Food Recipes

America’s ‘Barbecue Diplomacy’

People often say that we are what we eat. As a country built by immigrants, America’s food culture is as rich as the various cultures represented by the people who make up this diverse nation.  Our ancestors brought the traditional dishes of their native countries with them and passed these delicacies down from one generation to the next. So, what really is “American” food?

Some may say the quintessential American food is a burger, or a hot dog. And in fact, these delicious items are the mainstay of the traditional barbecue parties that are essential to many American celebrations. The key to serving up good barbecue is having love and patience. This tradition may be simple, but it can change the world—as hot dogs and burgers have sometimes played a critical role in U.S. diplomacy.

The first, and perhaps most important, “barbecue diplomacy” event was arguably held in June 1939, when King George VI of England and his wife, Queen Elizabeth (mother of Elizabeth II), visited the United States. Following their royal state visit to Canada, President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited the British sovereigns to visit his home in Hyde Park, New York, for an American-style picnic.

Prior to this visit, no reigning British monarch had ever set foot on American soil. In 1939, England was on the brink of war with Germany, while the United States was pursuing a foreign policy of isolationism.  Many Americans were worried that Britain might drag their country into a foreign conflict. While FDR wanted to lend help to the British, he had to convince the American public that such support was warranted.

On June 11, 1939, perhaps the most famous hot dogs in world history were served to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the Hyde Park picnic. Apparently, the royal couple had never been served frankfurters before, and the Queen quietly asked her host just how one should go about eating a hot dog. This humorous inquiry made headlines in the American press at the time. It was also included in the popular TV drama series, “The Crown” (Season 1).

We will never know what kind of meat or other ingredients were used to make those royal hot dogs, but they apparently made a significant impression on the royal couple. While the Queen purportedly used a knife and fork, the King ate his U.S. treat, American-style.

No doubt, this “hot dog diplomacy” was a great success. Just three months later, Britain declared war on Germany; and while the U.S. did not enter the war in Europe until December 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Hyde Park picnic had helped FDR introduce the King and Queen of England to American isolationists in a relatable manner. The hot dog picnic changed the relationship with Great Britain forever: no longer as a former imperial power and its runaway colony, but now as friends and important allies.

“Barbecue diplomacy” has since been utilized by other U.S. presidents as well. George W. Bush hosted a barbecue party for German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2006, and another for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2007, treating them both to delicious Bush-style cheeseburgers.

Chef Matthew Wendel, who worked for GW Bush and his family at Camp David, and at their Texas home, revealed the recipe in the book, “Recipes From the President’s Ranch: Food People Like to Eat,” with First Lady Laura Bush providing helpful tips on assembling the burgers, such as using extra sharp cheddar cheese and toasted whole-wheat buns.

Sweet and Smoky Cheeseburgers Recipe

Serves 4


  • 1 ⅓ pounds lean ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons favorite barbecue sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Oil, for brushing the grill
  • 4 slices extra sharp cheddar
  • 4 whole-wheat buns, toasted


In a bowl, mix the ground beef with barbecue sauce and salt and pepper just until combined; do not over-mix. Divide the meat into 4 equal patties about 1/2-inch thick.

Lightly brush a charcoal or gas grill with oil and heat to medium. Grill burgers for about 5 minutes, until charred on the bottom. Flip burgers and cook for 1 minute more. Top each burger with cheese and cook just until melted, 1 to 2 minutes more, or until cooked to desired temperature.

Serve on toasted buns with your favorite burger condiments.

Recipe from “Recipes From the President’s Ranch: Food People Like to Eat,” by Matthew Wendel (The White House Historical Association, 2020)

Food Recipes

The ‘Poison Apple’

Men used to eat tomatoes in public to demonstrate their courage and might, and the ladies would faint upon witnessing such shocking scenes.

Scenes like these don’t originate from a Hollywood comedy—they actually happened in the United States back in the 18th century.

Today, tomatoes are widely known as an anti-aging superfood. They contain potassium and Vitamin C and are high in lycopene, which some studies show can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

What many do not know is that once upon a time, tomatoes were grown in gardens as ornamental plants. They were fearfully nicknamed “poison apples” and were considered poisonous in North America for nearly 200 years.

If we tomato lovers could thank someone for dispelling the misconception, it would be one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson. He was not only a politician; he was also known as a horticulturist, paleontologist, and foodie. When he served as the minister to France (1785–1789), he accumulated an enormous collection of European recipes and brought them back to America. Apparently, his taste in food has greatly influenced American food culture.

We don’t know for sure whether Jefferson brought the tomato seeds back home from Europe, but there is a record of him planting tomatoes in his backyard. Legend has it that Jefferson ate a tomato in front of his houseguests and, afterward, served delicious tomato dishes to them. There is no doubt that if the internet had existed back in the 18th century, “are tomatoes really edible?” and “did Thomas Jefferson die after eating a tomato?” would have been among the top searches.

