While it can be difficult to write about female politicians and cooking, there is no denying that Dr. Jill Biden loves to cook. Yes, she has a successful career outside the home, but she has also made cooking part of her family tradition. She established a ritual of cooking dinner for the then-widowed Joe Biden and his two young sons, Hunter and Beau, when they first married. “It was a tradition and a hub for our family,” she wrote in her 2019 memoir (via The Washington Post), and “a constant the boys could depend on” because Dr. Biden believes “food is love.”
She even mentioned to Parade in January 2021 that the kitchen is “my turf.” When her husband Joe would come into the kitchen and ask if he could help her, she turned him down. “I just try to get him out of the kitchen because I like doing it by myself,” she said (though we are sure she at least appreciates that he offered).
Now that the president and first lady have moved into the White House, Jill will no longer be in charge of her own kitchen, placing her trust in the resident White House executive chef since 2005, Cristela Comerford (per Ms.). But Jill set a precedent in those early days, not just in the ritual of an evening meal, but in the kinds of foods they eat. Let’s take a look at some of the foods Jill likes to prepare and eat alongside her family.
The Bidens love the staples — especially ice cream
Joe Biden seems to have a reputation as a basic eater. Perhaps it’s part of his public persona as a politician, as it is with many political leaders, but with Biden, it’s also genuine. The Washington Post reports that interviews with people who know the Bidens say their tastes “run middle American and somewhat healthy, thanks to Jill [Biden].”
Their former caterer, Chris Freeman, describes Joe as “a man of the people, and his taste in food reflects that proletarian approach.” He reportedly ordered a cheeseburger when the Bidens dined at the fancy French restaurant Le Diplomate in Washington D.C. during his term as vice president (though, presumably, his political persona was part of that decision, too). At one of Jill’s birthday dinners at Bardea Food & Drink in Wilmington, Del., Joe ordered spaghetti and meatballs, while Jill dined on a spicy branzino. Even Dr. Biden herself told Parade that Joe “is pretty much a basic eater.” At least he does not only eat fast food.
Thus, Joe likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pasta (particularly angel hair) with red sauce, chicken tenders, and definitely ice cream. Their kitchen is stocked with the staples, albeit with a more health-conscious bent: eggs, cheese, low-fat yogurt, peanut butter and grape jelly, and plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially apples and grapes. They also have Diet Coke and Coke Zero, and Special K cereal. Jill apparently also makes a wicked fried egg breakfast sandwich. Yum!
Dr. Jill Biden's Italian heritage shines through in her preferred dishes
Fortunately, Joe Biden’s reputation for liking the basics does not keep Dr. Jill Biden from making some of her favorite dishes. Jill is Italian, and her heritage shows in her cooking. She told Parade that her paternal grandmother, who used to make traditional Italian meals for the family dinners, has always been her culinary hero. “Her cooking was the best — the red sauce and the meatballs and the pasta,” Jill said. Food was a big part of Jill’s upbringing, and she spoke of the affection she had for cooking meals with her grandmother, her mother, and her four sisters.
Jill then paid it forward, creating the same traditions and similar dishes for her own family. She explains that cooking “was an important part of establishing [her] relationship” early on with Hunter and Beau, whose mother and younger sister had died in a car accident. These family dinners were a way to “give them security and love.” The combination of family, food, and love is perhaps why her approach to cooking is so traditional.
Jill also shared her family’s chicken parmesan recipe, and though it takes time to prepare, she does not mind because it’s a favorite for Sunday dinners. Though a bit decadent, it’s chock full of good stuff, like extra-virgin olive oil, onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes, eggs, milk, and basil, and of course, lots of cheese. She serves it with rigatoni and a garden salad for some extra nutrition. It’s a labor of love and the love clearly shines through.
Jill Biden is not afraid to splurge from time to time
Dr. Jill Biden is a pretty health-conscious eater and an advocate for good exercise. She enjoys taking barre classes, and she’s a runner who has participated in races and half-marathons, often for charities, for going on 20 years (per Runner’s World). As she told Self in January 2016, “I think exercise and being healthy creates total balance in life.”
Thus, she always has fresh fruits and vegetables on hand and taught her family to eat them, for example, with hummus, as snacks. Eating well and exercising is not always easy on a busy schedule, especially with a politician husband who needs to travel a lot. But she relies on quick, portable snacks like fruits and almonds. She also tries to stay hydrated, as she told Parade.
But with all the healthy eating, Biden does not have a problem with splurging once in a while. Her guilty pleasure is French fries, a taste she shares with former first lady Michelle Obama. And she has no problem with giving kids junk food if they ask for it. “I think everything in moderation,” she said. “I don’t think you should cut it out completely, I don’t think that’s practical.” She also enjoys the occasional martini, though she prefers red wine — especially while cooking with the family. “It’s always fun to just turn on a little music, have a glass of wine and cook,” she said. Joe Biden, however, is a notorious teetotaler, having once told The New York Times, “There are enough alcoholics in my family.”
Dr. Jill Biden likes to improvise when it comes to food
Eating heathy, especially while juggling a busy schedule as a mom, public figure, and English professor, often requires planning. Dr. Jill Biden is no different, making a schedule both for exercising and for meals. “Health is a priority for me,” she said in a 2016 Self interview. “Because if you’re not healthy, then what do you do?”
As a result, she exercises every day, and before her time in the White House, when she cooked meals for her family, she said, “I actually planned my meals ahead. Because I was teaching, I didn’t have a lot of time to go to the store. I checked ingredients for all my meals, I learned that.” She credits a home economics class that she had to take in school for learning about meal-planning.
But as much as Biden knows about the importance of planning, she also likes to wing it, and certainly understands the importance (and fun) of improvisation. “I always just throw it together,” she told Parade about her cooking style, which often consists of just throwing everything in the pot. “I’ve been making these recipes for so long that I just do it from scratch and from memory.” But improvising and being healthy are not mutually exclusive, as Biden well knows: She likes to add lots of extra veggies to make it healthier.
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