Steak and the Presidency

September 2, 1958

Historically, American presidents are remembered in a sort of “ranking,” with some being more popular than others. Dwight Eisenhower (in office 1953-1961) is renowned for a number of events. He brought an end to the Korean War, authorized the establishment of NASA, contributed to bringing down “McCarthyism,” expanded Social Security, introduced the Interstate Highway System, made 5 appointments to the Supreme Court, brought DARPA to the forefront (the precursor to the internet), desegregated the armed forces, admitted Alaska and Hawaii into the Union, and on September 2, 1958, signed the National Defense Education Act into law.

American pride had been shaken with the Soviets launching Sputnik in 1957. All of a sudden, another  country was perceived as being “better, smarter, stronger.” Additionally, the United States was in short supply of mathematicians, and Eisenhower wanted to see more students in college. Back in 1940, only 15% of 18-22 year olds were enrolled in college. By 1970, that number grew to 40%.

NDEA provided funding to universities, encouraging students to follow the college track. One stipulation for the funding, however, caused a significant stir among professors throughout the nation. As a part of the anti-McCarthyism movement, Eisenhower mandated that anyone accepting funds must sign an affidavit disclaiming any beliefs in overthrowing the US government.

Scholars were enraged, claiming the government was attempting to control beliefs. Princeton and Yale refused the funding (which gained immediate national attention) and by 1962, President John F. Kennedy repealed the mandated affidavit. By that time, 153 institutions had joined the protest.

The only five star general to ever be elected president, Dwight Eisenhower was also a steak-lover, and had a specific way that steaks were to be prepared. Though not the first to grill this way, Eisenhower certainly brought attention to grilling steaks directly on the coals, and (as he knew) the result is nothing short of tantalizing.

Dirty Steak

No gas grills for this one…you’ll need the hot coals!

4 eight ounce ribeye, sirloin, t-bone or strip steaks, cut 1 inch thick, at room temperature
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stick unsalted butter
1 quartered lemon

Sprinkle both sides of the steaks generously with salt and pepper. Prepare hot coals by lighting the briquets and waiting for the flame to subside, leaving behind red/white hot coals. Cover half of the bottom grate with them. Place each steak directly onto the hot coals for 2 minutes. Turn them over and grill for 3 minutes (for rare steak), 5-6 minutes (for medium-rare to medium steak). Spread the melted butter over the top and squeeze the lemon on before serving.

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