The Worst Food In White House History Belonged To FDR

What do Food Network's Worst Cooks in America and Franklin Delano Roosevelt's White House have in common? Really bad food. It's true. The Food Network program that showcases truly bad cooks and America's only president elected to four terms are both known for cooking up barely edible meals. We're talking really bad. Back in the early 1930s and early 1940s, White House food was so notoriously awful that even esteemed guests made a point of eating before attending a presidential event (via The New Yorker). What's more surprising is that President and First Lady were okay with serving bad food. In fact, it was a point of pride.

According to History, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt made a conscious decision to serve and consume budget-friendly meals during their tenure in the White House. While both grew up in affluent homes where fine dining was an everyday occurrence, they opted for simplicity in a show of solidarity with U.S. citizens suffering through the Great Depression, standing in bread lines, and eliminating expensive items, like milk and meat, from their meal plans. There was, however, one major glitch in the otherwise admirable plan: Apparently, the White House kitchen staff could turn out budget meals, or they could cook up delicious meals. They just couldn't do both at the same time. At least under the direction of one particular White House official — and it wasn't Eleanor Roosevelt.

Even Ernest Hemingway complained

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was an accomplished person, but she couldn't cook for beans. According to History, one of Eleanor Roosevelt's greatest culinary achievements involved learning to scramble eggs in a chafing dish. That's not a bad thing. Mrs. Roosevelt recognized her culinary weakness and called in reinforcements. According to Smithsonian Magazine, when FDR won the 1932 presidential election, he and his wife made a deal: Eleanor would be in charge of the White House while FDR ran the country. And they agreed not to tread on one another's turf.

With her sights set on reinventing the kitchen, Mrs. Roosevelt reached out to Henrietta Nesbitt, a friend from Hyde Park, New York, where the two were active together in the League of Women Voters. Mrs. Roosevelt hired Mrs. Nesbitt to oversee White House housekeeping duties. Nesbitt's responsibilities included meal planning and preparation. According to The New YorkerNesbitt enthusiastically embraced the First Lady's directive to showcase American foods and cooking methods, but she was a less-than-inspirational leader in the kitchen. While the intent was admirable, the result was less than palatable.

Ernest Hemingway, who attended a White House dinner in 1937, described the menu as " ... rainwater soup followed by rubber squab, a nice wilted salad and a cake some admirer had sent in ... " (via The New Yorker). Think we're exaggerating? See for yourself. According to The New Yorker, Henrietta Nesbitt's recipes and menus are on file at the Library of Congress.