I just read an article on ABC News’s website that described the great efforts the inaugural committee was putting into emulating what the 16th president served at his own, right down to the china patterns. It’s not the kind of article I usually come across, much less read, I’m all hung up on “real issues” and “substance” and stuff, but this one caught my eye for some reason. I won’t recap it, it’s concise and well written if anyone’s interested.
What I thought was cool was that the inaugural staff has not only posted the menu itself, probably as expected, but also the recipes! I’m probably not going to make me any pheasant any time soon – you really ought to hunt your own if you’re going to eat pheasant, and I’m not going to hunt my own – but I’m pretty tempted to scale down that seafood stew/puff pastry recipe my damn self. (The recipe calls for 6 Maine Lobster tails. I’m thinking of a quantity that is more in the zero-to-one lobster tail range.) My kid will probably make “that face” at me if I offer her some, she’s not big on seafood or creamy soups, but if it’s good enough for the leader of the free world (am I supposed to capitalize some of that?), it’s durned well good enough for my family. No matter. More for the grownups.
As far as the article went, it was followed by the expected “Obama’s so cool for invoking Abraham Lincoln, I can’t wait until he’s in office and fixes everything!” and “Obama’s such a phony for invoking Lincoln, I can’t wait until he’s in office and shows everyone what a big, Lincoln-invoking phony he is!” blog comments. Almost totally polar, just like everything political over the last 8 years and beyond. Oh, well.
Meanwhile, in the midst of the expected Tastes Great/Less Filling blog comments, there was a rational, non-partisan comment: a person pointed out what should have occurred to every reader right away – basically, what they ate in Lincoln’s time wasn’t really a matter of fashion, in Lincoln’s day, they ate what was local, and they ate what was seasonal.
(I guess you could say it was partisan in the sense that the post was about sustainability and eating local, stuff that is usually attributed to the left, so the person who wrote the post was probably a so-called liberal, but the whole left/right thing has gotten so twisted these days that I hesitate to use the terms to label actual values, and without the blog commenter either praising Obama or slamming Bush, I’d be guessing anyway.)
I can’t say Lincoln wouldn’t have loved him some kiwifruit, but we’ll probably never know. Meanwhile, in the brave new world we live in, the whole localvore movement is preaching the same thing: eat what’s local, and eat what’s in season. I can dig it. Not just foodwise and nutritionwise and environmentwise, but local-economywise. And personally, I can dig the localvore thing a lot more than the organic movement, well intentioned though the organic movement may be. Those organically grown strawberries from California aren’t helping the environment too much if they have to be transported to New York City, not to mention the nutritional wrinkles that long distance transportation of food introduces. I’m not anti-organic, don’t get me wrong, but I like organic stuff for easily debatable health reasons more than anything related to sustainability. Free trade goods? All for it. Local? Fantastic. Organic? Well, maybe. That’s a whole ‘nother area to explore. Please note that I didn’t use this as an opportunity to make a single milk-hormone/breast size joke. I’m all sensitive about stuff like that now that I have a daughter, so you’re welcome.
Another aside: I’d feel a whole lot more enthusiastic about embracing the localvore thing if I didn’t live in New Mexico. New York City is surrounded by verdant farm states that provide endless variety. Portland, Oregon residents could “buy local” until the cows come home. Here in New Mexico, I’d have to pare whole limbs off the FDA food tree if I stuck to eating what was grown within 50 miles. My wife has had pocket gophers literally pull plants out of her hand and into the ground, so there aren’t a whole lot of gardeners in our immediate area, and living in a mountainous/rocky/high desert area takes care of some of the rest. We do what we can, of course, but you can’t live off piñon nuts, honey, organic soy candles and green chile forever. (“I’m on the Santa Fe diet – please pass the smudge sticks. “) I exaggerate, of course. We also have red chile. (“Nurse, this man has the worst turquoise deficiency I’ve ever seen – get me 20ccs of Cerillos Green, and fast!” I’ll stop now.)
Anywhoo… This inaugural dinner was not crafted in a vacuum. OF COURSE they were aware that the Lincoln tie-in has solid PR value. And why not? They’re very aware that fans and enemies alike will be reading meaning into his hat choices and what kind of Blackberry he carries and what kind of shirts he appeared in in college photos. And his menu choices at inaugural dinners and such. Haven’t come across too many anti-Lincolnites in my travels, so it seems to be a pretty safe gesture, and the naysayers always were going to say nay to whatever got picked anyway.
Obama’s decisions are more closely scrutinized than any other single person on the planet right now. If these decisions have to be made, why not make them with some thought, and when they’re made with some thought, why pick on him for it? His choices continue to be encouraging to me for the most part. His campaign won largely because he assembled a strong team and let them do their thing, and it seems like he still has a good team and they’re still doing their perspective things. If I was him, however, I would have been tempted to add some lamb shawarma or basmati rice or hummus or something to the menu just to let the “He’s an Arab” types squirm a little. But then again, I can be kind of a prick.