-term president requested chicken à la king at his fourth inauguration, his housekeeper Henrietta Nesbitt prepared a more modest meal instead to coincide with the times (it was World War II and rationing was in full effect). Nesbitt instead served 2,000 guests chicken salad, unbuttered rolls, unfrosted pound cake, and coffee. Guests were dismayed, with toastmaster George Jessel asking, "Mrs. Roosevelt, how did you manage to make chicken salad with so much celery and so little chicken?" For his third inauguration, he and Mrs. Roosevelt hosted 1,200 guests at the White House, where a buffet of tomato soup, salad, ham, tongue, cake, ice cream, and coffee was served. The second inauguration featured a buffet of sandwiches, cake, and coffee for 600 in the State Dining Room and East Room of the White House. The first inauguration buffet luncheon at the White House was cancelled by Mrs. Roosevelt out of respect for Senator Thomas J. Walsh, who died several days before the inauguration. Senator Walsh had been chosen by Roosevelt to serve as Attorney General.
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Harry S. Truman used two Bibles for his swearing-in on the East Portico of the Capitol Building, and his was the first televised inauguration. Truman also reinstated the inaugural ball, which cost $29,000. South Carolina turkey, Smithfield Ham, potato salad, and pumpkin pie were served at the luncheon in the Capitol reception room.
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Poet Robert Frost read one of his poems at JFK’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 1961. JFK’s luncheon featured cream of tomato soup with crushed popcorn, deviled crabmeat imperial, New England boiled stuffed lobster with drawn butter, prime Texas beef ribs with string bean Amandino and broiled tomato, grapefruit and avocado sections with poppy seed dressing, garlic bread and butterflake rolls, and patisserie Bâton Blanche.
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The Democrats reclaimed the White House in the 1976 election after Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford, who had become president Aug. 9, 1974 upon the resignation of President Nixon. Carter was the first president to walk from the Capitol to the White House in the parade after the swearing-in ceremony. Carter requested that the inaugural luncheon be canceled, and inexpensive inaugural parties where guests were served peanuts and pretzels were held instead, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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Ronald Reagan’s favorite candy, jelly beans, was an integral part of his inauguration feasting. Three tons of Jelly Bellies, made by the Herman Goelitz Co. (now Jelly Belly) and valued at $28,000 at the time, were distributed to the hospitality suites and nine inaugural balls. Most of the beans were red, white, and blue: cherry, coconut, and blueberry flavored, respectively. Since Jan. 20, 1985 was on a Sunday (public swearings-in are customarily held on weekdays), Ronald Reagan took the oath of office in the Grand Foyer of the White House a day before his public swearing-in; however, freezing temperatures forced the planners to cancel many of the outdoor events for his second inauguration, and, for the first time a president took the oath of office in the Capitol Rotunda. The 1985 inauguration luncheon included hot mousse of sole, sautéed spinach with lobster and shrimp and truffle sauce, veal medallions with morel sauce, glazed vegetables, wild rice with chestnuts, and cold praline soufflé with raspberry sauce. Beverages at the luncheon included Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay (1982), Schramsberg Cremant Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine, California (1982), and Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon, California (1978).
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The 200th anniversary of the presidency was observed as George H. W. Bush took the oath of office on the same Bible George Washington used in 1789. The family dined on lobster scallop ragù, grilled poussin with four-grain rice pilaf and asparagus, and brandied pear crisp with vanilla ice cream paired with Korbel Champagne, California; Mondavi Reserve Pinot Noir, California (1984); and Sterling Vineyards Estate Chardonnay, California (1986).
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At 46 years old, Clinton was the third-youngest president. His first meal as president was grilled salmon with lorrel sauce; rosemary chicken with pecan rice, baby ginger carrots, and broccoli florets; and apple-cranberry Brown Betty with crème anglaise. The three-course lunch was paired with Jekel Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, California (1989); Korbel Natural "Special Inaugural Cuvee" Champagne, California; and Jekel Estate Bottled Chardonnay, California (1990).The second swearing-in of President Bill Clinton marked the last presidential inauguration of the 20th century, and it was the first ceremony streamed live over the Internet. Guests to Clinton’s inaugural luncheon were served shrimp, oyster, and scallop pie, beef à la mode, and beggars' pudding with quince ice cream. Wines included Leducq, California (1989) and Prince Michel de Virginia Chardonnay, Virginia (1995).
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The first presidential inauguration of the 21st century also marked the 200th anniversary of the first presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. and the 100th anniversary of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. The three-course inauguration lunch included lobster pie, grenadine of beef supreme, and toffee pudding with vanilla bean ice cream. Korbel Natural "Special Inaugural Cuvee" Champagne, California; Fetzer Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, California (1997); and Sonoma-Cutrer Les Pierres Chardonnay, California (1998) were served at the lunch.After President Bush became the first presidential candidate since 1988 to win a majority of the popular vote, with 51 percent, an ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist administered the oath of office to Bush in 2005 on the largest inaugural platform built to-date. Afterward, President Bush dined on scalloped crab and lobster, roasted Missouri quail with chestnuts and brined root vegetables, and steamed lemon pudding with apple wild cherry compote. The three-course lunch was paired with Windsor Vineyards Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon, California (2000); Korbel Natural "Special Inaugural Cuvee" Champagne, California; and Windsor Vineyards Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, California (2004).
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