Don’t let sayings like “as American as apple pie” fool you. Apple pie evolved out of Europe. Key lime pie, on the other hand, was born in Key West, Florida, U.S.A. Perhaps no other pie has rubbed elbows with as many presidents of the United States as our lovely Key lime. It is with that in mind that, on this Independence Day, we honor the First Lady of Pies with some presidential close encounters of the Key lime kind.
In 1912, President Taft took the Over-Sea Railroad to Key West on his way to inspect the Panama Canal. Mayor Fogarty hosted a reception for the president in the former home of his late mother-in-law, Sarah Curry. Sarah Curry is the likely “Aunt Sally” credited with creating the first Key lime pie.
Roland Craig had a fishing lodge on a spit of fill near Mile Marker 72 (called Craig Key) that claimed ”the best Key lime pie in the Keys.” Herbert Hoover moored his fishing yacht there in the ’30s, and visited enough times that they added a post office where he could get his mail. If the photos of a smiling Hoover posing beside large pies are any indication, it’s safe to bet he enjoyed the famous dessert while visiting Craig.
Harry S. Truman
Captain Ed Butters drove one of his wife Fern’s famous Key lime pies from Islamorada to Key West so President Truman could have a taste. The First Lady sent a thank-you letter noting what a treat the pie variety was to “us mid-westerners.” Fern’s pies are said to have become one of the Trumans’ favorite treats.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Continuing her tradition, Fern Butters sent one of her famous Key lime pies to President Eisenhower while he was in Key West recovering from a 1955 heart attack. Two days later she received a letter from the Commander-In-Chief thanking her for the “beautiful and delicious” pie and extending best wishes for 1956. The letter held a place of honor on the wall of the Fern Inn for years.
Good Housekeeping says Tricky Dick liked highbrow beef wellington and lowbrow Key lime pie. His favorite version came from Bert “Lee” Wexelbaum’s famous shop in Goulds. It is claimed Nixon ordered them 10 at a time when residing at his Winter White House on Key Biscayne.
Writer Tom Cavanagh attended an event where Ford was both speaker and guest of honor. When the former president started talking football, Cavanagh’s mind wandered and he started calculating the ease with which a crazy person could hit the president with a slice of the Key lime pie being served. Secret Service agents picked up on his wandering eyes. With a few questions, they realized he was not the kind of crazy person who would throw pie at a former president and dessert went off without a hitch (full story at bagsmasher.com).
Hunter S. Thompson got sidetracked writing “The Meaning of Jimmy Carter” for a Rolling Stone assignment and wrote “The Meaning of Breakfast” instead. His description of favorite breakfast items included two margaritas, six lines of cocaine and a slice of Key lime pie. Both stories appeared in Rolling Stone’s June issue as “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’76.” The article may have helped Carter win the election.
Queen of Cake, Maida Heatter, was asked to prepare Key lime pie for Ronald Reagan at a 1983 economic summit. She bartered brownies for real Key limes from her Florida friends, only to have the Secret Service agents drop her pies moments before they were to be served to the president.
A March 2000 New Yorker article described President Clinton’s attempts to lose weight and the dietary restrictions passed on to the Four Seasons New York’s kitchen where he was dining. According to the report, Clinton was able to get away with a doggie bag containing a slice of Key lime pie.
George W. Bush
President Bush was such a pie fan he brought in Bill Yosses as White House executive pastry chef. Yosses, author of “Desserts for Dummies,” made a special White House Key lime pie for the president with a Greek yogurt filling.
President Obama geared up for his final presidential debate in 2012 with a feast of stone crabs and Key lime pie delivered from Joe’s Stone Crab and devoured on Marine One.
Key lime pie is the most requested dessert at Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. Even Oprah Winfrey raves about it. If her love of Key lime pie is any indication, we might be adding President Winfrey to this list one day, too.
Happy Independence Day.
Love & Limes.