Flexing her French, Jackie readies meal plans for the Kennedy family cook: "Mr. K—can eat nothing fried—He likes all these creamed foods"
Fascinating collection of handwritten letters, notes, and meal plans from Jacqueline Kennedy to Tania Herbst, a personal chef and housekeeper for the Kennedys when the family resided at 3307 N St. NW in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC. The collection is dated between May and August 1958 and contains three ALSs in French from Kennedy to Herbst, each signed “Mme. K,” and a fourth ALS in English signed “Jacqueline Kennedy,” penned as a letter of recommendation for Herbst. Also included are 12 other sheets, ranging in size from 4 x 3 to 8.5 x 14, that contain sundry handwritten notes made by Kennedy for Herbst, which are highlighted by detailed lunch and dinner meal plans, all thoughtfully arranged and scheduled for herself and her husband, Senator John F. Kennedy. While the majority are in French, in which Jackie was fluent, one menu in English is of particular interest; after listing dinner meals for May 26, 28, and 29, Kennedy adds breakfast specifics for herself and her husband: “Breakfast, Mr. K—2 poached eggs on Pepperidge toast rounds, crisp over broiled bacon, orange juice-pepperidge white toast-coffee-marmalade / Mrs. K—orange juice coffee toast-skim milk (order toast with no calories) 4 minute boiled egg, 1 envelope Knox gelatin on breakfast tray / Mr. K—can eat nothing fried—He likes all these creamed foods, so just give me a salad + raw fruit in place of his desserts + vegetables.” JFK is alluded to a few more times as “Monsieur,” with one sheet listing his lunch as “Hamburger…Baked potato, legume puree.” Includes three other food and meal lists that are penned in another hand.
Three handwritten letters, two penned on her personal ‘3307 N Street’ letterhead, 6.25 x 7 and 6.25 x 9.25, no dates, reads as follows (two translated):
The letter of recommendation: “Tania Herbst has been with us 11 months. She is a good cook and is completely honest, sober, reliable, trustworthy. She was alone in our house for 6 months while we were away for long periods—and it was a real comfort to know she was there + everything was all right. I would be happy to answer questions about her.”
“After the gentleman has left watch out for the expenses for food, the 'bills' feel way too high—you have to economize. I want to do a rerun of $75 a month—while we're away—it'll start with August…I'll make up the difference when I get home.”
“I wrote to the secretary, which I asked you to do the following. Put all packages that arrive during the week together. She's going to open them when she comes on Tuesday—and put them where I told her to put them. Like that, nothing will be lost. I am waiting for several things and I have to put them away. Lock the house with a key when you go out.”
The fourth ALS, penned on the reverse of a 6 x 4 postcard of the French Riviera, postmarked from Cannes, France, on September 1, 1958. In part (translated): “We return to Massachusetts around September 10. I will call when I arrive. Monsieur explains the complications with your salary. Don't worry. I'll pay you back when I get home. Hope the weather is good in Washington.” Includes two mailing envelopes addressed by Kennedy, who incorporates her husband’s name on one, “℅ Hon. John F. Kennedy.”
The collection also includes: original glossy silver gelatin photos of JFK and Jackie posing with a baby, 5 x 4 and 5.75 x 4, both with “Life Photo” stamps on reverse; an original glossy 9.75 x 7.75 photo of JFK and Jackie posing with a group of men; three original color glossy 5 x 7 candid photos of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. in later age; nine color glossy candid photos, 3.5 x 3.5 to 4.75 x 3, with images of Herbst, and a young Ted and Joan Kennedy; two glossy 8 x 10 photos of Ted and Joan Kennedy, individually signed and inscribed to Tania and Louise Herbst; and two Christmas cards from Ted and Joan Kennedy, both with preprinted sentiments inside. In overall very good to fine condition.
When it came to languages, JFK and his wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, could not have been more different. Jackie was a polyglot who spoke French and Spanish fluently, and who was also proficient in German and Italian. From when she was a child, Jackie loved languages, French in particular. An ardent Francophile, she named her poodle Gaullie, after France’s Charles de Gaulle, whom she later met as First Lady. Her year of study at the Sorbonne in Paris, when she was in college, cemented her command of the French language. For Jackie, her affinity for other languages helped to transform her from a reticent campaign wife to a connector. She made her first campaign speech for Jack Kennedy, then up for re-election to the U.S. Senate, in 1958. And it was not in English: it was in French, to the members of the Worcester Cercle Francais, in Worcester, Massachusetts.