Published August 16, 2010
by Taylor Trade Publishing
When I cook I tend to stick to family recipes or those found within the cookbooks I've been given, or even those posted online. It is definitely a rare occurrence for me to buy a cookbook, let alone borrow one from the library and an even more rare occurrence for me to post a review. But when I first learned of Capitol Hill Cooks: Recipes from the White House, Congress, And All of the Past Presidents I was immediately intrigued. A new release I requested a copy from my library and began flipping through. It is indeed an intriguing cookbook and as such I felt it deserved a little attention by way of a review.
At first glance I assumed Capitol Hill Cooks: Recipes from the White House, Congress and All of the Past Presidents to be a collection of recipes by cooks of the White House and Congress, but I was partly wrong. It is a collection of recipes, but they are from actual elected officials -- Senators, Representatives, and the President and his First Lady. In some ways this is even more exciting for those enthralled by American history and the Who's Who of Washington, DC politics both past and present. My only dispute with this title is that it claims to include recipes from "all of the former presidents" and that's not exactly true. I checked and at least one (Millard Filmore) does not have a recipe attributed to him. Still, the majority do and it's truly fascinating to see what were the favorite dishes of nearly all of our Commander in Chiefs.
Capitol Hill Cooks contains over 200 recipes from 49 states and 2 United States territories. The cookbook is divided by courses. First come the appetizers, then salads, next soups and stews, then side dishes, main dishes, meats, poultry and seafood, breads and finally cakes and cookies, pies and desserts and snacks and sauces. Last a special collection of "favorite dishes of the presidents."
As far as cooking goes, the recipes appear to be fairly simple and straight forward and, for the most part, do not require any special ingredients, though there are the few exceptions.
Personally, while I thought Capitol Hill Cooks was a really clever idea, it unfortunately did not contain enough recipes that I would use to justify my owning a copy. However, before the book is due back at the library I do plan to try a few recipes and I might end up changing my mind, we'll see. The top recipes to catch my eye include: Senator Wicker's (MS) Poppy Seed Chicken, Rep. Honda's (CA) Japanese Chicken Salad, Senator Boxer's (CA) Lemon Blueberry Muffins, and President Reagan's The Reagan Family Cranberry Sauce. And if I feel brave enough I might even try my hand at a favorite of President George Washington's -- Nelly Custis' recipe for Hoecakes or Thomas Jefferson's Chicken Fricassee.
Along with the tasty there are one or two recipes that made me grimace. Most notable was Rep. Coble's (NC) entry of Breakfast "Brains and Eggs," which do include the real thing: pork brains in gravy. (Ewww!!!) No thank you.
My only grievance with this cookbook is that it contains no pictures. I personally find myself more likely to try a recipe if I can see how the dish is appears. This cookbook could read more like a work of non-fiction if the reader doesn't mind reading all the measurements. Several of the recipes contain brief notes about the history of the dish or a the reason for its inclusion by the elected official. My favorite little tidbit was that the Eggnog recipe credited to George Washington was recently discovered written in Washington's own hand. How cool is that?
All in all, Capitol Hill Cooks is a fun cookbook for those looking for something historic this holiday season. Even though I don't plan to buy a copy I was glad that my library offers the option to preview this cookbook.