Adrian Miller: A one of a kind storyteller (Part one)



Thu, 24 Feb 2022 - 09:46 GMT


Thu, 24 Feb 2022 - 09:46 GMT

File: Adrian Miller.

File: Adrian Miller.

Acclaimed American book author and historian Adrian Miller is by all means a one of a kind storyteller.


As part of its Black History Month activities, US Embassy Cairo sponsored the visit of American culinary historian Adrian Miller that took place from February 16-18. Miller stopped briefly in Egypt following several days in Dubai where he was representing the United States at the USA Pavilion at the 2020 World Expo. The reception at the DCR, held a few days before President’s Day, was Miller’s first event in Cairo.


During the reception, Miller gave a presentation on the “liquid history of the U.S. presidency” that focuses on the favorite drinks  of U.S. presidents. During the remainder of his time in Egypt, Miller gave presentations to Egyptian audiences on the contributions of African-Americans to American cuisine, the history of Black chefs in the White House, and the history of Soul Food.



 Soul Food Scholar Adrian Miller is an award-winning food writer, certified BBQ judge and expert on the diverse food cultures of the dynamic American South.  


Egypt Today exclusively interviewed the globally acclaimed storyteller and award winning book author  about liquid history of the U.S. presidency, African Americans contributions to American cuisine and the concept of Soul Food.

Miller explained to Egypt Today that one of the most interesting cat-mouse game in the liquid history of the US presidency is that US presidents have consumed alcoholic beverages but they don’t want the public to know this fact.



The reason behind that we know now what presidents used to drink is that a number of staff members in the White House write memoir after they leave work, revealing matters related to US Presidents favorite drinks.



“One story I love to tell is that Roosevelt used to drink mint julep. The ingredients of mint julep is Bourbon whiskey, water, sugar and some mint leaves” Miller said.


Miller explained that Roosevelt was thinking about running against William Howard Taft who succeeded him as a president, but Roosevelt felt he was messing up.


He was thinking about running again as third party candidate, his rival who was supporting Taft got a newspaper editor who basically say that Roosevelt drinks too much, so Roosevelt sued him for liable, and he had to announce every single drink he has consumed in his life.

“ One of the drinks he talked about was the mint julep, he added that it was made by African American and he only took a sip from mint julep, a popular newspaper at that time said it is impossible to take only one sip because this drink is so good” Miller added.



Miller said that a lot of American presidents didn’t drink alcohol, but Franklin Roosevelt loved to have  Martini, President Eisenhower liked  to drink Scottish.


”One of my favorite stories that Harry S.Truman and his wife loved to drink Old Fashioned which consists of Whiskey or Bourbon , a simple syrup, sugar, water and a citrus element usually it is orange but sometimes you can use lemon” Miller said.


When Truman arrived at the White House he asked them to make Old Fashioned drink, when he took the first sip he asked them to make it less sweet, after he tasted it for the second time Truman said this horrible, it tastes like a fruit punch, when he asked to have this drink again he gave them only Bourbon and ice, after he tasted he said yes this is how you make Old Fashioned.

“The Kennedys like a number of drinks such as Bloody Mary,Daiquiri, which is made from a banana, cream and ram, it is very popular drink in Florida” Miller added.


President Obama was known for drinking beer.


“The interesting thing is that the last few US presidents such as George W Bush and Donald Trump don’t drink at all” Miller said.


Mainly in the White House the drinking choice is wine, presidents like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson drank a lot of wine but they drank beer too, but the beer didn’t have the alcoholic content it has now, so they were called small beer. 

“African-Americans contributions to American cuisine have been substantial because for several centuries African-Americans were the ones primarily delegated to do food services” Miller said.


The strongest place where we see these contributions is the food of the American south, this kind of food is built on native Americans and later what slaved African and European  immigrants built on those foundations.


”West African ingredients which were brought to the United States are things like black-eyed peas, okra, hibiscus, sesame seeds, a type of rice and  watermelon, but the primarily influence was that regardless where the food come from, African-Americans were the ones who often made this food either in private homes, restaurants and hotels, a lot of people have the taste of African-American cooking” Miller recounted.


Miller added that if we go back to history, the typical White House chef is a black woman.


Before President Truman in the mid of 1950s, the president was responsible for paying for all the kitchen help, so any president at that time had to be a wealthy person to do that, so rather than pay to someone, they would just bring a slave to cook in their homes and in the White House.


“ So Washington did that, Jefferson did that and a lot of the early presidents did that, so early White House cooking was originally made by African-Americans” Miller said.



Washington DC is technically in the south, so Southern food was the baseline food in the White House.



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