We’ve had presidents on the brain lately (in between brain freezes, that is), and can’t help but wonder what our nation’s leaders have thought about our favorite dessert treat over the years. Did President Woodrow Wilson spot an ice cream cone or two in the crowd during his 1913 inauguration? Did President John F. Kennedy reach for a bowl of chocolate ice cream during the tense negotiations of the Cuban Missile Crisis? We may never know. But we do know these 10 weird fun facts about US presidents and ice cream:
You know how the old saying goes: “First in war, first in peace, first to absolutely lose his mind over ice cream.” George Washington loved ice cream so much that he even brought a bunch of ice cream-making and -serving supplies to the White House with him. He also reportedly spent $200 on his favorite treat during the summer of 1790—which comes to about $5,000 today! That probably puts your Half Baked obsession in perspective.
It would be hard to top Washington’s passion for the stuff, but Thomas Jefferson certainly left his mark as an ice cream fanatic. In fact, he has been credited with writing down the first known ice cream recipe in American history! (You can try making his vanilla yourself.)
At 5’ 4” and barely 100 lb., James Madison was not known as a voracious eater. But he did apparently always have room for ice cream. His wife, Dolley, the first truly trendsetting first lady, loved ice cream, and legend has it that she was responsible for popularizing the dessert in America. Her favorite flavor? Oyster. Yum?
Honest Abe. The Rail-Splitter. The Great Emancipator. Partier-in-Chief? Maybe it’s time to reconsider the reputation of the 16th president, because few in Washington, DC, have ever partied like they partied at Lincoln’s second inaugural ball. The, uh, festive crowd of 4,000 attacked the 250-feet-long buffet table and soon the “floor…was…sticky, pasty and oily with wasted confections, mashed cake, and debris of fowl and meat.” Why the carnage? Perhaps the almonds in the burnt almond ice cream were too burnt? Or… were they not burnt enough?
In popular culture, Gerald Ford is best (some would argue unfairly) known for being a klutz. If you dig a little deeper into his biography, however, you’ll find something else: a nearly heroic devotion to butter pecan ice cream. After the presidency, whenever he visited his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, his aides would make sure that some butter pecan would always be on hand. Every night he’d say, “I’ll bet there is a little ice cream in the fridge, isn’t there?” And he’d be right.
Say what you want about Ronald Reagan, but the man knew what he was talking about when it came to ice cream. A “nutritious and wholesome food”? Definitely. With “a reputation as the perfect dessert and snack food”? You bet! Those words are taken from his proclamation establishing July as, wait for it, National Ice Cream Month. Also boosting his ice cream cred: he named our own Ben and Jerry US Small Business Persons of the Year in 1988!
As president, Bill Clinton was known as a man of great appetites, but in recent years he has made a few changes, including going vegan. At a campaign stop last September, he opted for raspberry sorbet. President Clinton, we think we might have some flavors you’ll want to try!
George W. Bush
His father hated broccoli. And we know that W. himself had a complicated relationship with pretzels, but what were his feelings about ice cream? What was his favorite flavor? Finally, at a campaign stop in 2006, we learned the unexpected answer: pralines and cream! George W. Bush’s visit ensured that praline and cream flew over the counter at that Pennsylvania ice cream shop for weeks and weeks.
So far as we’ve been able to determine, President Obama is the only president to have ever worked the counter at an ice cream shop. Scooping, scooping, and more scooping: that was his first job, back when he was 16 and living in Honolulu.
We know, we know, Joe Biden is a vice president, not a president, but we can’t allow a mere technicality like that to keep someone who loves ice cream so much from this list. “My name is Joe Biden,” he once said by way of introducing himself to a crowd, “and I love ice cream.” Judging by the number of pictures all over the internet showing him enjoying a cone, we think the man should be taken at his word.