Presidential Dinner Menus, part 2

Tracking the food trends from the 1980s through today


Today is President's Day and to celebrate we're continuing on last week's presidential food article. This second piece documents the food trends and presidential menus from the 1980s through today.

These decades contained presidents who were famous for the food habits, from Bush Sr's disdain for broccoli being documented on SNL and Clinton's love for fast food being covered by reporters everywhere to Bush Jr's pretzel fiasco and First Lady Obama's push for more nutritious eating programs throughout the country.

And while we were all aware of their every bites, our own eating habits changed from downing tri-color pasta salad and pre-made convenience foods to an demanding emphasis on organic and sustainable farming with the ever-growing green movement.

Read on for the recent trends and presidential state dinner tie-ins!

Photo courtesy kenfagerdotcom via Flickr/CC

1980s - Reagan

Historical Events: Continuation of Cold War. Mt. Saint Helens erupts. Chernobyl disaster. Challenger space shuttle disintegrates. John Lennon assassinated. Bob Marley dies. Marvin Gaye shot dead by father. Rise in home computers and Pac-man.

Pop Foods: Tab. Jawbreakers. Tri-color pasta salad. Convenience food. Diet soda. Wine coolers. Cold soup. Sesame seeds. Blackened Cajun everything. Stir fry.

The Reagan's were known for hosting events at the White House, with both Ronald and wife Nancy being seen as socialites through the end of his term. When hosting the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe in 1983, Reagan adhered to both that social status and the trends of the decade by serving Cold Curry Soup, Spinach in Parmesan, and Sesame Seed Twists over the course of the meal. All three of these things, plus the watermelon sorbet served for dessert, very much fit into the '80s food trends. Despite the meal's trendiness, the Reagan's did not serve wine coolers.

See the menu here

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Color

1980s to 1990s - Bush Sr.

Historical Events: Tiananmen Square. Fall of the Berlin Wall. Exxon Valdez oil spill. Gulf War.

Pop Foods: Shake n' Bake. Rise in popularity of luxury foods like lobster, champagne, caviar and sushi.

Though famous for not eating broccoli, George Bush Sr. was not opposed to having vegetables served at his state dinners. At a 1990 state dinner, HW served both Vegetable Pate with Tomato Coulis and Vegetable Baskets with his Chateaubriand main course. Not the trendiest of presidents, Bush Sr. was a bit behind the times with his menu, serving many French-themed dishes reminiscent of the trends of the '60s and '70s.

See the menu here

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Tom

1990s - Clinton

Historical Events: .com Boom. Oklahoma City bombing. Release of Nelson Mandela. Monica Lewinsky scandal. European Union formed. Pagers, first mp3 player, iMac computer all come out. 24 hour news cycle becomes popular. Dolly the sheep cloned. Grunge fashion, slap bracelets and the "Rachel" haircut all in style.

Pop Foods: Continuing convenience foods with things like Kraft Mac and Cheese. Asian fusion. Bagel and wrap sandwiches. Hot Pockets. Broader popularization of gourmet trends like balsamic vinegar, portobello + shitake mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes.

President Clinton's 1997 state dinner for President Jiang Zemin of China was full of higher end food picks, staying very true to the growing '90s food trend of popularized gourmet. Lobster with Corn Leek Relish, Marinated Butternut Squash in a Lobster Tarragon Sauce, Pepper Crusted Oregon Beef with Pinot Noir and Chanterelle Sauce all made appearances on the table- not exactly President Clinton's normal fast food fare. Maybe he went for a cheeseburger afterwards.

See the menu here

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Tom

2000s - Bush Jr.

Historical Events: Bush/Gore presidential race. 9/11. War on Terror. Hanging of Saddam Hussein. 2004 Tsunami in Southeast Asia. Hurricane Katrina. Energy Crisis. Downfall of global economy. Birth of social media and smart phones. Global warming/climate change.

Pop Foods: Soy-based products. Organic and low-carb diets. Cupcakes. Fusion foods. Bacon. Tapas. Celebrity chefs.

You can definitely see the influence of organic cooking and the heightened use of veggies in the menu from President George W. Bush's state dinner for President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski. Bush served a Lemon-Basil Seared Striped Bass with Artichokes and Young Squash, along with a Pepper Smoked Beef Filet over Fresh Corn Polenta and Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Summer Vegetables. Despite his reputation for choking on a pretzel, W seems to have a pretty classy menu here. Much different from those Triscuit and Saltine-stacked menus from half a century before.

See the menu here

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Gustavo neto

2000s to 2010s - Obama

Historical Events: Global financial crisis. H1N1 virus. Osama bin Laden assassinated. Gay marriage legalized in multiple states including CA, NY. Earthquake/tsunami in Japan and resulting nuclear disaster. Eyjafjallajokull volcano. Environmentalism/ green movement mainstreamed. iPad, rise of mobile apps.

Pop Foods: Organic/sustainable farming and basic ingredients. Foods with added benefits (yogurt with additional probiotics, cereal with added fiber). Explosion of the "foodie."

Obama's menu for Hu Jintao, President of The People's Republic of China, showed much influence from the gourmet food trends of the late 1990s/early 2000s while serving local and sustainable foods, visible in his menu of D'Anjou Pear Salad with Farmstead Goat Cheese, Poached Maine Lobster, and Orange Glazed Carrots with Black Trumpet Mushrooms.

Because of the pop-culture importance of food fads and "foodies" through the beginning of the decade, multiple blogs are dedicated solely to discussing the food eaten by President Obama and his family, with calorie/nutrition intake being specifically noted in response to First Lady Michelle Obama's encouragement for a more nutritious America.  

See the menu here

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Hoshie

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  • Snooth User: Mimi Kim
    Hand of Snooth
    648878 3,074

    Not even the President can escape food trends!

    I would love to see a side-by-side comparison of Clinton's diet in office vs. his current near-veganism....

    Feb 21, 2012 at 11:42 AM

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