The Corner

Arugula with That?

For the past many months the nation’s foodies–Alice Waters and others–have been salivating at the prospect of a President who might be willing to take time off from being commander-in-chief, saving the economy, and keeping up the permanent campaign to spread the current gospel about sustainable, “locavore” eating. Heartened by the Obama’s taste in trendy, sophisticated Chicago restaurants, they have envisioned a garden on the heavily wired White House lawn. Maybe a farmer’s market in Lafayette Park? They have proffered ideas for chefs who might make this happen. But today, news comes that the Obamas will not run a national Top Chef competition–because they are bringing their own, private chef from Chicago to the White House. Well, isn’t that nice?

According the New York Times, Sam Kass, who cooked for the Obamas in Chicago will now move onto the government payroll as a White House chef. (Ever wary of annoying the feminist base, the Obamas are not firing the very first woman to hold the Chief Chef job, chosen by Laura Bush. They’re just pushing her out of the way.)

Who knew? I believed all that stuff about how Michelle was an overburdened modern working mother, rushing from school dropoff to her high-paying, demanding work at the hospital, to dress fittings, to whatever it was she needed to do to support her husband’s political aspirations, back home to take care of her daughters. Call me naive, but that model usually includes making dinner. And squeezing in a weekly grocery shopping trip. Especially for those fresh, whole foods that don’t keep so long. Now I have to wonder who did the laundry, and the vaccuuming. Sure, granny helped–but I doubt she was the maid. Who was?

In fact, I don’t actually care who did the cooking (or cleaning) in the Obama household. And Chef Sam is fine with me. The orchestrated deception–the pretense that this family did it all themselves, living a low-key life just like most upper middle class Americans, working hard and taking care of the necessary, sometimes tedious requirements of home life as well as they seemed to have done–is a little more troubling. To be sure, a University of Chicago-educated private chef seems a little more indulgent than a nanny who broils the chicken or chops up the broccoli. But that’s their call.  

Didn’t the women at Slate, among others, complain that there was something offensive about Sarah Palin’s apparent ability to raise 5 children, run the state of Alaska, run marathons, and cook those mooseburgers–because it set the bar too high for ordinary women? But they were willing to believe that Michelle could do it all, and keep it all organic and healthy at that–because she has a law degree from Harvard?

This is one of the great gifts that comes with being a Democrat who is so beloved of the media. Instead of the inevitable carping and cries of hypocrisy and elitism, the New York Times food writer just gushes at what a master stroke this appointment is–bringing sustainable food to the White House and inevitable gardens to the grounds.

When you run for president as a community organizer, and a writer, or even a professor of constitutional law, perhaps it’s politic to hide a few salient details about your actual lifestyle that might mess up the “savior of the downtrodden” narrative. It’s important to keep up the fiction that only spoiled, indifferent, wealthy Republicans have personal servants.

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