Over the next four weeks I will be bringing you the story of how an Australian author gets into the heads of an ex US President and First Lady, then researches and writes a historical fiction novel that revolves around their time in power. This week it's all about the birth of the idea.
The President’s SpudsThe idea for THE PRESIDENT'S LUNCH came while I was completing the first draft of PERFECT NORTH, my novel published in 2013. It was 2010 and I was busy searching online food sites for a recipe for roasted potatoes.
I didn't want just any old roasted potatoes, though. I was seeking something special, roasted potatoes with a twist, so I visited the Gourmet magazine website. An American publication, Gourmet never disappointed when it came to finding something a little out of the ordinary.
Once the recipe was sourced I stayed on the site and began scanning the featured articles. Eventually I came across a piece written by American journalist and culinary historian, Laura Shapiro. It was titled FDR’s Anti-epicurean White House.
What followed was the astonishing tale of Henrietta Nesbitt, the presidential housekeeper during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s twelve-year administration.
I knew something of FDR’s presidency from the American history courses I took at university, but after reading Shapiro’s article I became fascinated by the fact that the wheelchair-bound president, who navigated the United States through the rough days of the Depression, Pearl Harbour and World War Two, was never served a tolerable meal while at the White House.
The volatile relationship between the leader and his housekeeper struck me as a wonderful premise for a Frank Capra film, or even a novel.