The first shot of the war came in the form of a rather puzzling report that, henceforth, by order of the President, broccoli would no longer be served to the President. The bloodhounds of the Washington, D.C., press corps, usually more interested in red meat than vegetables, sensed a Big Story. President George Bush responded in stronger terms than anyone had expected. At a state dinner for Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, he made his position very clear. “Just as Poland had a rebellion against totalitarianism, I am rebelling against broccoli, and I refuse to give ground,” he declaimed.
So this was what the 1990s were going to be about! With the darn Reds in disarray, George Bush was going after the darn greens. Then Bush launched his second strike. “I do not like broccoli,” he said, “and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”
Broccoli growers were lightly steamed. They sent the trucks, carrying a 10-ton side order worth about $7,000, overland to the White House. The idea was to make Bush eat his words.
The Chief Executive quickly temporized and shifted the onus to his First Lady. “Barbara loves broccoli,” he told reporters. “She’s tried to make me eat it. She eats it all the time herself. So she can go out and meet the caravan.”
Meanwhile, food pundits registered their opinions. “I don’t think the President was given broccoli when it was properly cooked,” says Julia Child. “Broccoli has to be peeled.” Sheila Lukins, co-author of the Silver Palate cookbooks, finds the vegetable majestic. “It is the equivalent of the redwood,” she says. And Jeff Smith, author of The Frugal Gourmet, casts the whole thing in partisan terms. “My grandmother would cook broccoli until it was muck,” he says. “But she wouldn’t let a Republican get away with this.”
In the end, everything worked out. Barbara Bush met the broccoli growers and was presented with three crates—and a sheaf of recipes. The remaining 80,000 servings were donated to a food bank for the needy. And George Bush, President of the United States and leader of the Free World, continues to refuse to eat his broccoli.