Really Weird Foods Presidents Requested To Eat In The White House

Soda-flavored jelly. Animal-saturated soups. Pickled fish fillets. Hot sauce-covered chips. There's clearly no lack of creativity when it comes to our president's favorite White House foods. With access to personal chefs and an impressively staffed kitchen, America's commanders-in-chief have taken full advantage of ordering up just about anything they can imagine, and we mean anything.

Picturing our nation's presidents gorging on their favorite guilty pleasure foods paints a pretty comical picture, to be sure. But make no mistake. These leaders don't mess around when it comes to their recipe requests and specialty snacks, and with a high-pressure position like the presidency, we understand the need for a quality nosh.

While White House state dinners have provided the public a peek at some savory White House selections like Nixon's moon-shaped marzipan and Obama's green curry prawns (via Chowhound), some of our presidents have kept their most peculiar pickings closer to the vest. Every first family that settles in Washington brings along their own unique cuisine preferences, and we've scoured the history books to find some of the strangest edible requests from our country's leaders. 

If you like whipped prunes or green beans soaked in bacon, you are in for a real treat. Now strap on the feed bag and get a load of the weird foods Presidents have requested to eat in the White House

John Adams wanted hard cider for breakfast

Our second president, John Adams, took his love for liquor to the next level by drinking a "gill" (or a quarter of a pint) of hard cider for breakfast every morning while residing in the White House (via Food & Wine). But Adams was in good company. Apparently, everyone in the mid-1700s loved a hearty helping of morning hard cider. In fact, according to War on the Rocks, the average American at the time drank about 35 gallons of the stuff every year, with men, women, and even children downing it for breakfast.

But hard cider was more than just a satisfying beverage for Adams and his fellow colonists. During his time as president, currency was hard to come by. So, many colonists used cider to purchase goods and even used this alcoholic beverage to pay their bills (via Mental Floss).

Adams attributed his love for the hard stuff to his college days, saying "I shall never forget, how refreshing and salubrious we found it, hard as it often was" (via The New York Times). Before his presidential reign, Adams also served as vice president to George Washington. Both Adams and Washington enjoyed their fair share of cider and, according to War on the Rocks, served up to 144 gallons of it to potential supporters during Washington's presidential campaign. Who knows who our first president and his vice president might have been if it weren't for this alcoholic treat?

Andrew Jackson couldn't go without "leather britches"

Before you picture Andrew Jackson gnawing on animal hide underwear, "leather britches" was actually the name given to the seventh president's favorite dish of dried green beans cooked with water and bacon (via SC Times). While the name of this peculiar plate is stranger than the food itself, the concept behind leather britches was quite familiar to people living in the mid-1800s in Southern Appalachia, according to Smoky Mountain Living Magazine. Before the invention of canned goods, people preserved their beans air-drying the legumes until they shriveled up into "leather britches." No fancy equipment or electricity was needed for this process. Folks simply picked and hung the green beans to dry in the sun, which helped preserve them through harsh winters. 

It was rather common to see leather britches hanging from back porches, pantries, rafters, and even attics while strolling down any 19th-century American neighborhood. Once the beans were dried and ready to eat, they were cooked with water and served hot with any meat, but typically bacon.  This plate was a rather elementary meal to make and found its way to many tables during the Jackson era. The former president downed many servings of this dish, including on the night of his inauguration (via Unmasked History). Although he also savored servings of braised duck and wild goose, according to The Food Timeline, Jackson always found comfort in his oddly-named shuck beans and bacon recipe while in the White House.

Multiple presidents loved squirrel stew

Apparently, those bushy-tailed tree rodents known as squirrels make more than cute neighborhood critters. Despite access to an abundance of meat-based protein, both William Henry Harrison and James A. Garfield were celebrators of squirrel stew while in the White House (via The Food Timeline). Stew still remains a popular way to mix meat and veggies for a hearty meal, but adding squirrel to the recipe just makes some of us squirm.

In colonial times, settlers cooked up whatever they could find, which of course included squirrels (via The Daily Beast). We can imagine some grew an affinity for squirrels out of the meat's sheer availability. President Garfield, for his part, insisted on these furry tree-lovers. In fact, the 20th president experienced frequent digestive issues while in the White House, for which doctors encouraged the president to indulge more heavily in his favorite squirrel-saturated dish. Garfield even went as far as granting Colonel Crook, the Disbursing Officer of the White House, a permit to shoot squirrels on the grounds, according to The Food Timeline. The squirrel-loving luminary may not have had a chance to taste Crook's freshly caught rodents, but he enjoyed many helpings of squirrel stew while residing in Washington. 

Rhode Island eel was Chester A. Arthur's favorite

Not all of our nation's leaders were keen on proper culinary practices, but Chester A. Arthur may have been one of the most notorious cuisine-conscious presidents to take up residence in the White House. Upon his arrival, the 21st president celebrated his inauguration with an "intimate" but classy dinner prepared by a renowned French chef he brought with him to Washington (via The Food Timeline). While the former president's daily meals remained simple and regimentally bland, he made sure he still dined in style no matter what graced his plate. 

