Monday, July 23, 2007
On a recent trip to Hyde Park, I stopped by Franklin D. Roosevelt's home and presidential library where I noticed the cafe attached to the museum was appropriately named Mrs. Nesbitt's Cafe, after the Roosevelt's famous housekeeper Henrietta Nesbitt. Nesbitt was a neighbor of the Roosevelt's in Hyde Park and was hired to come work for the family in Washington when FDR was elected President. She stayed on for all four terms in the White House.
Mrs. Nesbitt was, according to many accounts, a disastrous cook. "I'm getting to the point where my stomach positively rebels...and this does not help my relations with foreign powers," FDR is quoted as saying. In his book Affectionately, FDR, James Roosevelt does not mince words in his description of Mrs. Nebsitt, "Everybody was against Mrs. Nesbitt - everybody except Mother...." FDR was especially frustrated not only by the "uninspired meals which he disliked so passionately," but also because Nesbitt rationed oranges, coffee, and butter which apparently upset FDR and his loyal staff.
Mrs. Nesbitt herself wrote two books about her time at the White House. In her book, The Presidential Cookbook, Nesbitt featured one of Mrs. Roosevelt's favorite dishes: kedgeree, a British fish and rice dish. But while kedgeree looks at least somewhat appetizing, there are some recipes included in her collection that sound less so. Frozen Pineapple Cheese Salad, perhaps?
1c. any boiled whitefish, flaked
1c. boiled rice
2 hard-boiled eggs, cut in quarters
Mix fish and rice, moisten with cream or fish stock if dry, and saute lightly in melted butter. Must be fluffy. Add salt, pepper, and eggs . Heat thoroughly and serve. All the family liked this dish, especially Mrs. Roosevelt, and we served it over and over.
(In her book, From Hardtack to Home fries, Barbara Haber writes a wonderful chapter about Mrs. Nesbitt and her relationship with the Roosevelt's.)