On Sunday, popular Food Network show Iron Chef America invaded the
White House. First Lady Michelle Obama made a brief appearance, with White House chef Cristeta Comerford competing and the White House garden providing ingredients. The celebrity-packed episode--Jane Seymour and Nigella Lawson served as judges, with Food Network stars Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and Emeril Lagasse as contestants--provided plenty of fodder for day-after analysis from both foodies and wonks alike. Here, weighty and witty thoughts on the First Lady's local, organic, and "healthful" food cause, White House chef Cristeta Comerford's win, and the inherent elitism of oysters:
- Finally, Food Network Gets Local, Organic Good's Siobhan O'Connor is thrilled:
The whole point of that garden was to say to America that eating healthfully and organically should not be prohibitive and elitist. So while I'm quick to admit that seeing superstar chefs cook organic is not exactly the kind of instructive example we need to push more people to eat organic or local, it was pretty great to see a ratings sucker like Iron Chef take that on--whether they did the show because they wanted Obama-inspired ratings (likely), or because they wanted to make a point about smarter farming (less likely).
- A Side of Satire Wonkette's Sara Smith described the contestants as "White House chef Cristeta Comerford, a man called Bobby Flay, a large orange troll, and a Cajun hobbit." Asking whether perhaps Comerford's win was "rigged for the home team" Smith suggested it was also a preview of "the way that the Philippines will quietly take over all of America: through healthful cookery involving lemongrass, fresh vegetables, and animals from the sea."
- Food Network Not the Only One Needing Ratings "At least one administration official starts the new year with a win under her belt," observes Politics Daily's Patricia Murphy.
- Were These Dishes Really So Good for You? "Even vegetables from the White House garden lose a little nutrition in the face of lardo, bacon's creamier cousin," points out Mediaite's Kit Kuzma. "The resulting dishes turned out to be a little less than perfectly healthy," thus not quite being poster-products for the First Lady's cause. Still, she admits they were "impressive."
- Politics of the Plating In a group liveblog of the event, one commenter noted that with caviar, lobster, and oysters on the plate, this was "def not your populist iron chef meal," which seems "an odd juxtaposition when the WH garden is all about making fresh foods accessible." Blogger Megan Carpentier responded that " Iron Chefs have never plated a populist meal. That's the point," she insists, "and why I try to eat before watching." The Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman, however, agreed with the commenter that this was perhaps a bit too much: "[ Judge Nigella Lawson is] going to bite into one of those lobster tempura pieces or oyster cakes and exclaim, 'Mmmmm... You can barely taste the double-digit unemployment.'" More characteristic of the liveblogging romp, though, was Ackerman's comment hearkening back to another favorite blogging topic, national security: "What's a Koran tofu soup? That sounds like a Guantanamo Bay war crime."