MENTION Mama Ayesha to most Baltimoreans and they are...


June 19, 1993

MENTION Mama Ayesha to most Baltimoreans and they are likely to draw a blank.

In nearby Washington, D.C., however, both Mama and her restaurant were not just institutions but famous institutions.

For more than four decades, Ayesha Howar Abraham operated a small Middle Eastern restaurant called Calvert Cafe, off the bridge that connects Adams Morgan with Connecticut Avenue.

Because of its location, her place attracted a diverse clientele that ranged from celebrities you see on television to families quietly conversing in Arabic to diplomats and Washington power brokers.

When Mama Ayesha died recently at the age of 93, she was remembered by many.

"In her heyday, she held court from a seat in the rear of the Calvert Cafe, a telephone at hand, busily rolling grape leaves or stuffing eggplant," the Washington Post wrote in an obituary.

"At times she would take a turn on an Arabic drum, accompanying belly dancers who were an attraction in the restaurant's Mount Olive Room. For special customers, Mrs. Abraham would read fortunes in the grounds of the cafe's thick Turkish coffee."

Mama Ayesha never learned to read or write Arabic or English but that never hindered her.

"I know all about Arab food," she used to say. And right she was.

Henry Kissinger was just one of the famous who received advice from her on Middle Eastern food and customs -- and politics, too.

JUDGE Stephen Breyer would have made a great choice for Supreme Court justice.

This conclusion is based not on the judge's outstanding court record, which is considerable, but on his clearly superior epicurean tastes.

When he lunched with President Clinton at their "get-acquainted" White House session a few days prior to the announcement of the president's choice for the top court spot, Judge Breyer had the good sense to order consomme and crab cakes.

Of course, White House crab cakes don't taste like those served up at Obrycki's or Phillips' or the hundreds of emporiums in the Chesapeake Bay region that really know how to prepare these delictable delicacies.

Still, the thought that a Boston jurist would have the smarts to order such a first-class entree tells us a lot about his finely honed sense of selectivity and good judgment. That's the most important criteria for a Supreme Court nominee.

It is not known what the president's ultimate choice, Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, prefers on her menus. She joined the president for a meal, but White House aides were mum on the entrees.

But since Judge Ginsberg has been a denizen of the Washington area for the past 13 years, we assume she, too, will opt for a good crab cake every time.

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