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Food

FDR’s Favorite Dish: “Country Captain”

August 2020

Daisy Bonner, who cooked for Franklin Roosevelt for twenty years in the Georgia White House, recalled his favorite dish.

Alice Dunnigan, chief, Washington Bureau, Associated Negro Press, Schlesinger Library, RIAS, Harvard University
Alice Dunnigan was Chief of the Washington Bureau of the Associated Negro Press, Schlesinger Library, RIAS, Harvard University

When the women of the National Press Club published their 1955 cookbook, Who Says We Can’t Cook, the first recipe had been submitted by the pioneer African-American journalist, Alice A. Dunnigan, Washington Bureau Chief of the Associated Negro Press from 1947 to 1961.  

Ms. Dunnigan was a civil rights activist and the first black female  correspondent to receive White House credentials. She covered Harry S. Truman’s 1948 campaign trip, becoming the first black journalist to accompany a president while traveling. In her autobiography, Alice A. Dunnigan: A Black Woman’s Experience, she wrote about the fight against segregation she had witnessed during the 1940s and 1950s.

Here is Ms. Dunnigan’s recipe in the Press Club book:

FDR Liked This Best

IF YOU SHOULD VISIT the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, you would see written on the kitchen wall over the oven: “I cooked the first and last meal in this cottage for President Roosevelt.” This statement was inscribed on April 12, 1945, by Mrs. Daisy Bonner, who served as cook in the Georgia White House for twenty years. She recalls the breakfast menu the last day, and the cheese souffle timed for 1:15 lunch but never eaten.

Mrs. Bonner kept a menu book on the meals served to the President on his last two visits to Warm Springs. “The President had many favorite dishes,” said Daisy Bonner, “but the one I think he liked best was my special Country Captain.”

Roosevelt's Little White House at Warm Springs, Georgia. Kåre Thor Olsen
Roosevelt's Little White House at Warm Springs, Georgia. Photo by Kåre Thor Olsen

COUNTRY CAPTAIN

1 hen or 2 fryers    
2 or 3 green peppers, chopped    
1 clove garlic    
2 medium onions, chopped    
1 can tomatoes    (save some to garnish)
2 cups rice boiled until dry 
     (use white, brown or wild rice)    
1 teaspoon curry powder (or to taste) 
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4 cup raisins in sauce
1/4 cup raisins to garnish
1/4 cup almonds or any nuts
1 can mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil chicken until done, and bone it. Saute onion, then add all sauce ingredients (everything except green peppers, rice, raisins and nuts for garnish). Add chicken to sauce and simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Serve over rice. Garnish with raw green peppers, raisins and nuts. Thin the gravy. Serves 6 or more.

FDR works at the Little White House a few days before his death on April 12, 1945 in a photo taken by his friend Margaret “Daisy” Suckley. Wikipedia.
FDR works at the Little White House a few days before his death on April 12, 1945 in a photo taken by his friend Margaret “Daisy” Suckley. Wikipedia.

 

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