Of Broccoli-Hating, Deranged Bowels and Ex-Presidents

Abraham Lincoln had plenty of notable characteristics, but a healthy appetite wasn't among them. Even his stepmother wasn't impressed by his eating habits: "Abe was a moderate eater," she recalled. Lincoln typically ate an egg for breakfast and an apple for lunch -- if he remembered to eat at all. "He ate less than anyone I know," Lincoln's private secretary John Hay said.

Lincoln wasn't the only kitchen agnostic to reach the nation's highest office. In honor of Presidents' Day, City of Ate today presents a list of the five pickiest eaters ever to occupy the White House. Check here for our list of presidential gourmands.

1. John Quincy Adams As the son of a president and framer of the Monroe Doctrine, John Quincy Adams had ample opportunity to attend state banquets and other highfalutin feasts. But he was unmoved by the delicacies he encountered, failing to elaborate on the more than five dozen dinners he saw fit to mention in his memoirs. "Five or six small crackers and a glass of water give me a sumptuous dinner," he once said.

2. James Polk Poor James Polk. The Manifest Destiny-minded Tennessean and wife Sarah decided to travel through the Southeast after he left office in 1849. Their itinerary included a stop in New Orleans, where he was served opulent meals "prepared in the French style of cooking." Polk couldn't stand the rich food, complaining it caused "a derangement of stomach & bowels," and demanded ham and corn pone. Three months later, Polk was dead.

3. Franklin Pierce A native New Englander, Pierce didn't mind chowders and apple dowdy. Food, though, was the least of his cares when he served in the White House. He'd watched his 11-year-old son Bennie -- the only surviving Pierce child -- be crushed to death by a train two months before he took office. Pierce's wife, a depressed tubercular, was so distraught over the loss that she sat out Pierce's inauguration and spent her White House tenure writing letters to her dead son and conducting séances. Official hostess duties were handled by a family friend, but Pierce's lackluster dinners didn't impress D.C. society. Pierce did like to drink, though: An alcoholic, he died of cirrhosis.

4. James Garfield Garfield had a notoriously weak stomach even before Charles Guiteau shot him in the belly. He so hated oatmeal that when he heard Sitting Bull had declared a hunger strike, he reportedly responded, "Let him starve. No, send him my oatmeal." He did enjoy milk and squirrel soup: After the shooting, the White House bought a cow and issued a permit for its disbursing officer to catch squirrels, which doctors thought might inspire Garfield to eat again. Unfortunately, he died before the soup was presented to him.

5. George Bush "I do not like broccoli, and I haven't liked it since I was a little kid," the first President Bush told the press. "And I'm president of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli." Farmers tried to sway Bush by sending him tons of his least favorite vegetable, but he insisted on sticking with pork rinds and popcorn.

Follow City of Ate on Twitter: @cityofate.

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Hanna Raskin
Contact: Hanna Raskin