Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Food & Lodging

History shelves abound with books examining the beliefs, actions and motivations of the Founding Fathers and the successive Presidents. We have two new books that takes a lighter approach to learning more about these influential men:

The President's Table: two hundred years of dining and diplomacy, by Barry H. Landau, is a scrapbook of menus, invitations, photos and anecdotes from state dinners and small supper parties hosted by - or attended by - the Presidents from Washington to George W. Bush. Landau, a Presidential historian and collector of memorabilia and artifacts, takes us on a gustatory walk through history. The mementos from the earliest Presidents are less plentiful, but after the end of the Civil War, the amount of 'stuff' associated with state dinners escalated. A bonus lesson from this book? Even the most boring menu item sounds better in French.

Houses of the Founding Fathers: the men who made America and the way they lived is more temporally restricted. Hugh Howard and Roger Straus III take the reader on a tour of the colonial mansions, plantations, and farms of the men who shaped our country. These homes were all built in the late-Colonial, early-Republic period (1740-1830) and there is a wide range of architectural styles, cultural tastes and wealth displayed by these houses. There are lots of wonderful interior and exterior photos, including furniture, and a concise little biography of each owner. At the back of the book is a listing of each historic property with visitor information (what a fabulous road trip that would be!) and a glossary with some of the architectural terms and period language explained.

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