Monday, June 27, 2011

Betty Ford and a Royal Bicentennial State Dinner

On the evening of July 7, 1976, President Gerarld Ford and his wife Betty hosted an elegant state dinner at the White House dinner in honor of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of England. The royal visit was part of the celebration of the Bicentennial of the American Revolution. In her memoir, The Times of My Life, Mrs. Ford recalled the Queen's dinner this way:

We put up a tent for the Queen's dinner. There were so many state events coming up one right after the other that without the tent we'd probably have had to close the White House to the public for a good portion of the summer, and it was the Bicentennial year and the influx of tourists was heavy. A tent over the Rose Garden would be the answer, just a great white tent which would also enable us to invite more guests than we could have served indoors.

An hour and a half before the Queen's dinner, there was a sudden downpour with torrential rain, thunder, lightning. Three trees on the White House grounds were struck. Fortunately, I'd insisted that our tent have a floor...I'd seen it done at the French Embassy and been very impressed...For the Queen's dinner, we had violinists stationed along the paths, and to be out in the gorgeous night air, with the moon shining down and the violins playing as you walked by, was unforgettable.

The Queen was easy to deal with. She was very definite about what she wanted and what she didn't want. She loves Bob Hope and Telly Savalas, so we invited Bob Hope and Telly Savalas...and if I hadn't kept mixing up Your Highness and Your Majesty (he's His Highness, she's Her Majesty) I'd give myself four stars for the way that visit went off.

As for the dinner itself, more than two hundreds guests dined on New England Lobster en Bellevue and Saddle of Veal with Rice Croquettes and Broccoli Mornay. Dessert items included Peach Ice Cream Bombee with Fresh Raspberries and a Demitasse. Although Mrs. Ford didn't include the recipes for these dishes in her memoir, you can whip up this recipe for Peach Ice Cream Bombee from Rachel Ray:

2 pound peaches - peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1-1/3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, combine the peaches, 7 tablespoons sugar, the lemon juice and salt. Cook over medium heat, mashing, until jam like, about 15 minutes. Let cool. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the peach mixture and refrigerate for 4 hours. Using an ice cream machine, process the peach mixture according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

FAST FACT: A gifded athlete, Gerald Ford was offered two contracts to play in the NFL (from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers) but turned the offers down to continue his education. After graduating from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Ford became a boxing and football coach at Yale University and later graduated from Yale Law School in the top 25 percent of his class despite the time he had to devote to his coaching duties.