Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The American National Cattlemen's Association called the meatless menu "bizarre."
A congressman demanded equal time for the poultry, cattle and dairy producers.
The object of their wrath was the vegetarian buffet dinner provided by the organizers of the third annual Food Day and served at the White House Thursday night.
The cattlemen told President Carter that the dinner made it seem as if he advocated a vegetarian diet.
The White House denied any such thing and told the cattlemen that "since the people were bringing their own food they didn't feel they had any right to tell them what to bring and what not to bring."
The buffet, served on china and silver from Ridgewell Caterers with white cloth napkins and styrofoam cups, was prepared by Mitch Berliner, who has a stall at the Bethesda Farm Woman's Market and by the Golden Temple Conscious Cookery restaurant.
It took place in the Roosevelt Room, right across the hall from the Oval Office, a far cry from the first Food Day in 1975, which was so controversial it was improssible to get a joint resolution through Congress making the event official.
One of the drafters of that legislation. Doug Bloomfield, from new York Rep. Benjamin rosenthal's staff, was at the dinner Thursday night. "How ironical to be here." he said.
Food Day, and its organizer, Michael Jacobson, who is co-director of the consumer activist Center for Science in the Public Interest, are considered controversial and anti-establishment because they lay the blame for the poor eating habits of Americans on what they consider to be the monopololistic practices of the food industry and the power of its advertising.
Bloomfield was one of about 40 guests, who included Food Day staffers, some of their consumer and nutritionist friends, Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland, Assistant Agriculture Secretary Carol Foreman, Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.) Rep. Paul Rogers (D-Fla.) and several White House staffers. Invited, but among the no-shows, were the president and Mrs. Carter.
Midge Costanza was there, however, As special assistant to the President for public liaison, Costanza arranged for the dinner to be in the White House. She said the flap it caused didn't worry her a bit.
"I will never apologize for allowing people to have access to their government," she said.
"If the meat people want to have a dinner at the White House, they can fo through the same channels the Food Day people did."
Jack Watson, a member of the President's inner circle and the Secretary to the Cabinet, said he came because he was "hungry and curious." So did Richard Harden, who works for something called Budget and Organization.
They went away satisfied.
Watson, who said he happens "to love guacamole, black bean soup and casserole." all of which were prominently featured at the buffet, also said he eats "a lot of junk food. I snack a lot. I'm a stand-up eater," he explained. "But if I had my choice, and it were convenient to have food like this, I prefer it."
Watson said one of this favorite "stand-up meals is a glass of wine (cheap) and a can of sardines sprinkled with Tabasco sauce."
The casserole was made of borccoli, brown rice, nuts and chese. There were beautifully sliced and arranged ran vegetables to go with the guacamole, hummus (chick-pea spread) and onion dip, fresh fruits, apple cider, potato chips and corn chips.
Potato and corn chips! The skeptical were assured that those potato and corn chips were different. It was explained they were additive-free, and in the case of the potato chips, organic. They were, however, fried in oil, just like the "real" kind.
The Secretary of Agriculture, who seemed to relish his meal, said he didn't think there was anything wrong with a cereal and vegetable diet. Berglanc said while he was out in California last week he "really enjoyed the fruits and vegetables of the Central Valley."
Bergland went on: I'm sure I could have stayed on that diet and I would have been very healthy."
But he said he didn't see how the vegetarian buffet at the White House could be considered "a threat to animal agriculture.
Bergland said with all the promotion the cattlemen gave the White House dinner by wiring the President, they "guaranteed its success. If it weren't for their indignant attitude." he said, "this event might have gone unnoticed."
Arrangements for the dinner were not firm until Tuesday, when the Food Day staff learned they had to provide the food. They asked Berliner to eater the meal.
Berliner and his wife didn't have enough time to do it all themselves, so they farmed out part of the work to the vegetarian restaurant. Golden Temple Conscious Cookery. It is run by the white-turbaned, white-cloaked members of the Sikh Dharma religion.
The dinner, with enough food fo about twice the number of guests who came cost $550.
When last seen the leftovers were waiting to be picked up outside the West Wing of the White House, under the watchful eyes of Jacobson and his crew.