NOVEMBER 19, 1959
NEW YORK—I have never mentioned in this column the book written by my oldest son, James, about his father, called "Affectionately, F.D.R." No father could have asked for a more understanding and sympathetic tribute from a son, and it is certainly written with deep affection.
I have a slight reservation about some things that are said in the book about other people, but not about my husband. The reason is that I think they reflect the observations and feelings of a very young man, perhaps at the time not quite capable of understanding certain things and who, therefore, was impatient.
For instance, he criticizes the housekeeper who was with us during all the years that we were in the White House and in doing so, of course, in an indirect manner he criticizes me. For he does not seem to realize that whatever Mrs. Nesbitt did she did under my direction.
And as a young man he just was not aware of the many things that made the housekeeper's job in the White House a difficult one. There was more to it for Mrs. Nesbitt than merely to try to provide the President of the United States and his guests with the best possible food. There were doctors in the White House to whom she had to listen. There were budgets to be considered. And there were times when we tried out things for the sake of some policy that was being urged upon the people.
For example, I remember well feeding everyone for a time on the same menus that had been worked out for people on relief in the days of the depression by the home economics experts in the Department of Agriculture. These menus were designed to keep one healthy, but certainly not to give one pleasure. And I remember well the day when the author of this book, my son James, said to me pathetically at lunch: "If I paid five cents extra, Mother, could I have a glass of milk?"
And there was the time Amelia Earhart, who was staying with us on a brief visit, said she was hungry and could get nothing to eat in the late evening. This was because she did not know how to go about it! And my son, John, found the icebox locked at night and was outraged!
I am quite sure no one complained of the food during a short period when we were trying out some of the very good recipes one particular lady left with us. She had been visiting the White House to do research on some of Martha Washington's and other First Ladies' favorite recipes. But at other times it is quite likely that the meals were not always to the liking of many of our friends or members of the family.
I think I know good food if I stop to think about it, but too often I do not stop to think about it, so I know I'm no great help to a housekeeper.
In one or two other cases, too, I think the book reflects youthful opinions. But, on the whole, in its main objective I think it achieves a remarkable warmth, and both my son and Mr. Sidney Shalett, who worked with him, must be pleased with the results they achieved in "Affectionately, F.D.R."