Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No Menu Released For President Obama's 2011 Ramadan Iftar Dinner

Why was the menu off the record?
The twinned practices of daylong fasting and then breaking the fast with a big dinner occupies a central place in the observation of Ramadan, the holiest month on the Muslim calendar. So it might seem to makes sense that the White House would release the menu for President Obama's White House Iftar dinner on Wednesday night, the most high-profile Iftar in America. The President was joined by an interfaith group of guests that included Members of Congress and  the Diplomatic Corps, senior White House officials,  high-profile American Muslims, and families of 9/11 victims and heroes. But no menu was issued for the dinner (a full post about the event is here). (Above, President Obama's place setting was photographed before the Iftar dinner began) 

No reason was given for not releasing the menu to media, but this isn't the first time the White House did not release the menu for a major dinner.  There is actually no discernible pattern to White House decisions for releasing or not releasing menus, over the course of the last two-plus years.  It's entirely random. 

The foreign pool reporter on duty on Wednesday noted that traditional Ramadan fast-breaking foods, fruit juice and dried dates, were served to guests as they awaited entrance into the State Dining Room for the Presidential Iftar. But that was it for food notations, and that was accidental; the reporter just happened to spot guests being offered these items while she was awaiting escort into the State Dining Room. 

President's Obama's dinner came one month ahead of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and he brought some of his guests to tears in the State Dining Room as he spoke about the approaching anniversary, and honored the service and sacrifice of Muslim Americans to the country. But first, the President made a joke about the crucial role food plays in Ramadan, where the observant fast from sunrise to sunset, and are not even allowed to drink water.

"Now, this year, Ramadan is entirely in August. That means the days are long, the weather is hot, and you are hungry," the President said, to laughter. "So I will be brief."

*The transcript and video of the President's remarks is here.

*AP photo.

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