Imagine growing up playing in the White House. Your grandfather just happens to be the president of the United States and when he returns from the Oval Office at night, he gets on the ground and plays with you.
I recently met Mary Eisenhower, who experienced this. Her grandfather was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as the 34th president of the United States from 1953 to 1961.
Actually, as Mary explained the story to me, what she loved most was her knee-slapping grandparents Dwight and Mamie. What wonderful memories she has that she shares today from her home in Independence.
President Eisenhower, who grew up in Abilene, Kan., was known for many things, including being the supreme commander of Allied forces in Western Europe and overseeing the D-Day invasion and the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. But there is so much more about the president that I wanted to know.
I went to see Mary because I came across a recipe for her grandmother Mamie Eisenhower’s Million Dollar Fudge. My co-host and dear friend Kimberly Stern made the introduction after I saw Mary on TV preparing another of President Eisenhower’s favorite dishes, Eggs Goldenrod.
Mary spoke about playing on the floor with her grandfather and adding coins he gave her to a green piggy bank that eventually became part of her college fund. She remembers staying at the White House many nights because her father was chief of security for the United States.
Mary had great memories of eating dinner at the White House, sitting under the chandelier at a table on chairs covered with towels by her grandmother so they would not be ruined. One of her fondest memories was using a finger bowl before she was 3 years old. Her grandmother was a perfect lady and never needed a napkin unless she was eating fried chicken.
Another person who influenced her was Delores Moaney and her husband, Sgt. John Moaney, who stayed with her grandparents until the end of their lives.
Delores would regularly serve Mamie breakfast in bed on a special tray, as she liked to spend the entirety of her mornings in bed. She believed that once a woman reached the age of 50 she was allowed to stay in bed until noon. Her bed served as her command post from which she met with staff members and planned her social agenda.
Mary remembers sneaking off to be with her grandparents sitting on a special stool next to the stove where she watched them cook. Another great memory she shared was putting cloves on a baked ham that she called “little people on the ham.”
Mary referred to the president as grandad and said he loved to cook. The president’s hobby was going to the third floor porch solarium, where he would set up a barbecue and also make some great stews and comfort food with his secret spices.
When I think of all the recipes I reviewed, one of my favorites was Mamie Eisenhower’s recipe for fudge, which was published in the ’50s in every major newspaper in America. She said there was no real reason for calling it Million Dollar except for the fact that using that term in the ’50s showed richness in a recipe. I believe it is absolutely delicious and indeed rich.
Mary had some great memories and she now shares recipes along with them. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
Mary Eisenhower: “All my life I had this brunch dish before Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners if I was with my grandparents or parents. I continue it.”
4 hardboiled eggs
2 tablespoons butter
A pinch salt (beef will have a lot, salt optional)
Black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup whole milk
Small amount of shredded sharp cheddar (optional)
1 jar dried beef
8 English muffin halves (toasted)
Peel and separate hard egg yolks from whites and chop egg whites coarsely
In a small bowl, force egg yolks through a strainer to make a fluffy texture (best if done while yolks are still warm, easier!). Set aside.
In a sauce pan, over medium to low heat, combine butter, salt, pepper and flour, blend until it forms a paste.
Add milk a little at a time, whisking constantly, and blend until smooth; sauce will thicken as it heats. Retain on low heat.
Blend in cheese (if elected).
Add dried beef and chopped egg whites to sauce.
Spoon egg/dried dried beef mixture over muffin halves.
A small amount of parsley may be added for color.
Spoon fluffy egg yolks over the top.
Garnish with orange slices, grapes or fruit of choice.
Yield: 4-8 servings.
Mamie Eisenhower’s Million Dollar Fudge
4 1/2 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 tall can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
12 ounces German-sweet chocolate
1 pint marshmallow cream
2 cups nuts
Boil the sugar, salt, butter and evaporated milk together for 6 minutes.
Put chocolate bits and German chocolate, marshmallow cream and nuts in a separate bowl.
Pour the boiling syrup over the ingredients.
Beat until chocolate is all melted, then pour in pan.
Let stand a few hours before cutting.
Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 62-year-old restaurant with his brother. Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.