Q: What part of the older recipes are different from what we eat now?
A: They use lard. Lots of lard. But you can just change it and use butter. Most of the recipes, if you want to cut down on any of those things, you can do it. It’s not really going to change it. And the nice thing is, most of them are whole grains. They ate healthier than we did in a lot of ways.
Q: Do you have any favorite recipes in the book?
A: Mamie Eisenhower’s fudge. You don’t need a double boiler and it makes enough for 10 people. It’s the best gift because everyone likes it. You know, she couldn’t cook at all. When she got married, she couldn’t even boil water, and when she learned how to make this, [her husband] called it “Mamie’s million dollar fudge.” It really is. It’s so simple. You can’t screw it up.
I also love JFK’s soup. We had a famous wine expert stay with us for a week, George Taber. I was testing recipes and every day we would eat three meals out of this book. He said, “That is the best soup.”
I said, “Isn’t that funny? It’s just canned soup.”
And he replied, “That’s what I like about people. Everybody’s tastes are different, and it’s not that you have to be snobby and have escargot. You can be simple.”
Q: Do you have any favorite stories that came out of writing this book?
A: I had this lovely letter from [the late Sen. Edward] Kennedy [about] his clam chowder. When he passed away, I thought, “What am I going to do?”
I still wanted to keep it in, so I called his son [former Rep. Patrick Kennedy]. Eventually, his aide called me back and said, “He would be honored if you used his dad’s recipe. It’s one of his favorites, too.”