AUGUST 13, 1948
HYDE PARK, Thursday—It has been a little hard this summer to read the many books that have come my way, but I finally did get a chance to enjoy "The White House Diary" by Henrietta Nesbitt (FDR's housekeeper).
When I read the message from Mrs. Nesbitt on the fly leaf, I was a little overcome and embarrassed, because Mrs. Nesbitt is truly kind to all of us. It is true she didn't always like all of our friends and some of the visitors seem to have been a real trial, but so far as my husband and myself and the children are concerned she was certainly a very charitable and generous friend.
Some of the recipes she gives still make my mouth water, and I wish she were still doing some baking and I could ask her to send us some of the things we all liked so much.
Of course, there are a few slight inaccuracies in the book, but it is interesting and readable. Mrs. Nesbitt's viewpoint was all her own, and she perhaps had the opportunity of knowing people better in certain ways than anyone else in the house. Luckily, she seems to have been able to keep some sense of humor through these trying years in the White House, and I will always remember gratefully how she and Mr. Nesbitt came together and tackled a very big job because I asked them to do it. She says very generously that it was a lifesaver for her, but it was also a lifesaver for me.
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I always got on well with Mrs. Nesbitt. My husband became difficult about his food in the last few years, and with rationing troubles it became more difficult to give him the things he really wanted.
The greatest sacrifice which Mrs. Nesbitt made for him was working with his mother's cook, whom he kept after Mrs. Roosevelt's death in 1941 to cook two meals a day for him in the White House and to go to Hyde Park when he went there. Some of my time was spent mediating between Mrs. Nesbitt and Mary, the cook, who had her own kitchen on the top floor of the White House. When I was away, Miss Thompson took over the job of mediating.
One of my daughters-in-law used to worry a great deal about our White House food, which she did not consider very good, and as I had never been able to pretend that I knew anything about food, I had to be very humble about her criticisms and try to remedy the defects. Not being conscious of them myself, I'm afraid I was not very successful. Thus, I was very grateful when our daughter joined our household after her husband went overseas, because she could interpret what had then become Franklin's whims far better than I could.
All in all, I think Mrs. Nesbitt deserves the gratitude of every member of our family for her patience and efficiency during the busy years in the White House, and I only wish our paths crossed more often today.