Surrounding President Trump are more Slavic people or their descendants than ever before in our history. Two of his three wives, including his current, four of his five children, two daughters-in-law and a son-in-law are Slavic. Moreover, Mr. Trump has pan-Slavic parents-in-law.
Almost his entire kin hail directly or indirectly from northern, eastern, western or southern Slavic nations. However, none is Russo-Slavic. Russian President Vladimir Putin should not have any illusion of breaking through to provide his perspective—all the chairs are taken, thank you.
At the family’s center, next to Trump, is the member most linguistically gifted. Melania Trump speaks Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, German, French, Italian and English. Such skills require a lot of listening as well as talking, and she seems, especially, to excel at the former.
Please, Melania, listen to my request. You would help the nation greatly by expanding the White House Kitchen Garden which Michelle Obama permanently established last fall with help from The Burpee Foundation. Better still, you would emphasize the great Slavic-style vegetables in American gardening and cuisine. In fact, the sophisticated and diverse Slavic cuisine depends greatly on vegetables; those vegetables tend to be earthy—not sweet.
People think Slavic food is heavy and creamy (only on holidays), often fried (much less than American) and centered on meat (“ne”, it’s vegetable-based).
Central and Eastern Europe’s most popular vegetables include cabbage, beet, potato, carrot, onion, pumpkin and cucumber. In the Slavic South and West, eggplant, tomato, string bean, pepper and celery move up the ranking. Of all these, only the potato and tomato stand out as popular American vegetables.
Furthermore, throughout Slavic countries, fresh cooking rules. Restaurants are still “special occasion only”; fast food is for urbanites, children and transients. Gardening is hugely popular.
Mrs. Trump was raised in Sevnica, a small town in Slovenia where age-old traditions persist, especially vegetable gardening. At the center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it absorbed influences from North, South, East and West for a thousand years. Such multicultural traditions have never entered the White House, much less its grounds.
We should look forward to string bean, cucumber and pea fences; patches of edible pumpkins, potatoes, beets, onions, parsnips; herbs such as sorrel, condiments such as horseradish. Whereas the Obamas’ garden was sweet and spicy, the Trumps’ garden will be pungent and earthy.
Melania, please help Americans return to our roots and other ground-hugging vegetables such as cabbage, kohlrabi and endive. Let us now welcome the startling zip of freshly dug radish, the depth and dimension of the savory cauliflower.
You have, in the new White House Kitchen Garden, the space and, in the next four years, the time. Veteran and would-be gardeners will thank you.
A version of this article appeared in the January 31, 2017 edition of The Chicago Tribune