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Secret doesn’t mean tasty

January 23, 2012
BETTY?POKAS - Times Leader Area Editor , Times Leader

COOKBOOK author Julia Child, who knew more about food than most people will ever know, once noted, "You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients."

Julia, however, neglected to add that some people actually can ruin fresh ingredients.

If we all had chefs to prepare special dishes as they do in the White House, we might figure that the food would be perfect.

That, however, isn't the way that former White House executive pastry chef Roland Mesnier described life in the White House kitchen, according to a story by Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger in The Washington Post.

In addition to noting that Barbara Bush wanted dry, overcooked fish, he also told about a family recipe that Rosalynn Carter insisted be added to the White House buffets - a molded cheese ring.

Wonder what the French chef, hired by the Carters, thought about that secret family recipe?

The Washington Post writers quoted Mesnier as noting the cheese ring was "so nasty. It was a mixture of Muenster, cheddar, all the stickiest cheese you could find, mixed with onions, capers and strawberry jam in the middle. ... It was a secret family recipe that no one tried to steal."

Other foibles in the executive mansion also were revealed by Mesnier, who told how Nancy Reagan gave strict orders for her husband not to have chocolate. When she was out of town, however, he dined on steak, macaroni and cheese and a big bowl of chocolate mousse.

Despite having a mother, daughter and daughter-in-law who are great cooks, my cooking abilities are somewhat limited.

My late husband, Cal, thought my presidency of the Future Homemakers of America while in high school was amusing.

(The FHA members probably didn't vote on cooking abilities.)

He didn't think it was so amusing when I prepared a baked dish that tasted good in home ec class, but turned out awful when I tried it in the kitchen. Since we were just going together, he tried to be polite but seemed relieved when I suggested we ditch it.

In my defense, my beef stew and orange cookies have been rather good.

For those who make fun of my cooking abilities, I always tell them that my three kids grew up to be healthy.

(I'm smart enough to omit the fact that their father was a good cook.)

Pokas can be reached at



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