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A Timely Cookbook

Salomon’s ‘Politics and Pot Roast’ features recipes fit for a president — from George Washington to George W.

It was a mixture of garden club members and Potomac friends who gathered at Gay and Tony Barclay’s “Orchard Farm” recently for a book signing.

Sarah Hood Salomon’s “Politics and Pot Roast” cookbook apparently has surfaced at exactly the appropriate time. Whoever coined, “timing is everything” knew the answer to success. The Barclay party was on a Redskins Sunday, (not just any, but a Dallas Cowboys vs. Redskins day) and a Potomac Hunt meet.

Neither prevented a full house of sportspersons and gardeners coming out to meet the author and buy her books, a collection of recipes representing kitchens from George Washington to George W.

A self-professed former non-cook, Salomon got the idea to research White House recipes when she volunteered to entertain a few members from the Garden Clubs of America who were coming to town. “I thought there would be 10 guests, but it turned out to be 30,” she recalled. It was then that she began researching recipes of U.S. presidents and first ladies.

Her first collection was published in 2003, a small paperback to benefit Children’s Hospital. Editions two and three followed, each growing a little more in content, and each for a benefit. “I was able to pay myself back a little on number three and still benefit the Garden Clubs of America,” she said.

HER LATEST VOLUME has grown to include more than 190 recipes accompanied by interesting and historical excerpts about each President or First Lady, plus many humorous cartoons and illustrations by local artist Glenn Foden.

“I have tried to be as authentic as possible,” Salomon expressed. She related an incident where she discovered the “Lincoln Log” recipe. “It was what we would today call a jelly roll cake,” she said. Ironically, the first published recipe for jelly roll cake was by British actress Laura Keene, who was on stage at Ford’s Theatre the night Lincoln was shot. “It was she who identified a fellow actor, John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin,” Salomon continued.

“Politics and Pot Roast” is not just a cookbook filled with mainly manageable recipes. It contains numerous, humorous stories and historical facts. For instance, accompanying Mrs. Rutherford Hayes’ lemonade recipe is an anecdote recalling why she was called “Lemonade Lucy.” She was the first wife of a President to be addressed as First Lady. Although the Hayeses entertained lavishly they banned all alcohol from the White House. Thus her lemonade moniker.

Laurana Reed, among the numerous Potomac Hunt members at the party, was thrilled to see “Mamie’s Million Dollar Fudge,” a selection from the book that was included in the Barclays’ buffet. “I’ve had Mamie Eisenhower’s fudge before. Her nieces, Ellen and Maime Moore were [Holton-Arms] classmates of mine and we would visit their family’s farm in Leesburg. Their father, Col. Moore, would bring us Aunt Mamie’s fudge,” she remembered.

Mrs. Eisenhower was an admitted “cooking school dropout,” but her fudge was one of her husband’s favorite desserts, according to Salomon’s research. She also discovered that the general/U.S. president loved to cook and one of his favorite dishes was “Squirrel Stew.”

THERE IS LITTLE evidence that the book’s name derived from Millard Fillmore’s pot roast, one in which he advises the chef to “Cut incisions in the top of the beef and fill with dressing.” This was at a time when the first cast-iron stove was brought to the White House.

It would take a cast-iron stomach to enjoy Martin Van Buren’s stewed beets. “Serve hot with the pan gravy poured over them,” the instructions suggest. The “gravy” consists of butter and vinegar among other condiments. Is there any wonder the man drank “a tonic of soot, charcoal and water for his chronically irritated stomach?” This too, is according to Salomon’s research.

The author, at her inaugural dinner party for the garden party ladies, got things humming with Ulysses Grant’s “Roman Punch.” There is little doubt that this was his recipe. (Mrs. Grant didn’t cook.) Several other recipes attributed to the Grant regime — Grant’s Lemon Pie, Mrs. Grant’s Veal Olives — are in doubt as to their authenticity. However, it is known that the President loved cucumbers (personal note: his great, great nephew hates cucumbers) and according to the author “could make a meal of a sliced cucumber and coffee.”

Eugenia “Gene” Keogh Reed, one of the founding members of the Perennial Garden Club, said she would not have missed the book signing party for anything. Born in 1908, she may have enjoyed Mrs. Roosevelt’s “Philadelphia Sand Tarts” as a child, or, as a teenager, Alice Longworth’s “Eggplant With Spaghetti.”

No matter, the sprightly Mrs. Reed said she planted her tulip bulbs last year and is looking forward to her 100th birthday party promised by her garden club members. She did, however, tell them she wished they would plan it for her 99th, next July 3. “In case I don’t make it to 100, I don’t want to miss a good party,” she added.

THERE IS SOMETHING about sports persons and garden clubbers that inspires longevity. Among the guests, octogenarian Austin Kiplinger, who was hospitalized with pneumonia this fall, was enthusiastically telling Janelle and Mahlon Straszheim, “I can paper the walls with the blue ribbons my horse won at the Potomac Hunt Hunter Trials.” Camanche Raider, ridden by Rachel Mikrut, was headed for the glue factory when Kiplinger took him in. “I wanted to see if I could bring him back,” he said. It’s been about three years, but back he is, and the former steeplechaser is going strong.

Another octogenarian, and past president of the Perennial Garden Club, Anne Alexander, recalled when members were seeking a name for their club. “I submitted ‘The Hoer Club,’ but it was considered and turned down,” she admitted. “Probably, for good reason,” she added.

As dozens of guests came, and left carrying bundles of the books (if you bought three, a “Politics and Pot Roast” apron, designed by the author’s sister, Corky Hebert, was included), there were obvious Christmas gift lists partially satisfied. “I just would like to have an apron for each gift,” Gogo Kiplinger lamented. The books are available, ($24.95) at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other outlets.

Now, if you really want to know which President liked to barbecue on the White House roof, you will just have to buy the book.

Clue: it wasn’t President Lyndon Johnson, as your reporter guessed.