Frankly, we were expecting a larger scandal to come out of last night’s White House state dinner in honor of visiting French president Emmanuel Macron—maybe a McDonald’s burger on the menu, or an insult from tee-totaling Trump about French wine? But the only food-related kerfuffle at last night’s formal dinner was the highly disappointing jambalaya.
Jambalaya was served alongside a rack of lamb; the traditionally Southern dish was a nod to the shared French-American history of Louisiana. Menus for state dinners and other such functions are highly symbolic, as this BBC piece explains, and are designed to convey their own diplomatic messages. But—as The Advocate reports—the Louisianans in attendance didn’t even recognize the side dish as jambalaya, seeing as it contained none of the chicken, seafood, or sausage that traditionally characterize the dish.
“The jambalaya was not jambalaya—it may have been rice pilaf but it wasn’t jambalaya,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., told The Advocate. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., was also confused by the dish, which he referred to politely as “Washington jambalaya” in a conversation about the dinner on an ABC News podcast.
But the two Republican senators, disappointed as they might have been in the sad starchy side passed off as a spicy Southern staple, were eager to praise the evening overall. They even found a silver lining in the pathetic jambalaya lie: “I was kind of thinking at the end, ‘There was supposed to be jambalaya here.’ It had no semblance of jambalaya,” Sen. Cassidy told The Advocate. “On the other hand, it was very good.”