In 1820, a man named Robert Johnson staged a “tomato trial” on the steps of a New Jersey courthouse. He ate a full basket of tomatoes—and he did not die.

In time, tomatoes became a popular fruit to consume. First Lady Jackie Kennedy had a favorite tomato soup recipe, which her staff compiled and distributed to anyone who wrote to the White House asking for her favorite recipes. Try your hand at this simple yet refreshing version of tomato soup.

Mrs. John F. Kennedy’s Iced Tomato Soup

Serves: 6


  • 6 large, ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • A dash of pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon, dissolved in 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup heavy cream


  1. Combine tomatoes, onion, water, salt, and pepper in a saucepan.
  2. Cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Combine tomato paste with flour and add to tomatoes with chicken bouillon.
  4. Simmer gently for 3 minutes.
  5. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve.
  6. Chill several hours.
  7. Before serving, add cream.
  8. Season with salt to taste if necessary. Garnish each serving with a thin tomato slice if desired.

Recipe from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Food Recipes

Ken Haedrich’s Recipe for North Carolina Sweet Potato Pie

My adoptive North Carolina ranks first in the nation in the production of sweet potatoes: more than 60,000 acres of them, about half of the total US production. In light of that, I came up with this recipe as a tribute to the farmers and their lovely sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes have a wonderfully dense flesh and deep color that are in their full glory in this tasty pie.

Makes 8–10 servings

Old-Fashioned Shortening Pie Dough (see below) or another single-crust dough


3 medium-large sweet potatoes

3 large eggs plus 1  large egg yolk, at room temperature

⅔ cup packed light brown sugar

⅓ cup granulated sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½c up heavy cream

½ cup half-and-half

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon all-­purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

whipped cream (optional)

1. Prepare and refrigerate the pie dough. Roll the dough into a  12 1/2- to 13-inch circle and line a 9- to 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan with it, shaping the edge into an upstanding ridge. Flute or crimp the edge, chill the shell, and partially prebake it according to the instructions on page 000.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Scrub the potatoes and place them on a baking sheet. Pierce them several times with a paring knife. Bake for 60 to 75  minutes, until they feel tender all the way through when pierced with a paring knife. Cut the potatoes open to help them cool faster. 

3. When the potatoes have cooled, scoop the flesh into a food processor. Process to a smooth purée. Measure out 11/2 cups purée. (Save any extra purée for another use.)

4. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Whisk the eggs and egg yolk in a large bowl until frothy. Add the potato purée, sugars, melted butter, heavy cream, half-and-half, and vanilla. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat on medium-low speed until evenly blended. Mix the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the liquid and blend it in on low speed.

5. Put the pie shell on a baking sheet, near the oven, and carefully pour the filling into the shell. Bake the pie, on the sheet, on the middle oven rack for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F (180°C) and rotate the pie 180 degrees. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes longer, until the filling is set. When the pie is done, the filling will be wobbly and puff slightly around the edges.

6. Transfer the pie to a rack. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or chilled, garnished with whipped cream, if desired.

Boil or Bake?

In my sweet potato pie trials, I both boiled and baked the potatoes and found that I preferred the baked results. Baking takes longer, but it concentrates the flavor without adding excess moisture to the pie. 

You get a creamier, fuller-bodied pie when the moisture comes from the cream and eggs. If you like, you can accelerate the pie-making process by baking the sweet potatoes the day before, perhaps when you have something else in the oven. Refrigerate them after they have cooled. 

And by the way, since you’re baking sweet potatoes anyway, why not bake a couple of extras and use them to thicken soups or stews, or in muffins and quick breads. Or serve them as a simple side dish, mixed with butter and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Old-Fashioned Shortening Pie Dough

This is a pretty standard all-shortening piecrust, like the one my dad used when I was a youngster. A shortening piecrust won’t have the delicate flavor of a butter crust, and the texture is typically more crumbly, less flaky. Still, this yields a delicious, tender crust that many bakers believe makes the best pies.

One 9- to 91/2-inch standard or deep-dish pie shell

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar (optional for a sweet pie; omit for a savory pie)

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup cold vegetable shortening

¼–⅓ cup cold water

1. Combine the flour, sugar (if using), and salt in a large bowl; refrigerate for 15 minutes.

2. Add the shortening to the dry ingredients and toss it with your hands to coat, then break it up into smaller pieces. Using a pastry blender, cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until the pieces of fat are roughly the size of small peas and everything looks like it has been touched by the fat. There should be no dry, floury areas.

3. Mound the ingredients in the center of the bowl. Drizzle about half of the water down the sides of the bowl, turning the bowl as you pour so the water doesn’t end up in one spot. Using a large fork, lightly mix the dough, tossing it from the perimeter toward the center of the bowl. Drizzle most of the remaining water here and there over the dough and toss again.

4. Mix the dough vigorously now. The dough should start to gather in large clumps, but if it is dry in places, stir in the rest of the water.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pack it into a ball, then knead it several times to smooth it out. Put the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten it into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Wrap the disk and refrigerate for about 1 hour before rolling.

