Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Michelle Obama Presents National Design Awards Luncheon Guests With Gifts From Kitchen Garden

Top designers, student guests receive personal gift from First Lady...
First Lady Michelle Obama
welcomed the 2011 winners and finalists of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum's National Design Awards for a celebratory luncheon in the East Room today. Dubbed the Oscars of the design world, the awards honor extraordinary achievement in ten categories of design, from Fashion through Landscape Architecture (a full post about the event is here). A special gift awaited each guest, who included local high school students as well as America's creative geniuses: Placed on each chair was a program, accompanied by a paper packet of seeds from Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden. (Above: a seed packet of Tennis Ball Lettuce)

The seed packets were a vibrant purple, and each contained a single variety of a vegetable grown in Mrs. Obama's 1,500 square-foot South Lawn garden, including Tennis Ball Lettuce, China Rose Winter Radish, Long Island Cheese Winter Squash, and Red Calico Lima Beans. "Compliments of the White House Kitchen Garden," reads the text on the front.

The back of each seed packet gives a brief explanation of the origin of the vegetable, and describes how to plant it.

The text on the Tennis Ball seed packet, above, reads: "The lettuce variety Tennis-ball was a very popular one in the vegetable garden at Monticello. Jefferson noted that "it does not require so much care and attention" as other types. Plant the seed in rich, well-drained soil early in the spring for an early summer crop, or else, plant in late summer for a fall harvest."

A White House aide said no information was available on who created the design for the seed packets.

Mrs. Obama and President Obama have frequently given gifts from her Kitchen Garden. Most recently, Mrs. Obama presented seed from the Kitchen Garden to the women veterans of Jubilee House. The First Lady helped renovate the Fayetteville, North Carolina house in July, for a special episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The show airs later this month. (Above: A seed packet for Red Calico Lima Beans)

During President Obama's State Visit to Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in June, he presented His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales with an elaborate Kitchen Garden gift that included seeds, seedlings, and plants from Mrs. Obama's garden, as well as from President Thomas Jefferson's historically accurate garden at Monticello, and President George Washington's garden at Mount Vernon. The gift was packed in a handcrafted box created from the wood of a Magnolia tree that once stood on the White House grounds. It took special handling to get the live gift across international borders.

Place settings and floral arrangements...
The Kitchen Garden-inspired menu for the luncheon is here. The President George W. Bush formal china was used. The table decor was both muted and vibrant, with round tables of ten covered in blue-green silk with a floral pattern. There were two different floral centerpieces. One version had tall flower arrangements, with four candles, and the second version had a smaller bouquet in a golden bucket. The flowers were purple and pink orchids, peach and pink roses, purple and pink dahlias, surrounded by ferns and ivy. (Above: Placesettings, and chairs with the seed packet and program combination)

The First Lady's table...
Seated at the First Lady's table were Gilles Mendel, of J. Mendel fashion house, winner of the Fashion Award; his guest, Cherie Ellis Cone; Lifetime Achievement recipient Matthew Carter and his guest Mary A. Stephenson; Bill Moggridge, Director of Cooper-Hewitt and his wife Karen Moggridge; Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian; Diane Castillo, a student at Columbia Heights Education Campus; and Laysha Ward, President of the Target Foundation and Target Community Relations, one of the sponsors of the Awards. (Above: The tables before the luncheon)

This is Mrs. Obama's third year as honorary patron of the Awards; she hosted similar luncheons in 2010 and in 2009. The 2011 National Design Awards winners list is here.

The National Design Awards were first launched at the White House in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the Honorary Patron in the inaugural year, and First Lady Laura Bush continued the tradition. The annual awards recognize extraordinary contributions to design in ten categories: Lifetime Achievement, Design Mind, Corporate and Institutional Achievement, Architecture Design, Communication Design, Fashion Design, Interaction Design, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture and Product Design.

A video of Mrs. Obama's remarks:

*Photos and additional reporting by Helena Bottemiller for Obama Foodorama

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