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From Befuddled to Food

Even Presidents like easy food. February and Top-10 US presidents' favorite foods.

By Colleen Walsh Fong

Is it just me, or is February a really weird word? For one thing, why do we pronounce it “Feb-you-ary” when it is spelled “Fe-brew-ary?” A silent “r?” Are there other words like that? I can’t think of any.

And what does February mean? Most month names come from Roman gods like January and March; or emperors like July and August; or their places in the Pre-Gregorian calendar like September-December. Who or what was February?

To paraphrase the definition I found in the Online Etymology Dictionary, the noun February comes from the Latin “februarius mensis” which means “month of purification.” Its origin is unknown, but may be from a Sabine word. It was the last month of the ancient Roman calendar, which was used before 450 B.C.

Despite the month’s shorter length, lots of action gets packed into it:

Ground Hog Day (2/2)

Fat Tuesday (2/12)

Valentines Day (2/14)

President’s Day (2/18)

That’s a lot of opportunity for celebration food! But, let’s focus on President’s Day.

Until 1971 Washington’s Birthday, for whom the federal holiday was named, was celebrated on his actual birthday, February 22nd. Many states, including my home state of Illinois, also celebrated Lincoln’s birthday, February 9th.  Today, some states use President’s Day as “Presidents Day” without the apostrophe to honor multiple presidents. It seems fitting that on the national level we honor George Washington on President’s Day. Not only was he first to take the helm of our experiment in democracy, he consistently ranks as #1 on lists of most popular, favorite, or greatest presidents.

Many polls of top historians and professors have been taken to determine our most and least favorite occupants of the oval office. More recent polls by CSPAN, The Wall Street Journal, Siena College, Newsweek, and others yield surprisingly similar results, especially with regard to presidents before 1980.

Here’s my composite of their top 10 list, starting with the most favorite:

George Washington

Abraham Lincoln

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Thomas Jefferson

Theodore Roosevelt

Harry Truman

Woodrow Wilson

John F. Kennedy

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Andrew Jackson

 

Reading the results of these surveys made me wonder what the top 10 liked to eat. So I looked in to it. Some of the food turns out to be pretty simple and easy. Right up my alley!

For example, do you think of cherries when you think of George Washington? Many people do. In fact, the story we learned as children about how he cut down a cherry tree is probably not true. And, he was more inclined to be dealing with a walnut tree since he loved walnuts and is known to have often had them on his person.  He is also said to have had a habit of cracking them open with his teeth. Maybe that’s how he ended up with wooden ones! Or not. He didn’t have wooden teeth either. He did have dentures, but they were probably made from a combination of human and animal teeth, not wood. Either way, they don’t sound very comfortable. Which may be why he had another favorite food.

But I’ll talk about that next time.

Check back in soon to find out about George Washington’s, and other Top 10 President’s favorite foods.

Image courtesy of vitasamb2001 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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