President 31- Herbert Hoover
March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933
Everyone at my company has worked there for thirty years. Their dads worked there. Their granddads worked there. There is no mystery about what they will be doing for the rest of their careers. That terrifies me more than marriage and makes me want to run away and work at a beach bar somewhere, or perhaps on a game park feeding baby rhinos. Apparently, I am not alone. I read an article last week that the almost thirty-somethings are destined to lead “microlives”, reincarnating every couple of years.
From orphan, to member of the inaugural class at Stanford, to gold mining engineer, to president, Herbert Hoover was already on trend. He started his career in Australia overseeing mines then moved to China in time to experience live fire during the Boxer Rebellion. After helping thousands of Americans evacuate Europe when war was declared, he was appointed by President Wilson as the Head of the Food Administration and successfully kept the Allies fed without rationing. When peace time came, he continued on his quest to feed a hungry broken continent. When asked why food was being sent to starving Soviets, he famously responded, “Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!"
When it came to White House entertaining, there was no rationing and no expense spared. Lou Henry Hoover was in her element. She loved having company so much that the couple only ate by themselves three times during the first three years of Hoover’s presidency (each year on their anniversary). Events were nonstop and there were often more than one going on at any given time; a tea in this room, a lunch in that one. This gave White House staff understandable kitchen anxiety. Miss Ava Long, the housekeeper, would get calls at 11am that the 1pm lunch, which had been planned for 10 people, had changed to 40 guests. One of her best menu improvisations had her grinding lamb chops down to make gorgeous lamb croquettes with a wild mushroom sauce. When guests asked for the recipe, she quickly named the dish “White House Supreme”. Ultimately, Mrs. Hoover wasn’t specific about what should be served just that it should be made from the very best ingredients, no matter the season.
The day to day meal schedule was predictable. The President had his “medicine ball cabinet” join him in exercising with the medicine ball in the yard for thirty minutes each morning before breakfast. Breakfast was then promptly served at eight beneath Magnolia Tree planted by President Jackson in honor of his late wife. Lunch was at one. Dinner was at eight. If you were late to the table, you were out of luck. The usher would ask you to wait outside until coffee was served or to come back another day.
Before Ava Long came to cook for the First Family, there was Mary Rattley. Too old to join them at the White House, she was the queen of the Hoover kitchen when he was Secretary of Commerce and is credited with the creation of most of their favorite family recipes. “Mr. Hoover is the easiest man in the world to please,” she always said, noting his love of Virginia ham, cherries and watermelon. Soufflés, like this one, were a favorite of Lou’s. Be warned soufflés are as impressive as they are tricky and don’t be discouraged if they fall flat the first time. They must be served straight out the oven to give guests some fleeting moments with the soufflé at its full height. While they are cooking, do not open the oven. Just leave it alone and it will rise to the occasion.
Mary Rattley’s Asparagus Soufflé
Take one tablespoon butter and rub into it one and a half tablespoons flour and add one cupful cream [over low heat]. Cook until creamy and add the yolks of four eggs. Beat this mixture for five minutes and add salt and pepper to taste, the fold in one cup of asparagus tips, fresh asparagus preferred. [remove from heat]. Then add the whites of four eggs, beaten stiff, [fold in] and put into a hot buttered soufflé dish, set the dish in a shallow pan of water and bake for thirty-five minutes in a moderate oven. It will stand up and look beautiful. Before you take it out of the oven, grease with butter and serve at once.
Bake in a 350 F oven and do not open while it is cooking or it will fall flat! You can expect this to happen shortly after serving anyhow.
Wait until your egg yolk mixture has cooled to fold in the egg whites.
Add grated parmesan (1/4 cup) when you add the asparagus and to the top as a garnish. I also added grated black truffle to the mixture for that added decadence.
To get the soufflé dish, “hot and buttered”, heavily grease the mold and store in the oven while it is preheating.