Politics is tough, but political food is murder.
When the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and his wife visited Washington last month, the White House menu was enough to make Dr. Ann weep.
Do you know Dr. Ann?
She is the ridiculously fit physician, author, motivational speaker and wellness expert who admonishes us to “eat right for life.”
Every week, Dr. Ann — full name, Ann Kulze — sends out a brief video via email to inform and inspire.
“Wow, look at this,” said my wife, Wink, a big fan. “Dr. Ann is into hemp hearts. Loaded with Omega 3 fats, magnesium, zinc, iron and vitamin E. I’ll check at Trader Joe’s.”
Dr. Ann is always talking about things like hemp hearts and other wholesome foods.
She will be in her kitchen chopping and blending and perhaps celebrating the unsurpassed benefits of red cabbage or Swiss chard. Remember your sweet potatoes and carrots, she will say, and blueberries, of course.
Her tone is kind and encouraging — the gentle practitioner soothing a 5-year-old about to get a measles shot. Dr. Ann just wants what’s best for us.
And, of course, she is correct. We all need more vegetables and grains and fiber. We are crazy for favoring a food pyramid built on bacon cheeseburgers, Buffalo wings and the occasional Filet-O-Fish sandwich for a change of pace. The country’s appetite for cheese puffs, curly fries, bloomin’ onions and Oreo shakes demonstrates impressive risk tolerance but serious gaps in our dietary IQ.
In any event, the White House staff and first lady Melania Trump were not about to serve American roadhouse cuisine to the skinny Macron and his svelte wife, Brigitte. These are French people from Paris. Does anyone take food more seriously? A fallen soufflé or tasteless coq a vin are crimes against the state. Catastrophique!
So the menu for the Macrons was bound to be what, in the ordinary world of eating, we might call “fancy-shmancy” or, more precisely, “froo-froo,” as noted in one published report.
Here are the featured items. If some seem new and different, join the club.
For starters: Goat cheese gâteau, tomato jam, buttermilk biscuit crumbles. Main course: Rack of spring lamb, burnt cipollini soubise, Carolina gold rice jambalaya. Dessert: Nectarine tart and crème fraîche ice cream.
We all know that Melania Trump did not become her glamorous self by doubling down on the Carolina jambalaya or slathering her rack of lamb with extra burnt cipollini soubise (a charred butter-onion sauce; I looked it up).
But have you seen Brigitte Macron? At 65, she looks as trim as her husband — 25 years younger — and ready to skateboard down the Champs-Elysées.
Politics makes its own demands, though, and there were the Macrons staring at plates of food bearing enough calories to sustain two Parisians until midsummer.
If this is part of the job description — going on foreign trips where the host country shows off with high-octane mega-meals — you wonder how any government leader survives past middle age.
I am not on the big-league banquet circuit but have tried haute cuisine a couple of times. Usually it involves small portions of unfamiliar stuff decorated as if the chef had really hoped to major in wallpaper design — swoops and swirls all over the place, and the occasional edible flower.
Mostly, though, I settle for ordinary food — hold the hibiscus.
I have to exercise portion control at this age but could eat a ton of rice and beans.
Pasta of any size or shape, count me in. Ethnic dishes? Bring ’em on. Blueberries every day for breakfast. Peanut butter for a snack. Roasted Brussels sprouts. Couscous. Hemp seeds, why not? Dr. Ann would be proud.
Fancy state dinner stuff is fine, too, should you prefer. Food is a matter of personal preference. Don’t let me get in the way. Want another helping of goat cheese gâteau or nectarine tart? Go for it.
Still, I wonder if the visiting Macrons, Emmanuel and Brigitte, would have been OK with a menu a little less froo-froo at that swell White House affair — mac and cheese or rice and beans and, when no one was looking, maybe a nibble of Buffalo wings and bloomin’ onion, too.