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|January 29- February 4, 2009
• Mojo rising
Longmont’s Terroir is a winning confluence of elements
by Clay Fong
• Food Bites
Watching what he eats
Obama’s choices could bring culinary change
by Karen Herzog
George H.W. Bush didn’t like broccoli. Bill Clinton had a weakness for fast food. So what do we know about President Barack Obama’s food profile?
It consists of two scoops of rice, a scoop of sweet macaroni salad (which often includes potatoes) and a meat dish: chicken, beef or fish, traditionally breaded and fried, then smothered in a pan-Asian brown gravy. Obama’s favorite food to cook is chili.
The new first eater casts himself as a political centrist, open to a variety of viewpoints.
But there’s only one executive chef at the White House, which means one culinary vision. First lady Michelle Obama has decided to keep chef Cristeta Comerford, a native of the Philippines who took the job in 2005 and is the first woman to serve in that position.
What kind of culinary example can foodies expect the kitchen of a Barack Obama administration to set for America and the rest of the world?
Will we see a parade of visiting chefs offering their own interpretations of American cuisine, in keeping with the president’s philosophy of inclusiveness?
Will the first family embrace their role-model status to encourage families to connect around the dinner table and to make healthy food choices?
Elected on a promise of change, Obama didn’t have a platform for changing the way America eats. But America’s first black president — known for his devotion to fitness and regular exercise — undoubtedly will lead by example.
“Everything he puts in his mouth is getting scrutinized,” said Eddie Gehman Kohan, a Los Angeles-based food writer and agriculture policy “wonkette” who launched the “Obama Foodorama” blog (obamafoodorama.blogspot.com) the moment CNN called the election for Obama.
Kohan had been writing so much about the Obama food scene on another food blog she shares with her two sisters that they became annoyed, she said in a telephone interview from L.A. So she started her own blog, “The Obama Foodorama: From arugula to waffles, with ag policy commentary, recipes and chowbama gossip.”
“I figured if I was that interested, a lot of other people would be, too,” said Kohan.
The blog gets “thousands of hits” a day, she said. “More hits in a day than we get in a year for our other blog,” haphazardgourmet.blogspot.com. “We’re getting global hits. Obama has such an international reach.”
Kohan, the mother of a 13-year-old, said she has high hopes for Obama as a role model for children.
“My personal hope is that Obama would pay more attention to school programs that teach kids to grow food, and programs like Growing Power,” she said.
Kohan has heard of Milwaukee’s “genius grant” award-winning urban farmer, Will Allen, and his Growing Power farm, which makes affordable healthy food available to low-income residents and teaches farmers how to grow food in cities.
Food is already growing on the roof of the White House in a garden planted during the Clinton administration, so the White House chef has easy access to fresh vegetables. It’s not certified organic, but the Park Service reportedly does not use pesticides and fertilizers. An herb garden for White House use also is tucked in the Jackie Kennedy Rose Garden.
Influential organic food enthusiasts, including Alice Waters and Ruth Reichl, have been lobbying the Obamas to plant a higher-profile kitchen garden on the White House lawn.
“I think it would be a great idea, and it doesn’t have to be the entire lawn,” said Kohan, who has a link to “The White House Organic Farm Project” on her blog for those who want to sign an online petition.
At least one White House insider says previous presidential administrations haven’t been given enough credit for promoting organic and local foods.
After The New York Times published a critical story on Christmas Eve, former White House chef Walter Scheib began quietly working to “set the record straight,” Kohan noted.
Scheib, who was hired by first lady Hillary Clinton in 1994 and stayed on to work for George W. and Laura Bush through 2005, trained the current White House chef.
He told Kohan that Clinton wanted him to “change White House food service from a classical European, butter-and-cream aesthetic to a contemporary American cuisine that relied on seasonal, local and regional ingredients, including organics.” Kohan blogged her Scheib interview last week. The next first lady, Laura Bush, was “adamant” about organics, according to Scheib.
Still, if Michelle Obama decides she wants a kitchen garden on the White House lawn to give healthy food choices a higher profile, it will happen, Scheib told Kohan.
“If it’s something Michelle Obama wants and she gets behind it, it will happen beyond fast.”
Likes and disklikes
Obama’s food preferences, according to The New York Times:
Likes: Planters Trail Mix: nuts, seeds & raisins; roasted almonds; pistachios; water; Dentyne Ice; Nicorette; MET-Rx chocolate roasted peanut protein bars; vegetables, especially broccoli and spinach; handmade milk chocolates from Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle
Dislikes: Mayonnaise; salt and vinegar potato chips; asparagus (“if no other vegetable is available, he’ll eat it”); soft drinks (he prefers water)
In The Audacity of Hope, Obama lovingly writes about MacArthur’s, a soul food spot on Chicago’s northwest side, where a plate of chicken and mac ’n’ cheese costs $7.50, and where ex-inmates in need of a second chance are members of the staff.
Among the president-elect’s favorite restaurants in Chicago: Spiaggia, the Windy City’s premier Italian restaurant with a great view of Lake Michigan and the Magnificent Mile; Topolobampo, the high-end regional Mexican restaurant of celebrity chef Rick Bayless; and Italian Fiesta, home of thin-crust pizza pies in Hyde Park.
Professional food experience
As a teenager, Barack Obama scooped ice cream at Baskin-Robbins.
Memorable food quote
Obama implied that books should be as enticing and accessible to kids as fast food.
“What if it was as easy to get a book as it is to rent a DVD or pick up McDonald’s? What if instead of a toy in every Happy Meal, there was a book? What if there were portable libraries that rolled through parks and playgrounds like ice cream trucks?” — June 27, 2005 speech to the American Library Association
Sources: Honolulu Advertiser; obamafoodorama.blogspot.com; www.npr.org; usliberals.about.com; The New York Times
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