How to Make Presidential Chicken Salad
President Woodrow Wilson may have overseen eight of the most eventful years in U.S. history, but his palate was much less exciting.
President 28: Woodrow Wilson
In office: March 4, 1913 – March 4, 1921
When I landed my first “grown up” job, I observed that the most efficient way to make stellar deals was tipsy on the golf course. Sure, I didn’t have a great sports record. The only soccer goal I ever scored was against my own team. As my grandfather was a member of the Scottish PGA, I thought surely this was different, even in my blood, and I would be making hole-in-ones like Happy Gilmore in a matter of weeks. After lessons at the range turned to frustration on the course, I decided that business would have to be made in the traditional setting of happy hours. It sure is harder than it looks. President Wilson spent several hours every morning on the golf course and found it to be one of the most relaxing ways to center his thoughts in stressful times, a sentiment President Obama seems to echo. To each his own.
President Wilson’s two terms were indeed a hugely stressful mix of heartbreaking sadness and sheer joy, both professionally and personally. During his first years in the White House two of his daughters, Jessie and Eleanor, were married on the grounds in style. His first wife, Ellen, then died in 1914. He was heartbroken and spent two days sitting with her body. His loneliness was not long-lived as he met Edith Bolling Gant in 1915 and was married nine months later. This emotional rollercoaster was paired with a country that had been doing well but was watching European relations crumble. His slogan for re-election was “he kept us out of war”. That quickly proved too difficult and he declared War on Germany on April 4th 1917. Understandably, all White House entertaining prompted ended. Issuing his Fourteen Points in 1918 and then encouraging the formation of the League of Nations in 1919 and winning the Noble Peace Prize, Wilson was exhausted and suffered a stroke. He slowly regained strength thereafter but never his political muscle.
Ms. Jaffray, now in her second term as house keeper, labelled President Wilson as the kindest President and writes page after page of glowing reviews of his demeanor. He wasn’t however, very fussy about what he ate. The housekeeper would put a small plate of sandwiches and a thermos of black coffee outside his door late at night so he would have a snack before his golf at 6am. He would then return for a proper breakfast, normally a soft-boiled egg with bacon. Ms. Jaffray didn’t have too many foodie secrets to share, noting “his only favorite dish I can remember was chicken salad.” So today we are doing a chicken salad for your lunches on the course. The recipe comes from the Economy Administration Cookbook from 1913, a compilation of recipes from the wives of Congressman and other decision makers of the time. This chicken salad recipe is adapted from Mrs. Oscar Callaway, wife of a Congressman from Texas. The dressing, which has all the makings of mayo and more, is made in a double boiler. It is a method I have never seen before but produces really lovely results. You can make the dressing as thick or as light as you like.
Mrs. Oscar Callaway’s Chicken Salad
Adapted from: The Economy Administration Cookbook, 1913
One chicken, boiled until tender
One cup of broken pecans
Four stalks of celery, chopped
Juice of six lemons
My addition: One honey crisp apple, chopped
Mix the chopped chicken, celery and pecans; add lemon juice; just before serving, pour over and stir in the following dressing:
Mix four eggs beaten light, one-half cup of sugar, four tablespoons of flour (I used 2), one cup of vinegar, butter the size of an egg, one teaspoon each of salt and mustard and a dash of red pepper. Cook in double boiler until thick, stir constantly.
If you don’t like dark meat, boil four large chicken breasts instead. Shred when cooked
The dressing will thicken very fast over a low flame. I suggest only using 2 Tbsp. of flour. Whisk constantly. If you prefer a thinner dressing take it off the heat after 3 or so minutes. For a more mayo-like consistency, it will take about 5 minutes.