~ This is the sixth in a series of posts about Presidential Food
“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” ~ Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (lawyer, author, epicure)
Right about now, all five White House chefs are probably wondering what’s going to be on the menu for the next four years.
Will they have to brush up on their Chicago pizza skills? Import bags of poi from Hawai’i? Or will they be asked to serve their culinary creations on green plates?
Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) know that I’m a strong believer in the old adage, “you are what you eat.” When it comes to food in the White House, each First Family has brought something distinct to the table — not only with regard to what is served, but how it’s served. There is nothing more revealing of personality than one’s style of entertaining.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Michelle Obama will follow Nancy Reagan’s lead, attending to every minute detail of preparation and presentation, or be more like Pat Nixon, who was happy to allow the chefs to surprise her. Whatever the case, her culinary decisions will definitely impact the outcome of official gatherings.
James Beard once said that “food is our common ground, a universal experience.” Since establishing common ground is such a crucial part of the new President’s agenda, strict attention should be paid to serving food that fosters diplomacy. (Dip everything in chocolate, I say!)
I predict the Obama administration will be known for innovative, culturally diverse cuisine with an emphasis on fresh, naturally produced, organic ingredients. Arugula will replace iceberg, tropical fruit will grace the breakfast table, and state dinners will feature dishes influenced by Barack’s African, Hawaiian, and Indonesian roots. All to say, not too much emphasis on the flash and glam, but a nod to eating as close to the source as possible.
Private family dinners, with two young girls in the house, will get real with typical American family fare — pizza, chicken wings, pasta, cheese toast, and Barack’s famous chili. Yes, the man can cook! As a bachelor, he had a roommate who taught him how to cook Indian food, and he credits having lived in Hawai’i for his knowledge of Chinese cuisine. (See his interview on 60 Minutes here, where he makes tuna salad.) Perhaps if she can find a spare minute, Michelle will whip up a batch of seafood gumbo, the first dish she ever cooked for Barack.
After being in Washington for awhile, the Obamas might miss some of their favorite hometown restaurants — Topolobampo (nouveau Mexican), R.J. Grunts (downhome ribs, burgers, salad bar, Tex-Mex), and Italian Fiesta Pizzeria (a non-descript, mini-mall joint near their South Side home).
Michelle’s favorite upscale spot is Sepia, whose seasonal menus are “rooted in tradition, melding rustic sensibility with contemporary flair.” It sounds divine, as it was built from an 1890’s print shop, and supports “local artisan growers using sustainable practices.” No doubt her refined palate will find its way into more formal White House events, but I predict the meals will be served in a relaxed setting conducive to candid conversation.
I’m still euphoric about the outcome of the election, and thought the perfect way to celebrate would be to try an Obama family recipe. Here is a yummy pasta dish, sure to please kids as well as adults. It’s perfect for busy families looking for a healthy, nutritious meal without too much fuss. I used regular linguini here, but of course you can go a healthier route — whole wheat or gluten-free (I love Pasta Joy’s brown rice pasta). Make some soon, in honor of Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and Pumski*!
OBAMA FAMILY’S LINGUINI WITH SHRIMP
1-1/2 lbs. fresh shrimp (shell on)
several garlic cloves
sun-dried tomatoes (sliced in olive oil)
1 box linguini
fresh basil, julienned
1 T olive oil
Clean, de-vein shrimp. Remove shells and soak them in hot chicken broth.
Thinly slice garlic (the more garlic, the better flavor of the dish).
Cook pasta and set aside (do not overcook).
In large saute pan, heat olive oil on high heat and saute garlic cloves until they begin to brown slightly.
Add fresh shrimp and cook until just beginning to turn pink. Add salt and pepper to flavor shrimp.
Add sun-dried tomatoes and continue to cook for another minute.
Add pasta. Mix pasta into garlic, shrimp and sun-dried tomato mixture until it is coated entirely with mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Slowly add a bit of the shrimp shell and chicken broth liquid to remove reserves from bottom of pan.
Remove pan from heat and let sit for a few moments.
Add basil over top to garnish.
For some beautiful photos from the Honolulu Star Bulletin archives of the Obamas in Hawai’i, click here.
Tasty Infobites about Barack:
Favorite music: John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, Bach, Elton John, Bob Dylan.
Favorite books: Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison), Moby Dick, Shakespeare’s tragedies, Self Reliance (Emerson), Parting the Waters, Gilead (Robinson), Lincoln’s collected writings, Bible
Favorite movies: Godfather I and II, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca
Favorite quote: “The Arc of the Moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” (Martin Luther King, Jr.).
*On the Paula Deen Show, Michelle revealed that her pet nickname for Barack is “Pumski.” Wonder if pumpkin dishes will show up on the White House menu?
**If you insist on dessert, try Michelle’s Apple Cobbler!
“You can’t really understand Barack until you understand Hawai’i.”
~ Michelle Obama