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Hotdogs for the King and Queen: An American Fare for the British Royals

The Roosevelts with the King and Queen of England sailing from Washington, DC to Mt. Vernon, Virginia on the USS Potomac. June 9, 1939. Image from Wikimedia Commons

When U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt learned that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were planning to visit Canada, he immediately penned a letter inviting him to extend his visit to the United States. Three months after, the King sent his reply and accepted the president's invitation, "with the utmost pleasure." This was were disturbing times for Great Britain as Adolf Hitler had just annexed Austria and occupied Sudentenland. The moment was ripe for the United States to forge cooperation.

The British king and queen arrived at Union Station in Washington, D.C. on June 8, 1938, after they left Ontario aboard the royal train. More than 250,000 people flocked the streets to see the royals. After all, this was a historic moment; they were, after all, the first-ever reigning British king and queen to step foot on the American soil.

A dinner was hosted by the president and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt at White House. The servants prepared the gold table service. Only the most delectable American cuisines were served and the menu included clam cocktail, calf’s head soup, terrapin, corn bread, boned capon, cranberry sauce, peas, buttered beets, sweet-potato cones, frozen cheese and cress salad, maple and almond ice cream, white pound cake and coffee.

King George VI, Sara D. Roosevelt, New York State Governor Herbert Lehman, and Elinor Morgenthau at the hot dog picnic at Top Cottage in Hyde Park, New York. June 11, 1939. Image from Wikimedia Commons

The monarchs proceeded to New York where they were guests at the Roosevelts' Hyde Park home. It was an opportunity for them to relax and dinner at Springwood was described to the press as a casual affair between the two families with simple conversation and unfettered informalities. The next day, the royal guests were brought to the president's hilltop retreat, Top Cottage, on the eastern part of his estate where an old-fashioned, American-style picnic was organized. The king and queen were served hot dogs on the front porch, much to the surprise of FDR's mother, Sara Roosevelt. It was quickly picked up by the press and the hot dog and picnic affair landed on the front page of the New York Times. But what the press did not mention was the a more delicate fare fit for a King and Queen was also prepared.

The meeting was not just a solidification of Anglo-American alliance, it was also a fresh taste of American cuisines to the British royals. 


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