Posted by: Erica Retrochef | April 4, 2016

Chicken Pilau

Since these political recipes were Buzz’s idea, it always his responsibility to find one each month. This time around, he decided to approach it by thinking, “What famous politicians probably really liked to eat?” Taft was too easy, so he settled on Warren Harding, a president well known now as a man of strong appetites.

So he searched the Web for recipes associated with President Harding, and he found a digitzed gem—The Stag Cook Book from 1922, “written for men by men.” And it is really quite an impressive collection, with recipe submitted by politicians, judges, entertainers, intellectuals, writers, and diplomats. Poets, short story writers, and illustrators provided recipes in their respective genres. William Jennings Bryan apparently really liked onion rings, and Harold Lloyd likes cakes with lemon filling. Warren Harding’s recipe is for waffles, one of two waffle recipes in the book. (Harding recommends topping his waffles with a cream gravy made from chipped beef.)

However, Harding’s recipe is not the first one from the book that we eventually decided to make. Instead, we chose the Chicken Pilau contributed by a member of Harding’s cabinet, Will Hays, the postmaster general. Prior to the election of 1920, Hays had headed the Republican National Committee and managed Harding’s presidential campaign. As postmaster general, he oversaw the postal service at a time when it was significantly expanding its volume and parcel shipping options. Yet Hays left the position after less than a year, to take the job that made his name famous: censoring the film industry.

By the time The Stag Cook Book came out, Hays had taken over as the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. He gave his named to the Hays Code, which ended all nudity, suggestive dances, ridicule of religion, venereal disease, and sympathetic adultery (among many other things) in mainstream American film for decades. In Hays’ memory, the remainder of this post will be written in accordance with the United States Motion Picture Production Code of 1930, and so will contain no kisses lasting more than three seconds.

It will, however, contain a lot of chicken and rice.



“Get a fat hen — the fatter the better.”

Because this recipe comes from a Southern cook, there are no accurate measurements.

Sam would always recommend a “fat hen” — “the fatter the better,” and “‘nough rice and plenty of pepper.”

This I know: The chicken is cut up and boiled in the water until tender. Should be cooked in a good sized flat bottom kettle. When then chicken is tender there should be enough of the stock to come up well around it, but not to cover it. Then put in with the chicken about a scant pint of well washed rice. This should be stirred ONCE, Sam says, and allowed to steam slowly an hour. Use plenty of pepper to season and salt to taste. Each grain of rice should be fat and juicy. Successfully made it is delicious.


It’s slightly harder to get an entire whole chicken nowadays than it was in the 20s. But it is quite easy to get chicken pieces… nicely circumventing the whole “cut it up” process. (If you’re looking closely, you may note there are no wings or parson’s nose in this assemblage.)


Put the chicken in the pot with some water. Put it on the heat and walk away for a while. We assumed that some salt was necessary at this stage in order that the final results should be edible and guesstimated how much Sam would have used.


Put some rice in the pot with the chicken and water. STIR ONLY ONCE and walk away for a while.


And it worked. Good job, Southern person named Sam!


I was pleasantly surprised at how flavorful this was. Rice, chicken, and black pepper — somehow those three simple ingredients became tastier than expected. It was way easy, and tasted nice next to a simple green salad.;view=1up;seq=109 Hathi Trust


  1. This is all going to depend on the chicken fat- looks like you chose well

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