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The President’s Club

The Presidents Club
Nancy Gibbs
Michael Duffy

Before reading this book, I assumed the president’s club was more of a concept that a reality- a way for presidents past and present to connect, but not an official club. Turns out I was wrong.  It was founded by former presidents Truman and Hoover at the inauguration of Eisenhower. There is an official clubhouse, an allowance, and even a top-secret newsletter.
Men who have held the top office in this country are in a unique position to advise one another and influence politics even after they leave office. As presidents live longer, their time as ex-presidents becomes more of an opportunity for them. This book tells the stories of these men and the unique bond they share.

To be completely honest, I did not read all the pages in this book. There are just some presidents that are more interesting to me than others. The authors’ extensive research and produced a thick book packed with details. When the pages were about presidents from my grandparents era, I skimmed. When those details were about the presidents I remember in my lifetime (Bush Sr, Clinton, Bush Jr, Obama) I was fascinated. The post-office relationship of the two Bushes with Clinton has always kind of amazed me, given all the years of antagonism between them. But, as this book illustrates over and over, being an ex-president becomes more important than politics. The things presidents have in common vastly outweigh their differences.
You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this book. I learned a lot from it. But you might be a history buff if you read every page.

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Three Squares

Three Squares
Abigail Caroll

The modern demise of the family dinner is much bemoaned these days.  But how long has this really been a tradition? When did it start? Why did it happen? These and other questions are answered in fascinating detail in Three Squares.
Caroll takes a historical view of thr American meal, beginning with  pilgrim pottages and moving thru Victorian dinner parties and factory lunch pails to TV dinners and our current dinner habits. She draws on first-hand accounts of recipes and menus for a glimpse into what was considered acceptable dining across centuries of American gastronomic history.
This book gives a broad view of dinner’s development, illustrated with many interesting details. For example, did you know most pilgrims would’ve subsisted largely on one-pot meals of grain, suet and greens all boiled together (sounds awful!) Or that Thomas Jefferson was considered a bit odd for the variety of fruits and vegetables he grew at Monticello? Victorians threw elaborate dinner parties as measures of class and wealth but believed enjoying food too much was a moral weakness. Up until 100 years ago, steak was a popular breakfast food. All of these facts and more fit into an informative big picture story.
Along the way, Caroll also writes about the roles of women/housewives towards food preparation. Our ideal of Mom making dinner for Dad when he comes home from work and the kids when they come home from school is actually a relatively recent concept, albeit a logical conclusion of the past 300 years of eating habits in America.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes food or books about food- or is just curious and wanting to learn something new. I certainly learned a lot, and enjoyed myself in the process.  Now let me make myself a snack….

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You might like: Omnivores Dilemma, Michael Pollan. At Home, Bill Bryson.