In honor of last night’s White House State Dinner with President Hu Jintao of China, I defrosted Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken and splurged with the Shu Mai dumplings – on a weeknight! Silly? Yes. But certainly less drab and a little more fun than just saying: “we’re defrosting pre-made food from the grocery store.” While the older girls are thick in the midst of mid-term exams, it brought a smile to their faces and we joked about getting dressed up for dinner – in Snuggies.
I love these photos from 1962 State Dinners. The first with the Kennedy’s and Reza Shah and Queen Farah of Iran, the second with Ivory Coast’s very first first family: Mr. and Mrs. Houphouët-Boigny.
I could stare for a long time at the elegant gowns that would look fabulous today, and the lovely faces, thinking nostalgically of a simpler time. It actually was such a complex, transitional time for the entire world, experiencing new revolutions, cries for democracy and radical social changes. The innocence and glamor in the photos feels almost eerie given the turmoil the countries hosted in both State Dinner photos have experienced (and continue today, 40 years later).
There’s lots to discuss with kids around these photos and experiences: the dresses, the formality and protocol in such dinners where playing host is an important gesture signaling the respect bestowed from one nation to another (President Bush threw a lunch for the Chinese President and this was considered a re-buff), what’s happening in those countries today, why there has been so much upheaval; or maybe simply look for the Obama’s White House dinner photos and see what’s on the menu.