These books reveal the drinking habits, culinary fascinations, and influence of some of America’s most powerful historical figures.

By Abbey White
February 16, 2018
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Much has been cataloged about American history, from its founding and its international relations to its economics and its social movements. But there is one often overlooked area where you can learn about all of these things: its culinary history. The food history of America’s most powerful figures and the people who filled their stomachs reveals another aspect of American culture. Here are seven books that illuminate readers on the surprising, silly and sometimes forgotten history of food’s role in shaping America’s government and its leaders.

1. Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking

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It’s no secret that presidents, like the rest of America, like to drink. But did you know that President Roosevelt made gin in a bathtub? This detailed history and cocktail recipe book gives you an inside look at the alcoholic preferences of the men who led the nation. Discover which Founding Fathers had backyard distilleries, which president’s rather expensive vintage tastes led to bankruptcy, and who from the Oval Office preferred whiskey to whisky before trying your hand at concocting a Rum Swizzle or Missouri Mule.

Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking, .com.

2. Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln's Life and Times

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Lincoln remains, both through his life and his death, one of America’s most influential presidents. He was also a frequent cook. In author Rae Katherine Eighmey’s book, Lincoln’s own culinary concepts are developed into modern recipes for the home cook to try. As you cook, follow Eighmey’s personal research into the kind of pocket-sized gingerbread recipes Lincoln could have used in a time when cookie cutters were highly expensive and read about her search for Lincoln's grocery bills in Springfield ledgers.

Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln's Life and Times, $11 at .com.

3. The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine

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The Founding Fathers did more than help shape a nation. As farmers and international travelers, they also helped shape its cuisine. Among the 300 pages of this book, you’ll discover not only how America’s early leaders were involved in sustainable farming and ranching, exotic imported foods, brewing, distilling, and wine appreciation, but shared their passion for local food and drinks with friends and fellow politicians. The book also comes with recipes for how to make Thomas Jefferson's ice cream and a beer by George Washington.

The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine, $19 on .com.

4. The President's Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Diplomacy

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Featuring more than 300 never-before-seen illustrations, author Barry H. Landau gives readers an inside look into the art and politics of White House dining, and how it has lent itself to American diplomacy. From the nation’s first presidential administration under George Washington to the more recent presidency of George W. Bush, explore how meals have grown from a provincial affair to an era of sumptuous state banquets, and finally to the White House dinners we know today. See how dining habits evolved as both economics and social issues rose and fell, and uncover what political interests were served along with presidential meals.

The President's Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Diplomacy, $30 at .com.

5. Edible Secrets: A Food Tour of Classified U.S. History