Arthur loved fishing and loved eating fish even more. He took every opportunity to enjoy a fresh batch of seafood, particularly Rhode Island eel. Revered as a delicacy during Arthur's time in the White House, the native New England eel may have been enjoyed a little too since then, as these saltwater snakes were eventually "pushed to the brink of extinction" in modern times, as the Providence Journal reports.

Although he may now be one of the United States' lesser-known presidents, Arthur will always be remembered for his impeccable penchant for fine dining and a rather posh palate. Keeping up with the president's demands is no easy feat, but at Arthur's White House, nothing but the most exquisite culinary practices and, of course, plenty of eels were allowed. 

Pickled herring pleased Grover Cleveland's palate

If you've ever tried to pickle something, you know the process involves soaking food for weeks in nose-hair curling vinegar, sugar, and salt. But have you ever thought to slip a saltwater fish into your next batch? As The Food Timeline relates, our 22nd president, Grover Cleveland, often had his seasoned tastebuds set on one highly-sought-after European dish: pickled herring.

A delicacy in Europe, herring is a 15-inch fish native to the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans. After it gained popularity in Sweden as an essential household dish (via Swedish Spoon), herring quickly became a coveted good in the European trade business. This fish became so popular that countries both near and far, including the United States, begged for more. As a result, herring often traveled for weeks to reach its final destination, meaning that pickling these fish was the only way to keep it fresh upon arrival. Apparently, folks on the receiving end of the pickled herring were so eager to eat this Scandinavian delicacy that they consumed the fish straight from the jar, pickle juice and all.

President Cleveland never expressed much interest in other fine European dining and expressed a particular distaste for French cuisine. He once wrote that "I must go to dinner. I wish it was to eat a pickled herring, Swiss cheese and a chop at Louis' instead of the French stuff I shall find" (via Delish). 

Turtle soup has been a White House dinner staple

America's earliest presidents played pivotal roles in leading colonists through uncharted territory and worked rigorously to unite the nation, particularly through communal meals. Food and supplies were often limited but, luckily for the first settlers, green snapping turtles thrived in the new colonies. According to History, turtle meat and eggs quickly became a household staple. By the late 1700s, turtle soup's popularity had skyrocketed and eventually grew to such a high demand that mock turtle soup recipes gained equal fame.

As per The Food Timeline, presidents from John Adams and James Buchanan to Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft regularly requested turtle soup at their White House tables, including on Roosevelt's 42nd birthday dinner and routinely at Taft's luncheons. Turtle soup eventually made its way from the presidents' personal kitchen to everyone's pantries. By 1920, says History, Americans had access to this presidential favorite right in their neighborhood grocery store, though it's since all but disappeared.

Eisenhower chowed down on prune whip

Prunes, egg whites, and chopped nuts may not sound like much, but it's these simple ingredients that made a beloved nosh for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, as Dallas Observer reports. The Eisenhowers gained quite the reputation for being knowledgeable gourmets. President Eisenhower was actually an accomplished cook and took great pride in preparing food for family and guests from his personal recipe collection. Although he enjoyed serving up his own confections, perhaps his most revered White House request was a prune whip made by chef Francois Rysavy (via The Food Timeline).

Chef Rysavy knew just how President Ike liked his whipped dessert, which was reproduced in the Healdsburg Tribune in July 1963. Just one cup of prune puree, a dash of lemon juice, some unflavored gelatin, four egg whites, vanilla cream or whipped cream all blended to perfection and voila — president-worthy prune whip, best served "cold with cream in a side pitcher." 

Prune whip may have lost some of its luster over the years, but those looking for an easy, light, and nostalgic dessert addition might want to give Rysavy's recipe a try.

Nixon shocked some with cottage cheese and ketchup

Probably one of the most infamous, and definitely one of the weirdest, presidential recipe requests come from our 37th president, Richard Nixon. According to MyRecipes, cottage cheese and ketchup was a "horrifying" daily demand for Nixon. While your stomach may be churning at the very thought of this snack, Nixon loved the snack along with a side of pineapple, Delish reports.

Nixon had no limit to when he wanted his dairy dish. The former president ate his beloved cottage cheese and ketchup every day for either breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The Nixon clan loved cottage cheese so much that when the president requested four steaks and a bowl of cottage cheese for his inauguration dinner, the White House kitchen ran out and had to forage town for more (via Vice). To be fair, cottage cheese was a serious household staple during the Nixon era and was regularly enjoyed by folks across the nation.

Reagan consumed jillions of jelly beans

Candy is a must-have snack for most, but for President Ronald Reagan, it became a necessity. What started as a substitute for smoking quickly morphed into an Oval Office requirement. We don't blame him, as stress-eating candy is at least better than tobacco.

