Harry S. Truman Started Every Day with Bourbon
Harry S. Truman was a famously non-picky eater. Per his official library and museum website, he was quoted as saying: "Never notice what's put before me. Learned in the army to eat what could be obtained and like it. In my outfit when a man kicked about the food, he was given a chance to improve it. That soon cured the kickers and they took what was put before them and liked it." Though Truman may not have protested too much about what was on his table, the dishes and drinks that did show up on the White House menu, had to be cooked—or poured—to the First Family's exacting standards.
It's not for nothing that Truman is often credited (correctly or not) with coining the saying, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." The sentiment may have originated in his very own home. Bess Truman took pride in her kitchen skills and when she, Harry, and their daughter Margaret moved to the White House, she insisted that the staff be brought up to snuff, starting with teaching them how to make coffee.
Per Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks's The Presidents' Cookbook, "After Mrs. Truman had taken some coffee in her spoon to look at the color a few times, the kitchen experimented to produce a coffee that would please her." Later in the term, she sent an aide to the presidential yacht, the USS Williamsburg, "to instruct the cooks in the brewing of coffee to please the Truman taste."
Cannon and Brooks note that while in the White House, "The President's breakfast menu remained nearly constant: orange juice, grapefruit, or tomato juice; hot cereal in winter and cold cereal other times; whole-wheat toast and milk—sometimes buttermilk." This may have as a result of his fixation with weight, which he chronicled semi-obsessively and sought to reduce with a combination of exercise and diet at the end of his time in office.
In a letter dated January 3, 1952, Truman wrote: "I walk two miles most every morning at a hundred and twenty eight steps a minute. I eat no bread but one piece of toast at breakfast, no butter, no sugar, no sweets. Usually have fruit, one egg, a strip of bacon and a half a glass of skimmed milk for breakfast; liver and bacon or sweet breads or ham or fish and spinach and another non-fattening vegetable for lunch with fruit for dessert. For dinner I have a fruit cup, steak, a couple of non-fattening vegetables and an ice, orange, pineapple or raspberry for dinner. So I maintain my waist line and can wear suits bought in 1935!"
(Truman didn't seem to inflict the regiment on anyone else in the family, writing in that same letter: "Margie looked very well except she's too thin. These damned diets the women go for are all wrong. More people die of dieting these days than of eating too much.")
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And then there was Truman's daily morning bourbon. It was Old Grand Dad or Wild Turkey, according to Truman author David McCullough (who won a Pulitzer Prize for the biography), and it was downed by the dram between the two-mile walk and the post-exercise rubdown. Whether or not this was doctor's orders or "a bit of old-fashioned home medicine the kind many of his generation thought beneficial to the circulation past age 60 ('to get the engine going')" was admittedly unclear to McCullogh, "But it seemed to agree with him."
This Story Originally Appeared On Extra Crispy