PM Modi in US: Gourmet vegetarian feast planned by First Lady for state dinner at White House

Soon after becoming the Prime Minister of India in 2014, Narendra Modi had visited the United States of America in September that year, when he went through a hectic itinerary while also observing a ritual fast. On his state visit now, when he sits down to a state dinner today at the White House lawns, accompanied by President of the United States of America Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, the prime minister will have a vegetarian feast laid out for him.

To host Prime Minister Modi at the White House state dinner, First Lady Jill Biden (right) hired the services of Chef Nina Curtis, who specialises in plant-based cuisine. Narendra Modi and Jill Biden are seen here at an event of the National Science Foundation in the US. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@narendramodi

On the menu for the 400-guest dinner ceremony are dishes such as marinated millet, corn kernel salad, and stuffed mushrooms. Observing that the prime minister was a vegetarian, First Lady Biden said yesterday that she asked Chef Nina Curtis, who specialises in plant-based cuisine, to work with the White House staff and create a stunning vegetarian menu.

Guests will have the option to add fish to their main course as well, she said during the media preview for the state dinner.

Modi arrives in Washington DC from New York City. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@narendramodi

Modi arrived in Washington DC from New York City, where he led a historic event at the United Nations Headquarters to commemorate the 9th International Day of Yoga, attended by UN officials, diplomats and prominent personalities. He is visiting the United States from June 21 to 24 at the invitation of President Joe Biden and the First Lady.

A warm welcome for PM Modi on a drizzly day. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@narendramodi

The first course for the state dinner will include marinated millet, grilled corn kernel salad, compressed watermelon, and a tangy avocado sauce. The main course includes stuffed portobello mushrooms and a creamy saffron-infused risotto.

Upon request, guests would be served sumac-roasted sea bass, lemon-dill yogurt sauce, crisped millet cakes and summer squashes, according to the menu.

For dessert, there is rose and cardamom-infused strawberry shortcake. Wines on the list are Stone Tower Chardonnay ‘Kristi’ 2021, Patel Red Blend 2019, and Domain Carneros Brut Rose.

California-based Chef Curtis said, “It is truly a pleasure to be able to work with the First Lady and help her to bring her culinary vision to life…. We have curated a menu that really showcases the best in American cuisine and also then seasoned with Indian elements and flavours.”

The chef added, “We are also very excited that India is leading efforts to celebrate the International Year of the Millets. We have incorporated marinated millets into our menu and the Indian cuisine elements throughout the menu.”

White House Social Secretary Carlos Elizondo, previewing the state dinner, said that the First Lady was involved in this event at every step. Every element of the dinner and decor was chosen to make each guest’s experience personal and warm, he said. The decor of the venue features elements that honour the tradition and cultures of the US and India.

President Joe Biden enjoys a moment in the sun on Summer Solstice, June 21, in front of the White House. He and the First Lady will host the state dinner for PM Modi on the White House lawns. Photo courtesy: Instagram/@whitehouse

“The inspiration for our [event] design really began with the peacock, India’s national bird. From the invitations to the programmes to the pavilion, we wanted to evoke that breathtaking feeling when it extends its tail, unveiling its colourful beauty, majesty, and strength,” said the social secretary. “Green draping will flow from the ceiling, giving way to tables cloaked in the saturated blues and greens of Indian silks, falling onto a carpet of navy blue. The hues, not only a nod to our guests, but also to our host, as blue and green are also two of Dr (Jill) Biden’s favourite colours.”

Each table would feature an arrangement of blooms in vases large and small, and the colour of the flowers mirrored the saffron of India’s flag and the heritage it represented, said Elizondo.

The social secretary said as leaders had done at previous state dinners for decades, President Biden and Prime Minister Modi would give their toasts from an eagle lectern. “For this dinner, embossed on the rich forest green backdrop behind them, we have replicated that iconic eagle and a peacock in the same style, framing the leaders with their national birds. In the peacock’s talons, stalks of millets, a nod to India’s successful campaign to declare 2023 the International Year of Millets,” he said.

Elizondo said that around them were lotus flowers, which were an important symbol in India. “Their gleaming petals reminding us, that each day, our nations bloom stronger and more radiant, together. Throughout the space, you will see more images of lotuses, their design inspired by the mandala illustrations found in traditional Indian art.”