Even though healthy food proponent First Lady Michelle Obama isn’t joining the Middle East trip, President Barack Obama will be on a special diet while at his hotel in Jerusalem later this week. That’s because the historic King David Hotel has already cleaned its kitchen of any remnants of leavened products in preparation for Passover which begins next Monday night.
Out are these carbs: bread, pasta, pizza and cheeseburgers (which aren’t kosher anyway due to the merging of milk product and meat).
Haaretz reports all 233 rooms at the hotel have been booked for the presidential entourage:
The King David will roll out the carpet, but hold the rolls. With the hotel in a security lockdown, all the food necessary for the trip and the prosperous Pesach [Passover] crowd to follow is being stored in containers out back.
When U.S. President Barack Obama said yes to a long-overdue visit next week, his first since becoming president in 2008, it’s not clear that he knew what he was getting himself into. Gastronomically, anyway.
The Passover diet commemorates the Israelites’ flight from slavery in Egypt. During the escape, there was no time for the flour to rise. Not only do Jews eat matzo (bread with no yeast, or unleavened bread) during the eight days of the holiday, they also refrain from eating any leavened products. To be considered kosher for Passover, wheat products have to be cooked in less than 18 minutes, from adding water, to final baking.
Observant Jews spend the week before the holiday combing their homes for chametz – that is remnants of cookies and other leavened contraband eaten the rest of the year around the house. A turbo-charged spring cleaning, it’s an arduous and time-consuming process that can involve the use of feathers, flashlights, and even toothbrushes to get to hard-to-reach nooks. With only one non-Sabbath day between Obama’s visit and the start of the holiday, the King David Hotel had to clean out the crumbs early.
Haaretz Correspondent Ilene Prusher writes: “Given that this has been the most foodie-focused White House to date, with the first lady declaring war on junk food and childhood obesity, it’s not clear whether this will be good for Obama’s impression of Israel or not.”
Hotel manager Dror Danino tells Haaretz the intense cleaning plus presidential food security translates to a hotel “under siege.”
Chef Michel Nabet says, “Today, there are replacements – we can do a decent roll that will taste a lot like brioche.”
“But I prevent my staff from working with a pasta that is not so good. So, we won’t eat pasta and Obama won’t either, it’s not so bad. We’ll eat more fresh vegetables – we have no shortage of ingredients.”
If the kosher for Passover fare doesn’t hit the spot, maybe Obama can have a piece of this hope sculpture prepared by an Israeli child who sent the photo to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv:
The Prime Minister’s Office released this menu for the meal that Chef Shalom Kadosh will prepare for the dinner at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence later this week:
First course: Ravioli filled with comfit of Jerusalem artichokes; filet of red mullet tossed with green soybeans
Pink grapefruit and pomegranate sorbet to refresh the palate
Main course: Roast fillet of beef in aromatic spices and a selection of spring vegetables
Dessert: Apple crumble mixed with red fruits; Gewurztraminer zabaglione with citrus honey
Fig and date petits fours with caramelized green almonds; coffee/tea
Blogger Eddie Gehman Kohan who covers the White House for “Obama Foodorama” writes, “Beef is a favorite dish for President Obama, who has served it at most of his own high-profile White House dinners.” She also writes that Obama has never held a red-carpet dinner for Prime Minister Netanyahu, though he did host a special dinner for President Shimon Peres in June of last year.
Obama will also attend a state dinner in Jerusalem – to which the winner of the Miss Israel contest was also invited – hosted by President Peres, where hummus, falafel and tahini sauce are on the menu, a choice that’s annoying some Palestinians.
Peres’ office told Maariv that the menu – which also includes lamb chops and zucchini flowers stuffed with mushrooms - reflects “local Israeli cuisine.”
The Times of Israel reports that Palestinian chefs “have reacted with indignation”:
Ghassan Abdul Khaleq, a Palestinian chef, told the Palestinian daily al-Ayyam that hummus and falafel are Syrian and Palestinian dishes that “never were, and never will be, Israeli.
“We, a group of Palestinian chefs, are prepared to counter this flagrant Israeli attack on our culture by preparing the official dinner for presidents Obama and Abbas,” Abdul Khaleq told al-Ayyam. “[Our dinner] will reveal the fallacious claims of the occupation and its continuous attempts to rob our folklore, this time in the presence of the president of the biggest country in the world.”
The Times of Israel writes, “the grub that lands on his actual full plate is also threatening to turn into a conflagration.”