Monday, January 21, 2013

Calas, Wilson and Ideas for a Presidential Meal

I did a little more research on Zachary Taylor's calas tous chauds,
and found some translations (and a new recipe with less salt).
According to and,
French Quarter street vendors would sell "calas" on Sundays after Mass.
They would shout, "Calas, bels calas tous chauds!"
which means, "Calas, beautiful calas, still hot!"
David Guas, Bayou Bakery in Washington, D.C.
includes a recipe for calas on this web site:,
which thankfully, calls for only 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
The tous chauds part of the mystery is cleared up,
but I still can't find a translation for calas or similar forms.
If anyone knows for sure, enlighten me.

Woodrow Wilson, born in Staunton in Augusta County,
 is the last of the Virginia presidents--so far, that is.
Wilson has always seemed to me a contemporary president,
so it's surprising to realize that he was a child during the American Civil War,
living with his pastor father in Augusta, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina
at a time when the region was devastated by the War.

Even though he experienced the antebellum south, if only fleetingly,
under Wilson's presidential leadership
many modern changes were made in the U. S: women's right to vote,
beginning of the American income tax, establishment of the Federal Reserve 
and the Federal Trade Commission, to name a few.
But above all, Wilson worked tirelessly to establish the League of Nations
in hopes of ensuring a lasting peace following World War I.

Photo of Woodrow Wilson
photo of Wilson from

So what foods did "Tommy Wilson," 
as he was known throughout his childhood, enjoy?
The Presidents' Cookbook, cited in The Food Timeline
says that Wilson didn't have that much of an appetite,
and the White House physician was often concerned about his low weight.

Regardless, the Cookbook lists strawberry ice cream,
chicken salad, and a dessert called Charlotte Russe as Wilson's favorites.
Counter to his later antipathy towards food, the Food Timeline says
 Wilson once wrote to friends before visiting them that he was fond of
ham, eggs, homemade biscuits, butter, peach cobbler, and plain white cake.
All of which sounds more appetizing than the breakfast Wilson
supposedly favored later in life: two raw eggs in grapefruit juice--
a concoction that sounds more like an emetic than a meal.


So today, as we celebrate the pageantry of another U. S. inauguration,
here's a menu for a very presidential--and American--day of meals:

Start the day with coffee, Washington's hoecakes, or Taylor's calas tous chauds.
For lunch, how about some of Wilson's chicken salad?
Or if a more substantial meal is in order,
emulate the presidents and serve shad, steak, turkey or ham as the centerpiece.
Anyone who is feeling particularly ambitious
can prepare Monroe's chicken pudding.

Don't forget to serve up some of Jefferson's or Harrison's favorite vegetables:
peas, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, or beets.
And no meal is complete without some of Jefferson's hot bread and butter.

photo courtesy of

Finish the day with desserts favored by Madison
(layer cake, cinnamon cake) or Wilson (peach cobber, strawberry ice cream).
And take a tip from the Tylers and serve Madeira and champagne.
Democracy is worth celebrating, after all.

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