Double-Crust Version

The softness of the shortening makes this an easy recipe to double. Simply double all of the ingredients and proceed as above. Divide the dough in two when it comes out of the bowl, making one part slightly larger than the other if you’re using it for a  top and bottom crust.

Excerpted from “Pie Academy” copyright by Ken Haedrich, photography by Emulsion Studio, used with permission from Storey Publishing.

Food Recipes

Ken Haedrich’s Cheddar-Crusted Apple Pie Recipe

New Englanders have known the pleasures of combining apple pie and Cheddar cheese for a very long time — long enough to be quite opinionated about how the two should be eaten together. Some cooks include grated Cheddar in the filling itself. Others grate the cheese over the top of the pie, which is fine when the pie is warm but less so when it is cool and the cheese hardens. Old-timers lay a slab of Cheddar right on top of their pie slice and dig in. I wanted to integrate the cheese into the pie itself, so I baked grated cheese into the crust, which keeps the snappy Cheddar flavor front and center. This is one good pie.

Makes 8 servings

Cheddar Cheese Pie Dough (see below)


8 cups peeled, cored, and sliced Granny Smith or other apples

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

¾ cup chopped walnut halves, preferably toasted

2½–3 tablespoons all-­purpose flour

1 egg beaten with 1  tablespoon milk, for glaze

1. Prepare and refrigerate the pie dough. Roll the larger dough portion into a 121/2- to 13-inch circle and line a 9- to 91/2-inch deep-dish pie pan with it, letting the overhang drape over the edge. Refrigerate the shell until needed.

2. Combine the apples, sugar, lemon juice, and walnuts in a large bowl. Mix well. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Adjust the oven racks so one is in the lower position and another is in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with  parchment  paper.

4. Sprinkle the flour over the apples, using the larger amount of flour if the apples seem very juicy. Mix  well.

5. Roll the other dough portion into an 11-inch circle. Turn the filling into the pie shell and smooth it over to level out the fruit. Lightly moisten the rim of the pie shell. Drape the top pastry over the filling, pressing along the edge to seal. Trim the overhang with scissors, leaving an even 1/2 to 3/4  inch all around, then sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge. Flute or crimp the edge, as desired. Poke several steam vents in the top of the pie with a large fork or paring knife. Put a couple of the vents near the edge so you can check the juices. Brush the pie lightly with the egg wash glaze.

6. Put the pie on the prepared baking sheet and bake on the lower oven rack for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C) and move the pie up to the middle rack, rotating the pie 180 degrees. Bake for 30 to 40  minutes longer, until the pie is a rich, golden brown and juices bubble thickly up through the vents.

7. Transfer the pie to a rack and cool for about 1 hour before serving. Longer is fine, but you’ll bring out the flavor of the cheese if you serve this pie warmer than most.

Cheddar Cheese Pie Dough 

Every true New Englander knows that nothing goes better with apples than sharp Cheddar cheese. My favorite way of combining these two is by baking the cheese right in the crust. The baked-in Cheddar flavor is out of this world, and it’s one of the prettiest crusts you’ll find, all golden and covered with crispy cheese freckles. It makes a great crust for savory pies, too, like quiches and pot  pies.

One 9- to 9½-inch standard or deep-dish double-crust piecrust or two pie shells

2½ cups all-purpose flour

⅓ cup fine yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons cornstarch

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

1¼ cups cold grated sharp Cheddar cheese (white or yellow)*

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water


Sharp and flavorful cheeses like Gouda or Gruyére work best.

1. Combine the flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl. Scatter the butter around on a large flour-dusted plate. Measure the water into a 1-cup glass measuring cup. Refrigerate everything for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Transfer the dry ingredients to a food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry mixture. Pulse the machine seven or eight times, until the pieces of butter are roughly the size of small peas. Remove the lid and scatter the cheese over the mixture. Replace the lid. Pulse three or four times, just long enough to mix in the cheese thoroughly.

3. Pour the water through the feed tube in a 8- to 10-second stream, pulsing the machine as you add it. Stop pulsing when the mixture begins to form large clumps.

4. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and divide it in two, making one part — for the bottom crust — slightly larger than the other. Pack the dough into balls, place on separate sheets of plastic wrap, and flatten into 3/4-inch-thick disks. Wrap the disks and refrigerate for about 1 hour before rolling.

To Make this Dough by Hand

Combine the chilled dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the butter and cut it in thoroughly. Mix in the cheese by hand. Mound the ingredients in the center of the bowl. Drizzle half of the water down the sides of the bowl, rotating the bowl as you pour. Mix well with a fork. Sprinkle half of the remaining water over the mixture; mix again. Pour most of the remaining water over the mixture; mix vigorously until the dough gathers in large clumps. If there are dry, floury areas remaining, stir in the last spoonfuls of water. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and proceed as in step 4.

Excerpted from “Pie Academy” copyright by Ken Haedrich, photography by Emulsion Studio, used with permission from Storey Publishing.