Shrimp gumbo instead of consomme, a menu in English instead of "Franglais", and coffee without liqueurs were among the breaks with recent tradition when Rosalynn Carter decided to Americanize the White decided to Americanize the White House State dinner last night.
According to White House executive chef Henry Haller, "She asked for something American. I made up three menus: the one with the capon (which was finally selected); another with a crown roast of lamb and one with sirloin of beef. Mrs. Carter chose the one that looked most American and the one that was most reasonable."
Reaction among food professionals to the very American southern gumbo, served with cornmeal-coated pastries called cornsticks, was mostly positive. The food and wine editor of House & Garden magazine, Jane Ellis, thought it was "lovely to have that very good American dish."
Following the gumbo, breast of capon in white grape sauce was served. Before the Carters entered the White House, it would have been called supreme of capon veronique - a Franglais phrase.
Franglais, or fractured French produced such amusing combinations in the past as quenelles of sole au gratin and supreme of lobster en bellevue. This prompted one French journalist to write "J'attends d'etre invited at the White House. J'y speakerai english with M. Nixon without difficulties!"
Accompanying the capon or the menu was saffron rice and asparagus tips in butter.
Haller said he had been forced to use frozen jumbo asparagus instead of fresh because of the terrible weather conditions.
The salad course of Bibb lettuce with oil and vinegar dressing was accompanied by Kentucky Trappist cheese, which Haller called "the best in the United States."
For dessert, the pastry chef made three kinds of cookies to go with the burnt almond ice cream ring, made from Louis Sherry's all-natural ice-cream covered with butterscotch sauce.
If a caterer were preparing the meal, he would charge about $10 a person for it, according to a local caterer. The cost of the food alone was bout $4.50 per serving, considered extremely reasonable for a formal four course dinned.
The green Truman chino, made by the American firm of Lenox, along with the Monroe vermeil flatware was chosen for the round tables seating eight or nine. The tables were covered with plain white cloths and decorated with white votive candles surrounding centerpieces of red tulips - a special Valentine's Day touch.The Carte's, including Amy, were to sit at one of the round tables.
Breaking with a tradition introduced by the Kennedys, no hard liquor was to be served before dinner. Instead the 180 dinner guests were to he offered a Washington State chablis, vermouth cases ot orange juice.
The gumbe was to be accompanied by Paul Masson Race Sherry at $14.19 a bottle; the capor, by BV Pinot Chardonnay at $4.99; and the champagne for the after-dinner oasts was to be Schramsberg Blance Elancs at $8.99.
The 100 after-dinner guests who come in for the entertainment were to be served Taylor, Creta Blanca and Paul Masson champagnes which cost about $4 a bottle.
Serving only American wines at White House functions is a custom which has been followed off and on since the Johnson administration, but the disappearance of liqueurs and brandies with the after-dinner coffee is a first in 31 years. According to John Ficklin, the maitre d', they had been served at least since the Truman administration.
These changes in White House state dinners are very much in keeping with Mrs. Carter's descriptions of their own life style: They drink very little) they prefer hearty soups chicken and fich rather than beef and cat very simple desserts, if any.
Haller said he likes the simplicity of the menus and believes that more than four courses is "a waste." Many American foods. He said, are appropriate for state dinners and the next one, for the Canadian Prime Minister, will be lamb or duckor beef. The President, Haller said, "loves duck."