James Buchanan

Today is Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. As we contemplate the beauty of people uniting around grilled cheeses across the country (more on this next week…) and even the world, it is especially ironic that today’s sandwich recalls the presidency of James Buchanan who is generally recognized as one of the least effective and most divisive presidents in U.S. history.

To be fair, he was handed a pretty rough situation. The nation was more divided when he took office in 1857 than it had ever been, and though he declared that his main aim was to “restore harmony to the Union,” he also declared that the issue was “a matter of but little practical importance,” and that it would be “speedily and finally settled.” Right. Buchanan was a Northern Democrat who had sympathies with the Southern states, earning him the name of “doughface,” someone who is easily moldable.

History, you’re making it too easy!

To make your doughboyface sandwich, purchase some Southern Homestyle biscuit dough,

study Buchanan’s portrait,

and begin to mold:

While your Buchanan biscuits are baking, ponder the famed Pony Express, the dazzlingly rapid service that arose as Buchanan was ending his presidency. It united the East and West coasts by mail in just 10 days before the telegraph came along and managed to do the job in seconds. The Pony Express was particularly influential in including California with the rest of the U.S. (Considering one of the grilled cheese chefs lives in California and the other has a healthy obsession with all things mail-related, this seems a particularly noteworthy poignant life-altering factoid.)

Also, pour yourself some Flip Flop Chardonnay, representing Buchanan’s epicurean taste, as well as his ineffectual attempts to flip between Northern and Southern interests.

Before the biscuits are done, in an effort to keep things balanced, bring in some Northern (and Californian) cheese.

But divide the cheese to recognize that color played a big role in the growing conflict.

However, when it is time to put the cheese on the baked biscuits, mix the cheeses once more to recognize that when it comes to color, both the South and the North had complicated and deeply troubling histories, histories that continue to influence racial realities in the U.S. today.

Replace the top biscuit and enjoy your sandwich.

Or at least some of it. Because like the war that followed Buchanan’s presidency, your sandwich will be larger than you anticipated, and will not be “speedily and finally settled.” There will be plenty left over for tomorrow.

For dessert, attempt to follow this recipe for Moss Rose Cake, which “coldn’t help pleasing President Buchanan, who liked the subtle flavor of almond in many dishes.” Because you think almond flavoring is pretty gross, shove whole (chocolate-covered) almonds into the cake once it is baked. The almond flavor will perhaps be less subtle than Buchanan would like it, but it will be more delicious.

You will discover that you have essentially made incredibly dense angel food cake. You won’t get through much of this in one sitting either.

A few other interesting facts are worth noting:

  • Buchanan is the only president from Pennsylvania.
  • He is also the only president who was a bachelor his whole life and some historians think he was gay.
  • He had extensive international experience, serving as an envoy to Russia and Pierce’s minister to England.
  • Because he was not married, his niece fulfilled the duties of the First Lady at the White House.
  • He inspired one Internet user to great creative lengths in coming up with “10 Fun Facts” about him. These “facts” are worth noting, though taken together, their chance of being accurate is about as high as was Buchanan’s chance of keeping the country together. They are all worth checking out (seriously, check them out) but perhaps the most intriguing is the story about Buchanan being replaced by Sacagawea on the Lewis and Clark expedition because of an archery accident “involving his buttocks.”

Hail to the Cheese!

- Sarah

Originally published at commanderincheese.tumblr.com.

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