According to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, Reagan received regular shipments of jelly beans from the Goelitz Candy Company (later renamed Jelly Belly) while governor of California. Later, Reagan received three and a half tons of red, white, and blue Jelly Belly jelly beans at his inaugural celebration. The candy company also made sure to keep his office stocked with his favorite jelly bean flavors including licorice.

Reagan's desk jar of jelly beans became such a staple that he wrote a letter to Jelly Belly stating that "they have become such a tradition of this administration that it has gotten to the point where we can hardly start a meeting or make a decision without passing around a jar of jelly beans" (via Atlas Obscura).

The 40th U.S. president may have been a super fan of Jelly Belly, but the feeling is definitely mutual. If you decide to pop into the Jelly Belly factory for a tour, you will not only see how the candy is made, but you will get a firsthand look at the company's shrine to Reagan, reports Atlas Obscura, which includes a portrait of Reagan made of — what else? — jelly beans.

George H.W. Bush asked for pork rinds with Tabasco

Where Reagan had his beloved jelly beans, George H.W. Bush had his own favorite Mexican-born bacon bits. As per The Daily Meal, the 41st president loved his sweet and salty snacks like popcorn, beef jerky, and Butterfingers, but he fancied pork rinds coated in Tabasco the most. Bush adored these snacks covered in hot sauce so much that he declared his affinity for rinds on the 1988 campaign trail. Just the mere mention of pork rinds from the former president caused sales to jump dramatically, Vogue reports. As a thank you for his very public endorsement, pork-rind makers dubbed Bush "Skin Man of the Year."

Salted pig skin may or may not be a popular snack in your pantry, but during the 1980s, pork rinds were a hot commodity, and they're making a subtle comeback today. Whether it's their long-lasting flavor, their low-carb contents or their versatility, pork rinds have earned a rightful spot in President Bush's office and on snack shelves everywhere.

Coca-Cola "salad" was a favorite of Bill Clinton

The 1990s brought us many memorable trends, from jelly sandals, Gameboys, chain wallets and, of course, inappropriately flavored snacks (via Mashable). It only makes sense that our most prominent 1990s president also enjoyed similarly mis-seasoned treats. Bill Clinton had a stellar sweet tooth for both candy and chocolate desserts, but nothing compares to the taste that he had for the Clinton family recipe deemed "Coca-Cola salad".

This soda-flavored gelatin dish was a celebrated recipe and a frequently enjoyed dessert in Clinton's White House kitchen. Deceptively deemed a "salad," this sweet snack is made solely of Coca-Cola-flavored jelly and served with black glacé cherries. Although, as Cheatsheet reports, the Clinton's White House chef called the unique jelly concoction "atrocious," both Bill and Hillary routinely knocked back spoonfuls of Coca-Cola salad. 

Was it the Clinton Coca-Cola recipe that later got Hillary into hot water during the 2016 soda tax proposal (via Politico) or was that only coincidence? Whether there's a deeper connection between the soda giant and the former first family or not, one thing is certain; Bill Clinton loved his salad made with refreshing, Coca-Cola-flavored jelly.

George W. Bush ordered cheeseburger pizza

The Bush family sure knew how to do some serious work at the dinner table. Known for his love of Tex-Mex style cuisine, George W. Bush was a fan of substantial dishes like Texas barbecue, and hearty home-cooked helpings of chicken pot pie and grilled cheese while heading up the White House (via The Daily Meal). But one of the most cherished, and possibly the most filling, requests from our 43rd president was cheeseburger pizza. Yes, you heard that right. Two junk food icons melded together to make one mouthwatering super meal. According to the Bush's White House chef, Cristeta Comerford, the legendary cheeseburger pizza consisted of pretty much every cheeseburger ingredient on top of a Margherita pizza (via The Daily Meal).

It's amazing that the Bush family still had room for dessert after dining on this greasy dish. According to Bake, the former first family enjoyed helpings of apple cider creme brulee and other treats in the White House, but just the thought of the tummy-rumbling cheeseburger pizza recipe has our stomach full.

Trump was a fan of the McDonald's Quarter Pounder and fried apple pie

We've all had our shameful moments of shoveling fist-sized burgers and mountains of fries down our gullets so fast that we hardly have time to taste it. But we rarely return for more once the deed is done. The same can't be said of our 45th president who required routine deliveries from his favorite fast food joints while in the White House. 

During his term in office, Donald Trump was a notorious fast food addict who indulged in his favorite gut-heavy meals daily, regularly ordering dinner from McDonald's (via SC Times). Trump adored junk food so much that he actually demanded the White House staff re-create his most cherished McDonald's Quarter Pounder burger and fried apple pie recipes, according to Thrillist. When his in-house kitchen team failed to meet the chain's fast food standards, Trump would send his bodyguard to the golden-arched establishment to get his fix.

As we contemplate the disgusting excess of Trump's fast food indulgences, we can't help but ponder the truth behind the proverbial saying, "you are what you eat." If he's not devouring his McDonald's menu favorites, Trump's presidential menu often featured a generous supply of Diet Coke, cherry-vanilla ice cream, and steak with ketchup.