Plum Pudding & Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Christmas Message, 1944


During the Roosevelt years. FDR spent time talking to the American people via radio; these became his famous “Fireside Chats.” On Christmas Eve, Roosevelt would do one of his chats and then read Charles Dickens’s  “A Christmas Carol” to his grandchildren.

This what he said in 1944, the turning point of World War II:

“The Christmas spirit lives tonight in the bitter cold of the front lines of Europe and in the heat of the jungles and swamps of Burma and the Pacific Islands. Even the roar of our bombers and fighters in the air and the guns of our ships at sea will not drown out the messages of Christmas which come to the hearts of our fighting men. The thoughts of these men tonight will turn to us here at home around our Christmas trees, surrounded by our children and grandchildren and their Christmas stockings and gifts — just as our own thoughts go out to them, tonight and every night, in their distant places.”

Today, his words tug poignantly at our sleeves, because we still find war to  be the “answer.” But war is NOT the answer.

One would hope that war will cease someday in this world. Might we not strive harder to understand and respect one another, working toward compromise and thus an ensuing peace? A return to the concept of the “common good?”

My thoughts today lie with all the people of the world. Let’s all aspire to true peace on earth. Finally.

And one more reflection on this day of reflections:

Food still could play an important part on the peace-making process.

Ponder Henrietta Nesbitt’s comments about FDR and the effect of plum pudding on his demeanor …

Henrietta Nesbitt, on left, with Eleanor Roosevelt
Henrietta Nesbitt, on left, with Eleanor Roosevelt

Food notes:  In 1944, the Roosevelt’s housekeeper, Henrietta Nesbitt, said that she wanted to make the President’s favorite — plum pudding — in spite of the severe rationing going on across the country. “But I made up my mind there would be a plum pudding on the Christmas table! That was the supreme moment of the Roosevelt year, when the plum pudding came in on its silver tray, set in holly, with the blue flame of the brandy lighting up the circle of old and young faces. No matter what President’s Roosevelt’s worries were, he looked his happiest then. So I made the plum pudding.”

Mrs. Nesbitt’s Plum Pudding

Photo credit: Robbie Sproule

1 1/2 pounds each of grated bread crumbs (use bread a day or two old), seeded raisins, currants, brown and white sugar
1 pound kidney suet chopped fine
1/2 pound each mixed orange and lemon peel, and cut walnuts
1 t. each nutmeg, mace, cinnamon
1/4 t. cloves
12 eggs

“I beat my sugar and eggs to a cream, mix in the suet and bread crumbs, then blend in everything; moisten with sherry, grape juice, or brandy, and steam in molds for three hours.” (From The Presidential Cookbook: Feeding the Roosevelts and Their Guests, by Victoria Henrietta Nesbitt)

A few resources about the Roosevelts and their food during the White House years:

“Home Cooking in the FDR White House: The Indomitable Mrs. Nesbitt,” in: From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals, by Barbara Haber.

The Presidential Cookbook: Feeding the Roosevelts and Their Guests, by Victoria Henrietta Nesbitt


© 2008 C. Bertelsen

2 thoughts on “Plum Pudding & Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Christmas Message, 1944

  1. Mrs. Nesbitt was my grandmother and I wondered if your recipe came from her cookbook. We have had to make some adjustments to what was printed to make it for today’s standards. I would be interested in hearing from you.

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