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State banquet: Menu will be heavy on veggies, low on red meat


The Obama kids will be quite happy they aren’t attending Tuesday’s banquet hosted by their parents - Barack and Michelle — in honour of the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh.
It is going to be high on veggies and low on meat. Why? ‘Coz MM Singh is coming to town! (apologies to Santa Claus).
The Indian Prime Minister is a vegetarian and teetotaler to boot. He rarely goes beyond kadi chawal or dahi chawal. Not one to experiment much with his food, he sticks to Punjabi bland food at best. Now is there something called Punjabi bland food? Yes its called BORING!
But back to the menu, more closely guarded than the health bill or the Afghan troop movement.
Desirée Rogers, the White House social secretary, and Sam Kass, a young assistant chef, have reportedly had been sampling dishes at various restaurants throughout the summer and finally zeroed in on Chef Marcus Samuelsson, an award-winning African-American chef from the New York restaurant Aquavit, to cook for the Indian Prime Minister at the November 24th banquet.
The menu is likely to have steamed vegetables from Michelle’s famed kitchen garden. It is a small patch, no bigger than the lawns in Lutyen’s bungalows in Delhi where MP’s wives grow their bhindis and baingans. Of course, here, these humble veggies go with exotic names like okra and eggplant. But if Micehlle thinks that the PM or Mrs Kaur will heartily tuck into the carefully prepared meal, she might be disappointed. Both are known to be picky eaters.
But Michelle is not just keen on pleasing her chief guest. She has the cruel Washingtonian society to cater too. The White House banquet is no less than the Oscars in importance. Over 400 people dressed in their finest will be present at the do. There are over a thousand people working zealously to ensure everything works to clockwork precision. The courses arrive on time in unison, and from taste to aroma; it has to be a gastronomic delight. No faux pas will be tolerated by the snooty Washingtonians who have seen the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy and Nancy Reagan host some of the most lavish banquets.
Michelle is somewhat a cross between the career woman that Mrs Hillary Clinton was and a homemaker that Mrs Laura Bush was in the White House. She has to be the perfect hostess, regardless of whether she is her husband’s principal advisor, Mommy in Chief (as she called herself), or her various community service projects that she promotes. She is aware that these are recessionary times so; she will not serve oysters or caviar. But, she can’t really slum it out and serve just meat and potatoes. Not really keen on spicy food, curries with very strong spices will not be in the menu. A mild curry or tandoori item will be included in keeping with the ethnicity of the main guests.Chef Samuelsson, of Ethiopian Swedish vintage, is known to rustle up diverse and ethnic driven cuisine. And then, how difficult is it to make chicken tikka masala?
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I am the Editor News, at Asian News International (ANI), Indias leading Multimedia News Agency and the India Correspondent for Channel News Asia, a Singapore based broadcaster.
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