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On Eve of War, Truman Turned to Comfort Food
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On Eve of War, Truman Turned to Comfort Food

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On Eve of War, Truman Turned to Comfort Food

On Eve of War, Truman Turned to Comfort Food
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President Truman with Gen. MacArthur, who led U.S. forces at the beginning of the Korean war. On the i

President Truman with Gen. MacArthur, who led U.S. forces at the beginning of the Korean War. On the eve of the war, Truman hosted a White House dinner for his war Cabinet that featured down-home dishes, including fried chicken and fruit cups. hide caption

toggle caption
President Truman with Gen. MacArthur, who led U.S. forces at the beginning of the Korean war. On the

President Truman with Gen. MacArthur, who led U.S. forces at the beginning of the Korean War. On the eve of the war, Truman hosted a White House dinner for his war Cabinet that featured down-home dishes, including fried chicken and fruit cups.

Chief White House Butler Alonzo Fields' dinner menu for June 25, 1950. i

Fried chicken wasn't the only comfort food on Truman's mind on the eve of war. Also on the menu: vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate sauce. Chief White House Butler Alonzo Fields' typewritten menu for June 25, 1950, is now part of a National Archives exhibit. Courtesy of The Harry S. Truman Library hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of The Harry S. Truman Library
Chief White House Butler Alonzo Fields' dinner menu for June 25, 1950.

Fried chicken wasn't the only comfort food on Truman's mind on the eve of war. Also on the menu: vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate sauce. Chief White House Butler Alonzo Fields' typewritten menu for June 25, 1950, is now part of a National Archives exhibit.

Courtesy of The Harry S. Truman Library
President Truman and Mrs. Truman return to the White House after renovations.  Alonzo Fields, Chief

Chief White House Butler Alonzo Fields (far right) looks on as President Truman and Mrs. Truman return to the White House after renovations. Fields worked at the White House for two decades. National Archives hide caption

toggle caption National Archives

Everyone is familiar with comfort food. Whether you're disappointed over a missed job opportunity or crying over a breakup, chances are that you've turned to that one food that always seems to make you feel better. For President Truman's White House, the food was fried chicken — and the crisis was the Korean War.

On Sunday, June 25, 1950, a last-minute dinner with the war Cabinet was to be planned, and only one man was there to do it: Alonzo Fields, chief White House butler during the Truman administration. The day before the dinner, Korea had invaded its southern neighbor, and President Truman was home in Missouri for the weekend.

Because the president was away, Fields gave his staff the weekend off as well — which ended up leaving him short-staffed when he was suddenly called in. He got the call at 4 p.m. that day. The president was returning unexpectedly and wanted cocktails and dinner at 8 p.m. for his war Cabinet.

Fields planned the menu during his frenzied cab ride to the White House. In the days before cell phones, it was difficult to track down his staff, so Fields enlisted the D.C. police to help round them up. Meanwhile, he made canap├ęs for cocktails until the first cook arrived. By 8:30 p.m. the dinner of fried chicken, buttered asparagus, scalloped tomatoes and shoestring potatoes was served. After dinner, all servers were dismissed so that the Truman and his cabinet could begin planning what would become the Korean War.

Fields' type-written notes from that day are now part of a new display at the National Archives. It's called "Eyewitness: American Originals from the National Archives" and will begin touring the country next year.

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