Recipes are gravy in book that parodies the president with humor by the forkful


June 05, 1996|By ROB KASPER

THE JOKES ARE much better than the recipes. Folks who prefer a dose of political humor to a bite of a Grilled Elvis, a peanut butter and banana sandwich cooked in butter, are likely to enjoy "In the Kitchen With Bill," a combination cookbook and joke book allegedly containing the favorite dishes of Bill Clinton. Its publication date is today. This $9 paperback, which you can flip through in about the time it takes to polish off a serving of fries, is an unauthorized look at the dietary life of President Clinton, a man "with big appetites." The author goes by the name of Anonymous and is said to be a Democrat. This, of course, is the same description given of the "Anonymous" who wrote the best selling novel, "Primary Colors."

Whether the same person wrote both books was one of the questions I submitted to the publisher of "In The Kitchen With Bill."

The publisher was Michael Cader, who went to high school in Baltimore (Park, Class of 1979) and now is head of Cader Books in New York. He sent back written responses from Anonymous. The answers were as slippery as a Grilled Elvis.

Question: Are you the same person who wrote "Primary Colors."

Answer: "At some level, aren't we all the same person?"

Question: Have you dined at the White House? Seen the inside of the Clintons' fridge? Shared French fries with them?

Answer: "Been there, done that. But no one shares fries with the president and lives to tell the tale."

I wouldn't say I digested this book, but I did thumb through it.

I laughed a lot.

Truth, along with nutritional concerns, takes a holiday in this book. Some of the recipes, like the spaghetti omelet, are imagined favorites of President Clinton.

The book makes a clever stab at showing the calorie content of each dish by using symbols of little GOP elephants. Each elephant is said to represent anywhere from 100 to 200 calories a serving, a wide range using even Washington math. Later in the book, the symbols are said to represent fat content. Anonymous, like a lot of Democrats, seems to be strong on clever concepts, shaky on the details.

Fifty recipes fill the book, but the best stuff is in the margins. That is where you find the photographs of President Clinton eating or jogging, and that is where you find jokes, many stolen from professional comics.

One joke, credited to David Letterman, made me laugh out loud: "Recently, President Clinton went jogging in Israel along the West Bank. His thighs were so white, the Palestinians thought he was surrendering."

In our written exchange, Anonymous bristled at my suggestion he was stealing.

"I freely acknowledge my debt to others in preparing this material," he wrote. "Originality," he continued, "is nothing more than picking the color of paint and knowing where to apply it.".

I also laughed at the highly questionable statistic that "according to Domino's pizza, orders by the White House are 30 percent higher now than during the Bush administration, and the average flow of pies to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue increases by 18 percent when Hillary is out of town."

Anonymous presents this first lady as a woman trying to control her husband's bad habits, a role I suspect many wives can identify with. "We have made a lot of progress, on you know, pasta and things like that " Mrs. Clinton is quoted as saying. "But tofu has been hard for us."

Anonymous takes a few shots at the culinary quirks of some Republicans. Henry Kissinger is said to hate peas so much that he once pushed them onto the floor of Air Force One. President Bush supposedly started his day with a bowl of oatmeal topped with a crumbled Butterfinger candy bar.

But these men don't seem to have "the passion thing" that President Clinton, and a lot of guys, have about chow. I sensed this in the response Anonymous gave to my question of why he had written this book. (The author's admitted nicknames, "DeepFat" as he is known by e-mail friends, and "Old Bay" as he is known by Baltimore acquaintances, convinced me the author was male.)

Anonymous flatly denied my suggestion that he wrote the book to cash in on a chance to unload some unflattering photos and greasy recipes. Rather, he said, he wrote the book for the good of the nation.

"Unflattering photos and greasy recipes are surprisingly easy to unload in this country," Anonymous replied. "I felt strongly that the book by Oprah's chef, Rosie Daley ['In the Kitchen with Rosie,' Alfred A. Knopf, $14.95] misrepresented the gastronomic desires of our nation.

"Some have said this coming election is about character," Anonymous wrote, "but I feel that it is more about appetite; who has the fire in their belly to lead this nation, and what is cooking on that fire? And who has a digestive system strong enough to stand up to the challenge?"

Pub Date: 6/05/96

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