This LA Times article reviews past inaugural meals. Our first presidents started out simply:
Things started out quietly and on the simple side. George Washington took the oath of office in New York City (the new nation's first capital); as Martha had not yet arrived from Mount Vernon, George dined alone. After John Adams was inaugurated, he repaired to his boardinghouse, where he too ate a solitary meal. Thomas Jefferson, notably more convivial, dined with 30 others after his inauguration -- but, like Adams, at a boardinghouse.
By Buchanan's presidency we had quite a party:
James Buchanan, the only bachelor president, really knew how to party. At his inaugural celebration in 1857, guests were served 400 gallons of oysters, 500 quarts of chicken salad, 500 quarts of jellies, 1,200 quarts of ice cream, eight rounds of beef, 75 hams, 60 saddles of mutton and four of venison. Buchanan hired Charles Gautier, a French caterer and chocolatier, to handle the preparations.
FDR's inaugurals went back to a more simple menu:
Franklin D. Roosevelt's four dinners were not particularly distinguished. Henrietta Nesbitt, the first family's housekeeper, prepared the food for three of them. In 1937, she served ham, tongue and a sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows -- Eleanor Roosevelt's favorite.
For FDR's fourth inauguration, during World War II, the president requested chicken à la king, but Nesbitt protested that she couldn't keep it hot while serving 2,000 guests. Instead, she offered an austere, ration-conscious "ladies' lunch" of cold chicken salad, rolls (no butter), cake (no frosting) and coffee (no sugar). To make matters worse, some of the chicken had spoiled and had to be thrown out.
George Jessel, the luncheon's toastmaster, posed the question, "How is it humanly possible to make chicken salad with so much celery and so little chicken?"