Friday, November 22, 2013

In Praise of Jacqueline Kennedy

As the nation observes the remembrance of this tragic day 50 years ago, I'd like to add my own thoughts about Jacqueline Kennedy, who brought French style, flair, and, of course, French food, to the White House. Julia Child is often credited with bringing French cuisine to the American public -- and it's true, she deserves a tremendous amount of credit -- but her Mastering the Art of French Cooking was in fact published several months after another groundbreaking event in Franco-American relations: Jackie Kennedy's naming of French chef René Verdon to the post of White House Chef.

As the New York Times wrote in Verdon's obituary in 2011,
His first official meal at the White House, a lunch for Prime Minister Harold Macmillan of Britain and 16 guests on April 5, 1961, set the new tone: trout in Chablis and sauce Vincent, beef filet au jus and artichoke bottoms Beaucaire, and a dessert he dubbed désir d’avril, or “April Desire,” a meringue shell filled with raspberries and chocolate.
The message was clear. No longer would a meal at the White House be a painful duty.
A White House dinner menu of the time included something called "Potatoes Nancy." I've been unable to find a recipe for "Pommes Nancy."  If anyone out there has one, please let me know.

As for Monsieur Verdon -- the Texan who moved into the White House had a distinct preference for frozen vegetables, burgers, ribs, and baked beans. Verdon resigned in 1965 and opened his own  restaurant.

Jacqueline Kennedy moved to New York and, let us not forget, just about single-handedly saved the majestic Grand Central Terminal from the wrecking ball, a sliver of a silver lining to the dark of cloud of November 22, 1963.

Merci, Madame Kennedy.

1 comment:

  1. There is a lot that I once did not know about Jaqueline Kennedy, but some years ago I read a biography of hers, recently I've watched the miniseries the Kennedy's and was really impressed. She was a fascinating character, not a saint, but someone who had to struggle with a lot and did achieve great things as you mentioned above. I like reading your blog, learning french is a difficult thing to do, i am attempting it myself as an adult and am trying to chronicle my own journey online as well.
    http://speakfrenchwithme.com

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.