And the Greenest White House Kitchen Will Be…


Now that the presidential race is off and running, it’s time to compare and contrast what the two White House kitchens might look like in the way of sustainable food sourcing. Take a little break from the political arguments about economics and Iraq and peek into the possible future White House kitchens.

First, a look at the two candidates’ food preferences:

Barack Obama seems to be a committed omnivore and will eat just about anything he’s served on the campaign trail. Given the choice, he leans toward grilled fish, vegetables like broccoli and spinach, and for snacks, he’ll go for organic Honest T Blackforest Berry, roasted almonds, and protein bars. At a stop in Washington, he hit a deli marketplace and excitedly sampled and purchased some fancy cheese and charcuterie. His favorite dish to cook is chili and he doesn’t like beets. He’s often seen carrying plastic water bottles but he redeemed himself somewhat with this comment: “we can’t drive our SUVS and eat as much as we want…and then just expect other countries are going to say ok.”

John McCain’s
favorite foods are shrimp and pepperoni pizza. Required snacks on the campaign trail: Dunkin donuts and Coke. He likes to cook ribs and says he doesn’t “do well with vegetables.”

Clearly, Obama’s ahead of the game as far as enjoying vegetables, buying organic (at least sometimes) and eating a diet that’s good for his body. And personally, I’m encouraged by his obvious enjoyment of delicious food. But there’s always room for improvement:

Plastic water bottles:
Lose that habit in favor of something reusable like the Kleen Kanteen.

Protein Bars: Switch from the chemically-processed, sugar-laden varieties to Clif Bars, an independently owned, environmentally responsible company that uses organic ingredients.

Almonds: Switch to pecans – the more local choice for D.C.

Vegetables: Make sure the White House chef maintains an organic kitchen garden.

Grilled fish:
It’s good if it adheres to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Wallet Card for the DC area.

Use heirloom beans and grass fed beef, or go vegan.

I think McCain could branch out a little in his food preferences, but let’s work with what he’s got.

I have to confess I never liked broccoli until I joined a CSA and realized how good really fresh vegetables straight from the farm can be. Maybe if the chef maintains the aforementioned kitchen garden and starts him out on mild tasting lettuce, working up to potatoes, and maybe carrots, he’ll change his tune.

Shrimp: It’s okay as long as its wild American shrimp – the most environmentally-friendly option.

Pepperoni pizza:
Again, moderation is a good thing and making sure the pepperoni is from responsibly raised animals would be a step in the right direction. And cooked tomato sauce is very good for you. Make sure the crust is whole grain and you’re good to go, Mac!

Hopefully he’ll lose the Dunkin’ Donuts and Coke once the campaign is over – you’re not getting any younger, John. If he doesn’t eat vegetables, dried fruit might and roasted nuts provide some much-needed fiber.

Ribs: Great, if they’re from pasture-raised pigs.

The Greenest Fantasy Presidential Kitchen of All: Dennis Kucinich, a vegan! We’ve got a long way to go until November, but I think we can rule out Dennis.

Image: Recipe Tip


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Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.