White House Photo
What would you do if you’d have to choose between spending the second night of Passover with your family (and with your twins celebrating their birthday on that same day) and laboring in someone else’s kitchen for hours?
For acclaimed chef/beloved wife Vered Guttman, there wasn’t much of a dilemma. She gladly left me and the kids with a sink full of dishes from the previous night’s (first) Seder and went on to roll matzo balls for another family’s second Seder.
The fact that this Seder was hosted by Barack and Michelle Obama and that the kitchen was located in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, can perhaps make leaving your family behind a bit more understandable.
We weren’t surprised. Living with a food business professional means constantly having to compete with others vying for your wife’s cooking on holidays and special events. Also, we thought to ourselves, why shouldn’t the Obama’s and their guests enjoy that amazing quinoa salad we get to eat on weekday suppers?
So as the First Family (sans daughters who had to wake up early for school) and 20 of their close friends sat down at the White House dining room for their Seder, facing the golden-lined dinnerware and holding Maxwell House haggadahs in their hands, I took the boys out to eat Mexican food. No, we didn’t have personalized printed menus or a selection of a dozen dishes served to us, but then we didn’t have to sit through the whole Seder again before getting our food.
Vered showed up late at night full of stories, but toting only a surprisingly small doggie bag from her White House gig.
Some cold brisket on a paper plate, a chunk of noodle kugel, a piece of soggy carrot soufflé. I’m sure it all tasted really amazing when served at the White House dining room, but some foods don’t travel well on a rainy Washington night.
Or, as the kids would put it: “my mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache.”
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.