TDS 56 When Living In the Past Is Good For You Howard Dorre Plodding Through the Presidents


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If you’ve been inclined to feel a bit jaded about the world (or is just me?) then this episode of #thedeliciousstory will revive your hope in humanity. And how will you get to that happy state of mind? With a little help from the past, of course.
For this interview, we visit with history blogger Howard Dorre, an unapologetic history enthusiast who is “plodding” his way through research into the presidents of the United States. As you listen, you’ll discover how he migrated from trudging along with a small audience to flying high and capturing the attention of thousands of thrilled followers.
Plodding Through The Presidents began in 2013 with Howard’s simple self-improvement goal to read biographies and learn. And from there, “the rest is history” as it goes, because soon he became so enthralled that he began to dig deeper into the scandals, myths, and mysteries of our country’s presidents and found he liked sharing what he learned.
And as he excavated further, that’s when things got really interesting. Mixed with Howard’s excellent writing and keen observations, he takes the audience of Plodding on an ongoing history romp. With titles including, “Facts, Firebolts, and a Founding Fetus: An Update,” see if you don’t want to go ahead and read about George Washington’s gestation story!
Howard’s irreverence is such fun I found myself guffawing immediately, egged on by scintillating titles such as “Andrew Jackson’s Slut-Shaming Evolution,” and “How to Teach Your Baby About Slavery.” Once you dive in, you too can get a belly-laugh learning about the very underbelly of our past.
I was lucky to “find” Howard, not only because there is so much to learn by way of plodding with him, but also because he is creating this information out of love for the subject. Howard is a project manager by day, a spouse and dad fulltime, and then a roving history warrior in between those roles.
You’ll hear how Howard balances it all with the support of his wife, Jessica, who is his co-host for the podcast they’ve launched as well. During their episodes, the couple shares a lovely banter that makes subjects such as John and Abigail and smallpox a delight. Who says a plague can’t be fun?
But honestly, I’m a sucker for anyone who does something worthwhile for the pure joy of doing it. People rising to learn and create is a story I never tire of hearing. See if you don’t feel inspired by Howard’s journey and the pleasure he has for producing his work.
I’m the first to admit that my grasp of history can be spotty, so here I mention the two Adams discussed during the podcast as a favor in case you suffer from Adams confusion as well.
John Adams: John Adams was the second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. Since everything I actually “know” about history I learned from movies and musicals, just to place Adams, he was the VP for George Washington before becoming president. He is NOT actually featured in “Hamilton,” the musical, although he was one of Alexander’s best buddies and fellow federalists. On the other hand, Adams is one of my favorite characters in the musical “1776.” I’m thinking of the song “Sit Down John” as a great example.
John Quincy Adams: John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States from 1825 to 1829. He was John and Abigail Adam’s second child and first son. This meant he received all the pressure associated with being the firstborn boy. Howard explains how this played out for John Quincy, and you can decide for yourself whether the force of helicopter parents was a good or bad thing in his case.
Several of our Founding Fathers observed food preferences that they swore by for health. Howard teases out a few examples during the interview, but my favorite was about George Washington and his unusual morning habit. For those of you who are chocoholics, you’ll totally approve.
And he didn’t eat the stuff, but John Adams held strong opinions about manure. This was because Adams was actively involved in producing food much of his life, and manure was an important foundation. Adams kept a diary throughout his days with the understanding it would be read in the future, and in it, he chronicles his secret-sauce recipe for quality manure.
Back to the edible side of things, Howard also talked about George Washington and dining at Mount Vernon during Christmas and the pie that accompanied it. Apparently, there was this thing back then with massive pies filled with all manner of fowl. Personally, I’m oddly disturbed by the concept of mixing meats, but I understand this is not the case for everyone.
Howard’s story has me thinking about the nursery rhyme “Sing A Song of Sixpence,” and it turns out there is an interesting correlation story there as well. Savory pies go way back to our earliest days, but it is medieval Europe, where the art of the savory pie is fleshed out and noteworthy as an influence to the dining experience at Mount Vernon.
The discussion of bird pies makes me think about all the interviews I’ve conducted with older people here in Iowa for family legacy books. I’ve learned of a favorite rural dish called pigeon pot pie. Variations of pigeon pie include pigeons in noodles or dumplings with the same salty sauce and meat. The closest I’ve come to this is chicken pot pie, of which I now have a hankering and found this recipe over at All Recipes with more than 12,000 5-star rankings.
Howard’s podcast is a frolic through interesting stories from some of our presidents and our history. We do end on a hopeful note in this #thedeliciousstory episode, too, which you’ll find when you listen. Our past is full of crazy times, but somehow the pendulum keeps swinging, and along the way we make progress. Can we keep democracy going and improving? If our past is proof, we just might manage it.
John Adams wrote for posterity with the belief that his diary would be important as part of history. Do you write in your journal or perhaps even on your social media pages with the future in mind? If you knew for certain your thoughts would be read by later generations, how would it change what you write?

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