Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Day

I am excited about the 44th president's inauguration; it's the culmination of many dreams, those of the African American community, and of those who worked so hard to get him into office. More importantly though, I'm excited about the MENU!

Yes, friends, I read with delight last week's LA Times article about the "first supper" of this and previous inaugural luncheons. Did you know that for his fourth inauguration, during World War II, FDR and his wife shared a ration-conscious supper of cold chicken salad, rolls with no butter, cake with no frosting and coffee, with no sugar? How austere!

Similarly, I wondered, with the rest of the country tightening their belts around the dinner table, would this First Supper reflect our collective humbling in the kitchen? The meal is given by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which has chosen as its theme, "A New Birth of Freedom", celebrating the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth on Feb 12. Appropriate, given the way Obama emulates the 16th president.

Lincoln's midnight dinner was a lavish affair, serving
"terrapin stew, leg of veal, beef à l'anglais, foie gras, pâté, cream candies, fruit ices, tarts, cakes and more." The LA Times even has an image of the original menu!

By comparison, Obama's meal consists of just three courses:
  • Seafood stew (scallops, shrimp, lobster), served in puff pastry
  • Brace of American birds: duck with sour cherry chutney and pheasant with wild rice stuffing, molasses sweet potatoes
  • Apple Cinnamon Sponge Cake and Sweet Cream Glace
It's actually a pretty simple dinner, don't you think? Simple, whilst recognising the magnitude of what this meal commemorates. Soup, fowl & potatoes (where's the veg?!), cake and ice cream. Again, the menu is a nod to Lincoln, who loved oysters, sweet potatoes and apples. If you're looking for your own way to commemorate this day in the kitchen, the recipes are available on the official inaugural website too. Personally, I want to taste that stew; it will be served on a replica of the china Lincoln used.

The first course will be served with a Sauvignon Blanc from the first vineyard Bren and I visited on our honeymoon: Duckhorn. I can't say enough about this vineyard.

Not only did they comp our "estate tasting" ($50 each at the time!) because we were newly-weds, they also greeted us at the door with champagne and cheered, "Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. McNamara!". That was the first time we'd heard that, having not had a wedding per se, and I'll never forget it. In fact, we will remember that day with great fondness on our 10th wedding anniversary, when we'll pop open a reserve bottle of Duckhorn Cabernet I believe, bought and saved for just that purpose.

Now, if I could only find out the LAST meal of Mr. and Mrs. Bush at the White House...



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