Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving with the Cowboy President

It’s true!  Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th President, was known as the Cowboy President. 
Always an outdoorsman, TR first journeyed to the Dakota Badlands in 1883 to hunt buffalo. By the end of that trip, he had purchased the Maltese Cross ranch and entered the cattle business.  Although Teddy didn’t stay out west, it was the place closest to his heart and which inspired his future conservation and environmental efforts.
      Sadly, five months after his return, both his wife and his mother passed away on the same day. Aged only twenty-five, Roosevelt was already involved in politics, and after the Republican Convention in June, 1884, he headed west to seek solace from his overbearing grief.  His herd at the Maltese had wintered well that year, and he decided to increase his stock and bring out two men from Maine, who had served as hunting guides, to manage it. Roosevelt then selected a site for a second ranch, thirty-five miles from Medora, ND, and named it the Elkhorn. The remains of that ranch are today part of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which covers 3 separate sites.
     The Elkhorn eventually had an eight-room house and various outbuildings, and continued as a ranch until the horrendous winter of 1886/87 decimated the herd by 60%. Now living in New York and pursuing his political career, Roosevelt eventually sold the Elkhorn in 1890.  And maybe that was lucky for us because, aside from leading the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War, becoming NY State Governor, and eventually winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his work ending the Russo-Japanese War in 1906, TR as President created no less than five national parks, added land to Yosemite NP, and designated eighteen sites as national monuments.  I know someone who might learn something from this….
But I digress….

Back in New York, the Roosevelt home was located in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Sagamore Hill is now, itself, a National Monument, and as you can see from its furnishings in these photos, it gives a pretty good nod to TR’s cowboy life.  And like any red-blooded hunting man, TR’s appetite was prodigious, if fairly plain. He could eat an entire chicken at one sitting, or half a roast suckling pig; his son claimed that TR’s coffee cup was the size of a bathtub (a remark often made about my own mug, I must admit) and he would have seven cubes of sugar per cup. The Roosevelt dinner table was not elaborate, and was generally garnered from the estate itself:  dairy from its own herd; home-baked breads; preserves and vegetables harvested from the kitchen garden and orchards; fish from the bay.

It might be no surprise, then, that the Roosevelt Thanksgiving dinner menu was pretty close to that of most Americans, with the possible addition of the roast suckling pig. It started with oysters on the half shell, and garnishes of celery, radishes and olives, followed by a consommé. The main course was the traditional roast turkey, chestnut stuffing, and a giblet gravy, plus that roast suckling pig.  The sides included cranberry sauce (of course!), spiced crab apples, spinach, mashed potatoes, onions in cream, and Brussels sprouts. The Roosevelts had their salad after this, and desserts of mince pies, pumpkin pie, vanilla ice cream, nuts, fruits, chocolates, and ended with coffee. I’m sorry to note that sweet potatoes do not play a role.

It’s very unlikely that the Roosevelt’s cook would have used frozen cranberries, if such an item was available, but I’m going to end this post with my recipe for the only cranberry sauce—more a relish—that I’ll eat:  Take one large juicy orange and quarter it; do not peel but remove the pips.  Put in a blender and chop roughly. Add one 12oz bag of frozen cranberries (if you use fresh, you’ll have to cook ‘til they pop, about 10 mins., and drain thoroughly) and 2oz. of shelled walnuts. Process to rough chop, not puree. Add 2oz. superfine sugar and leave for at least 2 hours before serving. A treat!

And I’ll tell you what else is a treat:  to curl up after Thanksgiving with a lovely Christmas western romance.  The weather is cold, the atmosphere is festive, and the cowboys are hot. How do you keep a cowboy at Christmas?

Don’t miss this holiday collection of modern-day cowboys and the women they love, featuring USA Today, Amazon Bestselling, and Award-Winning authors.

Daniel Dylan Layman is determined to show headstrong city girl Liberty Ann Hart that a country life in Mistletoe, Texas, is the perfect Christmas gift.

A CHRISTMAS CAROLE by Andrea Downing
Carrie Matheson and her son are trying to settle into a new life in Wyoming. Tate Schrugge is trying to ditch his Scrooge and play Santa to the young boy. But will there be a Dickens of a romance by Christmas?

Lawyer Skye Mallory returns home for the holidays due to an unexpected inheritance and cowboy Joe Carrigan stands in her way.

When Kristen Kelly receives a Christmas kiss from Cole Lawson, she doesn’t believe it means anything. But Cole sets out to make things right with the woman of his heart.

SLAY BELLS by Hildie McQueen
At a small-town Christmas festival sparks fly between Carmen Dias and Detective Jared Bowden, but a dead body and a pesky ex-girlfriend don’t exactly spell romance.

All Sofia Rossi wants is to re-connect with her estranged son. But can Gar McCulloch, a handsome cowboy who runs a juvenile rehab ranch, be the answer to all her problems?

Wedding planner Melody Evans views happily-ever-after endings with a skeptical eye. Veterinarian Leland Jennings IV thinks Christmas is for kids. Can the holiday spirit bring them together?

Available at

                                                      HAPPY THANKSGIVING

With thanks to The American Heritage Cookbook, Penguin, 1964
Photos public domain, thanks to the National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons. 


Patti Sherry-Crews said...

You got me in the mood to start baking those pies! I do love a Thanksgiving feast and probably go overboard but I'm grateful for my friends and family and try to do right by everyone at the table. So, two kinds of stuffing (chorizo and corn bread and then traditional sage) and three kinds of cranberries because I got some people who are picky about their cranberries! I make the same relish as you normally, but this year found a recipe with fig, and canned cranberries for my stepson (the ridged red tube we call it) and then a cranberry salad with mini marshmallows for my daughter. It the one holiday feast I try to accommodate.
I am grateful T.R. had the foresight to preserve large tracts of land for us to enjoy today! Have a happy Thanksgiving, Andi!

Andrea Downing said...

thanks Patti. Since I don't do the TG dinner I don't have much input but my sil does a fine job. I'm particularly fond of her stuffing with a bit of gravy. This sweet potato business with marshmallow is too sweet for me I'm afraid, and I was never fond of cranberries except as per the above recipe. But it is so good to be with family and enjoy each other's company. Hope yours goes off well--I'm sure it will.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

I love your cranberry recipe. Will have to try it sometime. Happy Thanksgiving!!

Andrea Downing said...

Thanks Kristy. The same to you and your family!

Renaissance Women said...

Also my favorite cranberry recipe. It is so good! Wishing you and all those you care about a great Thanksgiving.

Being friends with 'President Roosevelt' in the guise of Don Moon, this post was made all the more interesting. I shared it with him and he in turn shared it with his followers. Thank you so much for that. Doris

Andrea Downing said...

Thanks for the share Doris—& I hope you’re enjoying Thanksgiving with those closest to your heart

Hebby Roman said...

Great blog! Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.