Monday, September 12, 2011

Parsing The First Grandma's Dining Adventures

Mrs. Marian Robinson enjoys everything from State Dinners to private White House potlucks, and is a fan of DC's restaurant scene... 
First Lady Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, flies under the radar and lives a pretty regular life despite the fact that her son-in-law is Leader of the Free World. Mrs. Robinson sails out of the White House gates unrecognized, and her private life includes plenty of eating action that's like that enjoyed by Grandmas everywhere: Hosting dinner parties, visiting restaurants, and--something anyone in a big family can relate to--occasionally skipping family dinners, reports Politico in a new feature story. On the other hand, Mrs. Robinson also attends President Obama's State Dinners: She was a guest at the May 2010 State Dinner for Mexico's President Felipe Calderón. In January of this year, Mrs. Robinson attended the reception following the State Dinner for China's President Hu Jintao. (Above: Mrs. Robinson, at right, looks on the President and First Lady introduce daughter Sasha to President Hu)

President Obama has described Mrs. Robinson as "quite the lady about town.” She's one of the few mothers-in-law to actually live longterm at the White House.

"Robinson, 74, has forged new friendships with locals, dined in the city’s eateries and even appeared alongside Education Secretary Arne Duncan to read to young children as part of “Let’s Read, Let’s Move,” one of her daughter’s cherished causes," Politico reports. (Above: In a rare media outing, Mrs. Robinson appeared with Mrs. Obama in a cover story for Essence magazine in 2009)

While Mrs. Robinson does plenty of the hands-on childcare for Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10--she helps with homework and drives them to school at Sidwell Friends each day--she doesn't always share in the First Family's meals.

"At the White House, Robinson is careful to give the rest of the family some space. She does not always join the Obamas for dinner," Politico notes.

In fact, Mrs. Robinson, who grew up on Chicago's South Side, throws her own dinner parties at the White House, a tradition she started back in the Windy City. One of her closest new friends in DC is Betty Currie, who was personal secretary to President Bill Clinton.

"She likes hosting friends and has continued her Chicago potluck dinners for guests at the White House," Politico notes.

Mrs. Robinson's best friend from Chicago, Eleanor 'Mama Kaye' Wilson, is a frequent guest at the White House, and joins the potlucks when she's in town. Wilson is Godmother to Malia and Sasha. In 2010, the White House released a recipe for Salmon Croquettes that was created by Wilson, and identified it as an "Obama Family favorite."

Some favorite DC eateries...
Noted among Mrs. Robinson's DC dining excursions are visits to chef Art Smith's Art and Soul restaurant, which specializes in Southern comfort food, and chef Todd Gray's Equinox, which is just two blocks from the White House. Both chefs have been guest chefs at the White House, and are big supporters of the Let's Move! campaign, especially the Chefs Move to Schools project.

The President and Mrs. Obama had their first Washington Date Night at Equinox, and the First Lady's most recent publicly known dining excursion there was in March, for a Ladies' Luncheon in honor of Mexico's First Lady Margarita Zavala.  Equinox has a delicious menu of inspired American dishes, sourced locally and sustainably.

The President and Mrs. Obama visited Smith's Table 52 restaurant in Chicago for their first Presidential Valentine's Day. Both Smith and Mrs. Robinson were readers on the Storytime Stage at the 2011 White House Easter Egg Roll.

International gastronomy...
Mrs. Robinson accompanied the First Lady on a weeklong trip to Africa in June, and was present for the traveling group's private dinner at Mokolodi Restaurant, at the Mokolodi Game Preserve in Botswana. She has also traveled to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador with the First Family. (Above: Before dinner, Reserve representative Ian Kirby (r) explained the Preserve's work to Mrs. Obama and her party; Mrs. Robinson is at left)

The First Grandma also has a taste for gambling, something that pre-dates the White House, notes Politico. She takes jaunts to Las Vegas--which President Obama has noted in public remarks. So perhaps Mrs. Robinson is hitting the legendary all-you-can-eat Vegas buffets, and enjoying 18 ounce steaks for $5.99...

*Top photo by Pete Souza/White House; Photo of Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Robinson from Essence magazine; Africa photo by US Embassy/Botswana

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