Heard on the Hill: ‘Black History’ Menu Steams Patrons

Posted February 27, 2009 at 6:23pm

House cafeteria officials stirred a pot they didn’t mean to last week when a sign promoting a special Black History Month menu drew the ire of some of their customers.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Longworth House Office Building cafeteria offered special menu items in honor of Black History Month on Tuesday. But the 8-1/2-by-11-inch sign that went up last Monday announcing the menu didn’t go over too well. The sign offended some restaurant patrons who thought it played to racial stereotypes, according to an HOH tipster.

“Longworth Café will be celebrating Black History Month on Tuesday, February 24, 2009,” read the sign.

The sign listed the menu items, which included barbecue ribs, fried chicken, stewed okra, candied yams and apple cobbler.

Chastised, the cafeteria took down the sign just hours after it went up.

“While the intention of our chefs to honor Black History Month was a sincere and heartfelt one, we immediately recognized it was more appropriate and accurate to describe the menu offerings last Tuesday as ‘Southern-style’ cuisine,” said Mary Bowman, the regional director for Restaurant Associates, the vendor that runs the cafeteria. “We instructed our staff to immediately remove any promotional items with regard to Black History Month and regret offending anyone with what was meant to be a genuine cultural tribute.”

Help Wanted for Hagan. Even Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) might be having an easier time with staffing than Sen. Kay Hagan.

The freshman North Carolina Democrat’s door has been spinning of late, with the departures of two aides — one, Fred Aikens, was hired on Feb. 18 and let go the next day. The Raleigh News & Observer reports that Aikens, a former fiscal analyst for the state Legislature, was hired to do constituent work, but he never actually worked in the Senator’s office.

The North Carolina paper also reports that Hagan’s state political director, Muthoni Wambu, who worked on the Senator’s campaign and the presidential campaign of now-Vice President Joseph Biden, has departed the office, too.

Hagan wouldn’t comment on the matter when a Roll Call reporter asked her about the staffing upheaval, and a staffer outside the Senate chamber directed the reporter to call the Senator’s office. Spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan wouldn’t comment either, citing office policy against discussing personnel matters.

Vito’s an Open Book. Sounds like former Rep. Vito Fossella isn’t even trying to keep secrets anymore. The New York Republican, whose love child and mistress were uncovered after the then-Congressman’s drunken-driving arrest, was spotted in the basement of the Longworth House Office Building yakking on his cell phone about his banking.

Our spy didn’t hear actual figures, but says the disgraced former Representative didn’t seem to care who overheard his business, barking into the phone, “How much is in that checking account?”

Obama, Schmo-bama. The president is old news, but will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas — well, now there’s a celeb. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) made sure to have his picture snapped with the famously fedora-ed singer when both men attended the White House tribute to Stevie Wonder on Wednesday.

Clyburn is hoping photographic evidence of the meeting (Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California played photog) will impress some young will.i.am fans he knows.

“What a talented guy,” Clyburn told HOH. “My grandkids are going to be so jealous!”

Brides and Babies for RC Byliners. It has been a busy week for the Roll Call family.

Early Thursday morning, Stephen Langel, a reporter for Roll Call’s sister publication CongressNow, welcomed daughter Emily Talia Langel. And on Saturday, Roll Call reporter John McArdle was set to marry longtime ladylove Laura Cowden in Charlottesville, Va.

It’s the first child for Stephen and his wife, Shoshana. The baby has a full head of black hair, and, according to Dad, looks just like him. “Poor kid,” Langel quipped.

“She’s a very chatty baby so far,” Langel added — perhaps not surprising, considering both of her parents talk for a living. (He’s a reporter; she’s a rabbi.)

McArdle and Cowden were expected to tie the knot at the University of Virginia chapel (both are alums of Mr. Jefferson’s university), followed by a reception at nearby Alumni Hall. Alas, the ceremony took place after HOH’s deadline, so we can’t share details such as what the bride wore — or whether the groom got teary-eyed at the altar.

Overheard on the Hill. “$650,000 for beaver management in North Carolina and Mississippi — how does one manage a beaver?”

— A Twitter posting (or tweet) from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Friday. He reposted the message about an hour later, removing the query about how one manages a beaver. Perhaps he could hear HOH giggling.

Amanda Temple of GalleryWatch contributed to this report.

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