Kitchen cabinet - Ladle Politics In The White House

BARACK Obama had demonstrated his determination to seek the best people for the job by even retaining some from his predecessor’s administration. Keeping defence secretary Robert Gates, however, did not cause as much consternation as the revelation that Chef Christeta Comerford would continue to wield the main ladle in the White House kitchens; though the Obamas added Chicago chef Sam Kass to her team. Of course, this new kitchen cabinet is nothing like the unofficial coterie that surrounded US President Andrew Jackson 180 years ago, giving rise to the derisory slant to the phrase. They are also not even remotely like the acquiescent politicos who gathered around Indira Gandhi at the height of her power. But Kass’ presence in the kitchen cabinet is sure to please the ginger group of influential chefs and food mavens led by Alice Waters, the inventor of the fresh farm-to-table approach known as California cuisine. The group had petitioned the then President-elect Obama to appoint a “person of integrity who is devoted to the ideals of sustainability and health” as White House chef, to “send a powerful message that food choices matter.” On the menu would be an organic vegetable garden and the preparation of “seasonal, ripe, delicious American food” that would nourish the First Family, support beleaguered US farmers, inspire White House guests, “energise the nation” and initiate children “into a new relationship to food that connects them to culture and agriculture.”

While Kass has been vocal on these concerns, India can afford a self-satisfied smirk as Rashtrapati Bhavan already has a five-acre kitchen garden, besides a herbarium, a compost pit and even a kitchen museum. Indeed, maybe Obama’s formidable team of researchers had already figured out that the larger, loftier objectives envisioned by these food-idealists had not been realised in India, and thus advised the Obamas to continue with the Philippino immigrant chef who also reflects their multi-ethnic ethos even if she was also given a ‘greener’ understudy. But the kerfuffle also revealed the most well-kept White House secret yet — that the tough Texan Bushes ate organic anyway!

(Third Editorial in Economic Times dated 30th Jan 2009)

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