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George Washington did love cherries. Abraham Lincoln hosted elaborate state dinners but preferred simple foods such as an apple chased down with a cup of coffee.

During the Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt shared hot dogs with the queen of England.

Richard Nixon lunched on a bowl of cottage cheese and ketchup. Bill Clinton, carnivore turned vegan, was known to devour fast-food hamburgers.

Today, President Barack Obama favors nuts, seeds and raisins for snacks, as well as dining out at Washington, D.C., restaurants with his wife, Michelle, a champion of healthy eating.

As we mark Presidents Day, the eating habits of those living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. seldom factor into their historical legacy, yet the national curiosity remains high for their food preferences.

Knowing what presidents eat offers a peek into their everyday lives and, according to research, into their personalities. In the words of French gastronome Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are."

Dr. Alan Hirsch, a neurologist and psychiatrist, agrees. Hirsch founded the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. According to his research, Ronald Reagan's craving for jelly beans and George H.W. Bush's disdain for broccoli may be driven more by personality than taste buds.

"There's clearly a link between food and personality. Food is like the ink blobs in the Rorschach test, a window to who we are," said Hirsch, who drew his conclusions after correlating personality traits with food preferences for 18,631 adults.

His research shows that people tend to eat the opposite of their personality. For example, the timid gravitate to spicy foods. There's also nothing ho-hum about vanilla lovers. Hirsch's research paints them as outgoing, life-of-the-party types.

His take on some presidential favorites:

Those who munch on fried pork rinds, a favorite of the elder Bush, are gregarious, loyal and generous.

Cherry lovers such as Washington are aggressive, workaholics and prefer living modestly.

Ketchup eaters like Nixon are achievement-oriented, risk takers, conquerors and respond to provocation in kind.

Nuts, seeds and raisin noshers, such as Obama, are pleasant, good at friendships, quiet, thoughtful and prefer working in a large office. (Oval Office big enough?)

Research aside, Americans scrutinize the taste buds of presidents for the same reasons they want to know what famous chefs keep in their refrigerators.

"It's pulling back the curtain on their lives. They might be the leader of the free world, but they eat like you and me," said John Moeller, author of "Dining at the White House" and chef for George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush. "It's hard to beat the draw of food, politics and personality."

The menus of state dinners and other White House galas are created by chefs and documented by historians, with taxpayers footing the bill. The meals the first family eats every day on their own dime are less public but more revealing.

"The food they eat at their own table," Moeller said, "tells the rest of us a little bit about who they really are."

Presidents Day taste-bud trivia

Some favorite foods:

Jimmy Carter: Baked grits, cornbread, pork chops with cornbread stuffing, rice and red beans, ham and cheese sandwiches, kale, okra, collard greens, butter beans, fried corn, peanuts.

Lyndon Johnson: Chipped beef, steak, chop suey, barbecue ribs, biscuits with deer sausage, tapioca pudding.

John F. Kennedy: New England fish chowder, lamb chops, fish, mashed potatoes, baked beans, corn muffins.

Theodore Roosevelt: Fried chicken and gravy, dandelion greens, pigs in blankets, liver and bacon, kidney stew, Indian pudding, game meats, oysters, green-turtle soup.

Calvin Coolidge: Corn soup, gumbo, lobster, roast lamb, Virginia ham, egg timbales, black cherries.

James Garfield: Squirrel soup, soda bread, fluffy mashed potatoes, parsnips, apple pie.

Thomas Jefferson: Waffles, sweet potatoes, turnips, baked shad, Virginia ham, green peas, crab, sweet corn.

Source: foodtimeline.org

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