I am considering applying for the position of White House chef. The job opened up a couple of weeks ago when first lady Laura Bush fired Executive Chef Walter Scheib III, a holdover from the Clinton administration.
Tensions between the Bushes and Scheib had been running high for some time. Scheib balked when asked to forego preparing French cuisine and using French cooking techniques. Despite a cordial meeting with Jacques Chirac on his recent trip to Europe, Bush -- apparently still irked over the France's refusal to support the Iraq War -- wants nothing to do with French food.
But for a chef like Scheib who was trained in the culinary tradition of Escoffier to abandon béchamel and beurre blanc is an enormous sacrifice.
Then insult was added to injury. The final straw came when the White House requested that Scheib prepare an inaugural dinner consisting of dishes designed around brand names manufactured by top donors to the GOP, to wit, Coca Cola, Safeway, Anheuser-Busch, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Pilgrim's Pride Whole Butter Basted Turkeys.
Scheib did a yeoman's job. He brined the turkeys in Coca-Cola, created a stuffing made from plain cake Krispy Kremes and served a salad of "Safeway" greens on the side. Everyone had a few frosty glasses of Bud to wash it all down.
In the end, however, Scheib's creativity wasn't enough to save his job.
The word is out that the White House is looking for someone who can whip up the president's favorite foods and do it with a smile. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a bologna sandwich thrown in once and while for variety, barbequed ribs and, of course, Tex-Mex food.
I can do that. I know my jalapenos.
While I would not describe myself as a chef per se, I once owned restaurants that served simple comfort food.
The top three items on the menu were hamburgers, nachos and chili.
And I've poured more pints of beer than I can count. We offered Bud and Bud Lite on tap, too.
But there may be even greater problems with my application than my sparse credentials as a chef.
The competition is intense. The Women Chefs and Restaurateurs has written to Laura Bush encouraging her to appoint a female chef. The organization notes that "women have been at the helm of feeding America's families, now is the time to have a woman at the helm of feeding America's First Family."
Realistically, though, I am my own biggest problem.
I'm not a Republican. I didn't vote for Bush in 2000 or 2004. And I didn't vote for George H.W. Bush in 1992 although I did vote for him the first time around in 1988. One vote for a Bush out of four opportunities will be hard to defend.
Then there is the matter of my editorial commentary regarding Bush's policies. Five years of searing criticism is easily accessible on the World Wide Web to any White House staffer doing a background check.
But if the White House is as open and all embracing as it says it is, then Bush should be willing to overlook our differences of opinion.
What it will come down to, I think, is two things.
First, I must emphasize the positive. Bush and I both like dogs. In fact, one of his dogs is named Spot, the very name of one of my own most beloved mutts.
We both like baseball. What better subject to talk about while chowing down a huge plate of ribs?
Second and more importantly will be my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If
I can make a better PB and
J than any other candidate, will I get the job?
I don't think anybody can do it better, so I'm getting my suitcase out.
At the outset, you need to know that the "J" in PB and
J really should stand for "jam" not "jelly."
What goes best with peanut butter is jam. And the best jam is homemade from strawberries, apricots or cherries. Forget about canning and sterilizing jars. Just whip up a batch of freezer jam.
Make sure the bread is homemade, too. That's not as time-consuming nor as difficult as advertised.
Spread your jam of choice onto every centimeter of one very thin slice of bread. Then repeat with peanut butter on the other slice.
Cut the sandwich on the bias and serve.
This is the perfect sandwich that I hope will persuade Bush that I am the right man for the job.
Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly opinion column since 1988. He can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.