The clear voice of Beyonce singing "America the Beautiful" ringing out from the marble steps of Lincoln Memorial. The sleek limousines with walls as thick as a battleship's. The electrified crowds flooding the National Mall. The speeches invoking confidence and hope, realism and a sense of service: If Obama-mania hasn't caught up with you yet, it soon will.
Tuesday's inauguration and the parties celebrating it - positioned as perfectly as they were around Martin Luther King Day - combined to create a grand and moving affair. And after President Obama's symbolic Lincoln-esque train ride from Philadelphia to Washington, it was only fitting that the inaugural lunch was equally symbolic. It, too, evoked Lincoln and Americana - and fancied-up down-home cookin'.
First course: a seafood stew. This was followed by a "brace of American birds": cherry-glazed duck breast and herb-roasted pheasant stuffed with wild rice and served with molasses-whipped sweet potatoes, winter vegetables and corn muffins. As for dessert, it was cinnamon apple sponge cake, made with Granny Smith apples and served with caramel-apple sauce and vanilla ice cream.
President Obama, apparently, loves seafood and game birds - along with pizza, preferably from Italian Fiesta Pizzeria in Chicago, Mexican food from Topolobampo, also in Chicago, and chili dogs. George "W," by comparison, is variously reported to love pork rinds, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and "Mexican." President Lincoln, on the other hand, loved cinnamon.
According to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, the concept of an inaugural luncheon dates back to 1897, when a luncheon was given for President McKinley and several other guests at the U.S. Capitol. It morphed into its current form in 1953.
This year's luncheon was catered by Design Cuisine of Arlington, Virginia, an outfit that likes to source locally and go green when it can. According to the Washington Post , they were asked to create a meal "reminiscent of the Lincoln era."
Given that President Obama and his family along with all the Washington elite - congressmen, senators and the top administration staff - were dining together, how were things kept on the up-and-up? Design Cuisine owner, Bill Homan, told the Guardian that "they," meaning security, sent over people to observe the preparations, then the meal was escorted at 3 a.m. to the Capitol. No Cavalier King Charles Spaniel tasting of poisoned food here.
If Canada Post didn't deliver your invitation to this year's inaugural luncheon in time, I'm sure you'll appreciate the following recipe for the starter course, the seafood stew.
It perfectly suits our setting with all the fresh seafood at hand and, as it was especially designed as a starter course to warm up those 200 hungry diners after a brisk morning out on the mall taking in the historic ceremonies, you will no doubt find it perfectly suits our West Coast lifestyle on a cold winter's day.
In the spirit of service and togetherness, you can easily whip it up then invite nine pals over and generate your own Obama-drama, or at least a darn good dinner party that will keep the good will flowing.
The original version was paired with Napa Valley's Duckhorn Vineyards 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, but I'm sure you'll find a noble B.C. equivalent.
6 (1 lb) Maine lobsters (aw, come on, be a good Canuck and go for Nova Scotia lobster)
20 medium-sized scallops
36 large shrimp, peeled, cleaned and tails removed (about 2 lb)
10 (1-oz) pieces of black cod
1/2 cup small diced carrots
1/2 cup small diced celery
1/2 cup small diced leek
1/2 cup small diced Idaho potatoes (I'm sure President Obama wouldn't mind if you used any old potatoes, including those from Pemberton)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground white pepper or black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 quart heavy cream
1 cup dry vermouth (optional)
10 (5-inch) puff pastry rounds
10 small (3-1/2 inch) terrines/ramekins or serving dishes of your choice
1. Bring one gallon of water to a boil; poach lobsters, then shrimp, then black cod and last scallops. After seafood is cooked, remove from water. Reserve water and bring to boil.
2. Cook all vegetables in liquid that was used for the seafood. Remove vegetables when tender. Allow the liquid to continue to boil until only one quarter of liquid remains. This will be the base for the sauce.
3. Bring seafood liquid back to a boil and add the vermouth and heavy cream and reduce by half, season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste. You have reached your desired thickness when the sauce will cover the back of a wooden spoon. Set aside to cool.
4. Cut lobster, shrimp and scallops into bite-sized pieces.
5. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
6. Fold seafood and vegetables into cool sauce, being careful not to mix too much as this will break up the seafood. Scoop mixture into terrines or oven proof baking dish of your choice.
7. Cover terrines with puff pastry rounds, brush them with egg wash and bake them until golden brown, about eight to ten minutes. Allow to cool for five minutes before serving. You can cook this two to three hours ahead of time and keep warm at 150 F degrees. As was ably demonstrated at this official luncheon, which was delivered about nine hours before it was served.
Note: in a truly democratic spirit, all seafood can be substituted with other favorite options of your choice and availability.
All the recipes for the inaugural luncheon are available at http://inaugural.senate.gov/documents.
Glenda Bartosh is an award winning freelance writer who, as she writes this, is wearing her vintage "Obama for President" button that her friend brought back from Washington, D.C.