Hail to the Chef: 4 American Presidents Who Loved to Eat

Feeding an appetite for power rarely fills a guy's belly. These four pudgy heads of state were as happy raiding the pantry as they were creating policy.

Grover Cleveland: The Glass is Always Half Empty

Large, jovial Grover Cleveland - also known as "Uncle Jumbo" - enjoyed his beer. In 1870 (15 years before he became president), Grover ran for district attorney of Erie County, New York, against Lyman K. Bass. It was a friendly contest. In fact, it was so friendly that Cleveland and his opponent drank and chatted together daily. In the interest of moderation, they agreed to have no more than four glasses of beer per day. But soon they exceeded that and started "borrowing" glasses from the next day and the next day until they'd exhausted their ration for the whole campaign - with the election still weeks away. The solution: Each brought his own giant tankard to the tavern, called it a "glass," and went back to the four-a-day ration.

An Extra-Cuddly Teddy

The standard scoop on Teddy Roosevelt was that he was a scrawny, sickly weakling from New York City who built himself up into a rough, tough cowboy type through vigorous outdoor pursuits. What's seldom mentioned is that Roosevelt went from skinny boy to robust young man to plump (though vigorous) president to obese (though still active) ex-president. While running on the Bull Moose Party ticket in a 1912 attempt to regain the White House, Roosevelt was described as "an eager and valiant trencherman" (it meant he ate a lot). If the main course was roast chicken, TR would consume an entire bird himself, in addition to the rest of the meal. Not to mention the four glasses of whole milk the portly prez routinely threw back with dinner. Photos and films show an aging Roosevelt carrying a decidedly wide load.

W.H. Taft and His Presidential Privileges

William Howard Taft often dieted because his doctor and his wife told the 290-pound president that he must. But without supervision, Will "the Thrill" didn't just give in to temptation, he sought it. Once while traveling he asked a railroad conductor for a late-night snack. When the conductor said there was no dining car, Taft angrily called for his secretary, Charles D. Norton, who had probably - under instruction from Mrs. Taft - arranged for the diner to be unhooked. Norton reminded the president that his doctor discouraged between-meal eating. Taft would have none of it. He ordered a stocked dining car attached at the next stop and specified that it have filet mignon. "What's the use of being president," he said to Norton, "if you can't have a train with a diner on it?"

Bill Clinton: With an Assist from Helmut Kohl

President Bill Clinton, who famously frequented McDonald's, was known for eating whatever was put in front of him. He showed a more discriminating, if just as hungry, side in the company of Germany's chancellor Helmut Kohl, though. Kohl was called "Colossus," at least in part because he carried 350 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame. But, in Kohl, Clinton found a gourmand soul mate. In 1994, Clinton hosted the chancellor at Filomena Ristorante of Georgetown for a lunch at which both consumed mass quantities of ravioli, calamari, and red wine, as well as plenty of antipasto, buttered breadsticks, Tuscan white bean soup, salad, and sweet zabaglione with berries. Each ended the meal by ordering a large piece of chocolate cake to go. Clinton once remarked that he and his German counterpart, though the largest of world leaders, were still too slim to be sumo wrestlers.

From mental_floss' book Forbidden Knowledge: A Wickedly Smart Guide to History's Naughtiest Bits, published in Neatorama with permission. Original title: Hail to the Chef: 4 Presidents Who Overindulged

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