Allegedly, First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy made really good waffles. I say “allegedly” not because the waffles attributed to her in various cookbooks aren’t objectively good; they’re actually wonderfully airy and crisp, thanks to an innovative technique involving whipped egg whites and baking powder. But did she ever actually cook or consume the waffles? Does it matter? Didn’t she do enough for her country, between being the exceptionally tolerant wife of a blatantly randy president, the widowed mother of small children expected to bear up beautifully in public after her husband was murdered before her eyes, a book editor, an arts preservationist, and a fashion deity for the ages? Nah, apparently in addition to all that, Jackie Kennedy had to make a bitchin’ breakfast. Such is the lot of a FLOTUS—and a POTUS, too.
A quick dive into the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum archive shows that both of the Kennedys were asked for recipes constantly, and one in particular surfaced in multiple publications, credited to either Mrs. John F. Kennedy (occasionally “autographed” as Jacqueline Kennedy across the bottom) or occasionally the senator-then-president, himself. Versions of this eggy waffle recipe—said to be J.F.K.’s “favorite”—appeared in Political Pot Luck: A Collection of Recipes from Men Only, Kings In The Kitchen: Favorite Recipes of Famous Men*, The Celebrity Cookbook (compiled for charity by Dinah Shore), Many Happy Returns, The Democrats' Cook Book Or How to Cook a G.O.P. Goose, among others, as well as a collection of recipes solicited by a class of sixth graders at the Post Avenue School in Westbury, Long Island, and the food columns of The Catholic Standard and Claypool Features Syndicate. Though a request came in from Martha MacBride of Sacramento asking for a casserole recipe for a book she was compiling, the Kennedys demurred and instead sent along the family's waffle recipe.
The party line often quoted alongside the recipe is that Mrs. Kennedy made the waffles frequently for her children and husband. Though it may be difficult to reconcile the image of the immaculately pressed icon doing something so quotidian as cooking or ingesting food (a legendary diet item of Jackie’s was said to be a single sour cream- and caviar-topped baked potato a day, followed by a day or two of fruit), maybe in this moment, we may allow her to be a human being. In a 1999 interview with Food & Wine, her longtime cook Marta Sgubin, and author of Cooking for Madam: Recipes and Reminiscences from the Home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, said, “What they will find surprising is that Madam was a public figure, sure, but she was also living a regular life. She did what everyone else did every day. She got up and ate breakfast and went to work. When the children were young, she ate every meal with them just like any mother would.”
Let’s give her that, shall we? A moment of syrup-sticky pleasure away from the prying eyes of paparazzi, the unbearable pressure of perfection. Maybe the waffles burned from time to time. Could be that they were the thing that grounded her wayward husband at the table for a moment or two in the morning. Perhaps baby John John stuffed soggy waffle crumbs into his mouth as he was strapped into his high chair, and they all cooed and laughed as a family. There was some reason that this was the recipe that Camelot offered to represent their kitchen to the world. Let’s take it. It’s the closest most of us will ever come to feeling like a Kennedy.
*Per the request from Meg Madigan, the editor of From Men Only there was a loophole: “You don’t have to know how to cook. If your wife, mother, girlfriend, secretary, or local innkeeper has pleased you with a certain dish, send along the ingredients.” Another such request came in from actress Gretta Gould, who wished to include a recipe of the president’s in a book entitled Keep Out! Man Cooking! While the office indeed provided the waffle recipe, there is no evidence that the book was ever published. The foreword of Kings in the Kitchen read in part: "Cooking, with a man, is an urge from the heart—he has a great natural talent and he has been at it longer than woman. When the cave man hunted and made his kill, he cooked it over an open fire and brought it home to his woman."
President Kennedy’s Favorite Waffle Recipe
Note: This is the version and title as listed in the National Archives Catalog, but it is called by various names depending on the publication.
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 7/8 cup milk, or 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup and 1 tablespoon of sifted cake flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 stiff beaten egg whites
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
1. Cream butter and sugar, add egg yolks. Beat. Add flour and milk alternately. This may be done at any time. When ready to bake fold in egg whites, and add baking powder. Mixture should be thick and fluffy.
2. Bake and serve with hot maple syrup and melted butter