Joe and Kamala in the kitchen (or at least the dining room)

  • Ingredients for tuna melt. For the Recorder/Tinky Weisblat—

  • Swirling in the chocolate For the Recorder/Tinky Weisblat—

  • Tuna melt For the Recorder/Tinky Weisblat

  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., flips pork chops at the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 10, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. Associated Press/John Locher

  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., flips pork chops at the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. Associated Press/John Locher

  • President Donald Trump talks to the press about the table full of fast food in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, for the reception for the Clemson Tigers. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh

  • President Donald Trump talks to the media about the table full of fast food in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Jan. 14, 2019, for the reception for the Clemson Tigers. AP/Susan Walsh

  • French fries and pizza are some of the fast food items for the reception for the Clemson Tigers in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh

  • Vice President Joe Biden eats ice cream during a visit to Little Man Ice Cream, in Denver, July 21, 2015. Associated Press/Brennan Linsley—AP

  • Chocolate chip ice cream. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/TINKY WEISBLAT

  • Cutting chocolate for the ice cream. FOR THE RECORDER/TINKY WEISBLAT

For the Recorder
Published: 1/13/2021 12:49:12 PM


The White House will become more sophisticated after next Wednesday’s inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris — and I’m not referring to political policy. I have opinions about that, of course, but I leave policy analysis to straight-news reporters and pundits.

As a food writer, I’m considering the culinary attitudes of Biden and Harris.

Americans have long been fascinated by the foods their presidents eat. When I visited Mount Vernon in Virginia a few years back, I happily came home with a recipe for one of George Washington’s favorite dishes, hoe cakes. Perhaps I’ll write about these cornmeal-based pancakes next month for President’s Day.

In general, the Trump White House has been characterized by its fast-food-oriented banality. In their 2017 book “Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency,” former Trump campaign cronies Corey Lewandowski and David N. Bossie wrote, “On Trump Force One there were four major food groups: McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza and Diet Coke.”

Joe Biden is also known for his embrace of humble American food. A caterer who frequently served him when he was vice president characterized the politician’s food leanings as “very Joe-from-Scranton” in the “Washington Post.” Nevertheless, Biden’s culinary tastes are a bit more complex than those of his presidential predecessor — or at least more varied.

True to his reputation as a sociable creature, Biden goes beyond the lure of anonymous fast food. He and his wife often dine at restaurants, where he chats with the staff.

“Everybody knows Joe. He’s come here so many, so many, so many times,” the proprietor of the Charcoal Pit in Wilmington, Deleware told the magazine Food and Wine. Biden is perhaps best known for his love of ice cream.

To pay tribute to his ice-cream habit, I offer here a simple recipe for one of his favorite flavors, chocolate chip.

Vice President-to-be Kamala Harris has a richer relationship with food than her new boss. Perhaps this is because she herself cooks, something Biden rarely seems to do. She tries to prepare dinner every Sunday for her extended family, which includes the stepchildren who famously call her “Momala,” and she and her husband, Doug Emhoff, have been cooking up a storm during the pandemic.

Harris is a dab hand with roast chicken. True to her international roots, she likes to prepare and consume Indian cuisine. And she can chop an onion like nobody’s business. To highlight Harris here, I have chosen what may seem like an odd recipe: a tuna melt.

There is a story behind the recipe, however.

In April, her senatorial colleague, Mark Warner of Virginia, posted a video of his technique (I use the term loosely) for preparing a tuna melt. His method was simple and a little sad: blob lots of mayonnaise on two pieces of bread, fork some tuna straight from a can onto one piece, put pre-sliced cheese on the other piece, put the sandwich halves together and heat the whole thing in a microwave.

Harris posted a video reply in which she instructed Warner in the preparation of a more refined — and less soggy — tuna melt. Her sandwich involved several additional ingredients and the use of an actual stove.

“This is called a skillet,” she informed her fellow senator with a twinkle in her eye as she held up a cast-iron frying pan. I watched her video carefully and have transcribed the recipe as well as I could here.

Although her basic tuna salad differs from mine in a few ways (most notably in the inclusion of Dijon mustard, which Warner called “definitely Northern California”), it’s a solid recipe. I enjoyed the sandwich I made according to her instructions. I suggest that readers enjoy a tuna melt and chocolate-chip ice cream for lunch next Wednesday as the inauguration takes place.

This menu isn’t fancy, but it’s very American — and it somehow fits the scaled-down ceremony being planned in this pandemic year.

Joe’s Chocolate-Chip Ice Cream

Of course, you may use any vanilla ice cream recipe as the base for this treat. This one is very simple and very tasty.

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped chocolate chips or finely cut chocolate (the better the quality of the chocolate, the better your ice cream will be)

Combine the first four ingredients, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Freeze in an ice-cream freezer. Just before you think the ice cream is ready, stir in the chocolate pieces, making sure they spread throughout. Serves four. This recipe may be doubled.

This is tasty by itself, but my family felt impelled to gild the lily and cover the ice cream with hot fudge sauce and whipped cream.

Kamala’s Tuna Melt (inspired by Kamala Harris’s video with Mark Warner)

I actually prefer to brown my sandwich in butter rather than mayonnaise; I like the flavor of butter. This is Harris’s method, however.

1 can tuna drained and lightly chopped with a fork

1 tablespoon finely minced red onion (Harris notes that one may omit this step and put a thin slice of red onion on the bread later)

1/4 cup minced celery

2 generous tablespoons mayonnaise, plus additional mayonnaise for grilling

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard chopped parsley to taste freshly ground pepper to taste

About 1/2 teaspoon salt

Juice of 1 lemon wedge

2 pieces of bread

1 slice sharp cheddar (or a couple of slices if your wedge of cheddar is small)

Combine the tuna, the onion, the celery, the mayonnaise, the mustard, the parsley, the pepper, the salt, and the lemon juice.

Barely toast the bread. Put some of the tuna mixture on one piece of bread. (Refrigerate the remaining tuna for another use.)

Place the slice of cheese on the other piece of bread, and put the pieces of bread together to form a sandwich. Lightly spread mayonnaise on each outer slice of bread. Heat a cast-iron skillet, and toast your creation on each side until the sandwich is a pleasing color and the cheese has melted. Serves one senator.

Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website,

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