Best wishes, but no beets, for Barack Obama

On Tuesday, Barack Obama will be sworn in as our 44th President, just weeks before the  bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Obama's campaign theme, "A New Birth of Freedom," was, fittingly, drawn from his fellow Illinoisan's Gettysburg Address, and he is supposed to be sworn in using Lincoln's own Bible, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Andrew F. Smith, Food historian and editor of "The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America," hopes that Obama's inaugural dinners do not duplicate Lincoln's, which turned into a food fight. “Lincoln's inaugural committee had planned a lavish midnight buffet for the Inaugural Ball: terrapin stew, leg of veal, beef a l'anglais, foie gras, paté, cream candies, fruit ices, tarts, cakes and more. The venue was the Patent Office, which had two spacious halls for dancing and dining. The buffet was set out in a corridor where patent models were displayed. When the grand supper was announced, after several hours of dancing, the crowd rushed the table and began grabbing, pushing, and stuffing themselves shamelessly. In a matter of minutes, the sumptuous buffet was a shambles—as were several of the patent exhibits,” writes Smith.

“Over the past 200 years, food has been an integral part of the celebrations surrounding the transition of power from one American president to another. The menus served at inaugural events have been a mixed bag, sometimes displaying ostentatiousness, other times political symbolism, and still other times just simplicity.” George Washington dined alone, as did John Adams. Thomas Jefferson, who enjoyed company, dined at a boardinghouse with 30 people. “James Madison broke with tradition, celebrating his 1809 inauguration with a ball, including a midnight supper for 400. The menu has been lost, but tradition has it that ice cream, then a "fancy dish," was served,” according to Smith.

The shocking melee at Lincoln's party had a notorious precedent: the reception held for Andrew Jackson, ‘the man of the people,’ whose 1829 inauguration was attended by thousands. In a party mood, some 20,000 rowdy well-wishers, hellbent for refreshments: ice cream, cake and lemonade, followed him back to the White House, almost destroying the building.

At his inaugural celebration, bachelor president James Buchanan, served 400 gallons of oysters, 500 quarts of chicken salad, 500 quarts of jellies, 1,200 quarts of ice cream, 8 rounds of beef, 75 hams, 60 saddles of mutton and 4 of venison. James A. Garfield's inauguration dinner was supplied with 15,000 "assorted cakes," 3,000 rolls, 350 loaves of bread, 100 gallons of pickled oysters, and 250 gallons of coffee. Benjamin Harrison’s menu included oysters a la poulette, cold tongue en Bellevue, breast of quail à la Ciceron, terrine of game à la Morton, and paté de foie gras a la Harrison; among the desserts were Bonbons Republican. But most impressive was a poundcake in the shape of the Capitol building: six feet high, nearly 9 feet square, and weighing 800 pounds.

What will be on the menu tomorrow is still a mystery, but super chef Rick Bayless, Topolobampo, one of the Obamas' favorite restaurants in Chicago,” says the Obama’s are totally adventurous eaters. Then again, the chef’s might want to avoid beets, which Obama diplomatically says, he avoids.

We wish the new administration our best wishes, and hope that our economy will flourish.

For some tasty tidbits on foods served at presidential inauguration foods, check out http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/food/chi-presidents-inauguration-feasjan14,0,3523351.story