Opinion: Michelle Obama hates beets, but George H.W. Bush banned broccoli

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It may not be as dramatic or spark the (surprising) interest the Broccoli Incident did during the first Bush administration, but the Obama White House does offer this bit of vegetable news: Michelle Obama hates beets.

This tidbit comes from an interview for the September issue of Ladies’ Home Journal, in which Obama discusses the first family’s eating habits and says: “Neither the president nor I have the beet gene.”

This brings to mind President George H.W. Bush, who in 1990 demonstrated his assertiveness to the American public by declaring during a news conference:


I do not like broccoli. I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it, and I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.

(Students of the New Yorker and James Thurber will recall his caption for a cartoon depicting a little girl and mother squaring off at table. “It’s broccoli, dear,” says the mom. To which...

the girl replies: “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.”)

Bush went so far as to ban broccoli from Air Force One and boldly declared he would not back down from his anti-broccoli position, even though California farmers dispatched 20,000 pounds of the cruciferous vegetable, which is high in calcium and Vitamin A, to the nation’s capital.

“There are truckloads of broccoli at this very minute descending on Washington,” he said.

Broccoli -- as an issue, not a side dish -- even popped up at a state dinner for Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki. “The broccoli growers of America are up in arms against me,” the leader of the free world told Mazowiecki. “Would you be interested in having the [shipment] in Poland?”

News reports from the time suggest the question left the prime minister somewhat baffled.

As for the Obama administration, there have been no announcements indicating that beets, which are high in Vitamins A, B1 and C, have been banned from Air Force One.

And for those who do like beets, here’s a recipe for Chioggia beet salad with horseradish creme fraiche. Broccoli lovers can follow this link for a recipe for pasta with broccoli and Italian sausage.

-- Steve Padilla

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