November 15th, 2010
07:30 PM ET
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Food in the Field gives a sneak peek into what CNN's team is eating, and the food culture they encounter as they travel the globe. Today's contributor, Senior Photojournalist Mark Walz is based in Washington D.C. He covers the White House and has traveled on Air Force One many times.

It's sometimes like a four-star restaurant in the sky, and sometimes like a favorite down-home diner. The food aboard Air Force One offers first class fare with a home-cooked flair.

I recently flew aboard Air Force One with President Obama, on the way to Jakarta, Indonesia, a 6 hour flight. This was the second of four countries the President visited on his globe-encircling trip.

All the meals served on Air Force One are prepared on board, in the galley by Air Force personnel. One of the Air Force flight stewards confirmed that the President is served the same menu as the rest of the plane. The meals come on gold-rimmed Air Force One china, with beverages in glassware embossed with the Presidential Seal. Silverware comes wrapped inside a folded napkin and held together with a Presidential paper ring. Even the drink napkin says, "Aboard the Presidential Aircraft."

Many times I have boarded AF1 to be greeted by delicious aromas wafting through the press cabin, which is directly in front of the galley. That day was no exception. The traveling press corps find a menu on every flight. That morning's breakfast was Chicken Fried Steak with Country Gravy, described as "A southern favorite...steak is battered and fried, then topped with rich country gravy and served with scrambled eggs and a flaky biscuit." This was accompanied by a parfait of "creamy strawberry yogurt topped with crunchy banana granola."

I found the steak to be peppery and fork tender. The fried coating looked picture-perfect and the gravy atop was luscious and creamy, as you would expect to find in a Southern down home diner. Firmly-cooked eggs came with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and chives, and the biscuit was nice and brown on the top and bottom, flaky as promised, yet heavy with lard. Though I probably would have enjoyed the gravy on top of the biscuit, I chose butter and jelly. The yogurt parfait was exceptional, with fresh strawberry slices adding fresh flavor and a satisfying crunch from the granola.

I was so fond of the tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce, complete with the Presidential Seal on the label, that it went into my pocket as a souvenir.

Later in the flight a snack of beef kabobs, scallops wrapped in bacon, and spicy potato sambosas arrived in an oval bowl, accompanied with a beverage of choice. There is always a bowl of fruit and a bowl of candy and gum to tide over hungry journalists between meals.

Being a member of the White House Press Corps is prestigious, and a big responsibility. It involves long hours, and hectic deadlines, but it allows me to keep an eye on history, recording it and sharing it with others. Still, I left this flight with one unanswered question: did health-conscious First Lady Michelle Obama make her husband scrape the gravy off his chicken fried steak?

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Filed under: Food in the Field • News • President Obama

soundoff (253 Responses)
  1. Rob P.

    Just checked the exchange rate, 1 Billion rupees is about $217 million USD. A lot of money for sure, but then, I'd like you to decide which secret service agents to leave behind, or maybe you think the President should go back and muck around in the kitchen rather than read briefing papers on a country with 1 Billion people so he at least appears knowledgeable about it.

    December 1, 2010 at 12:54 am |
  2. Rob P.

    I love chicken fried steak. And it sure is cheap to make it.

    Quit your whining about costs people. And to ANNOYED, the cost was
    1 Billion RUPEES, which is about normal for a Presidential trip. That was a mistranslated rumor from India that has filled the blogosphere for too long already. And besides, I didn't hear much complaining about the cost of helicopter travel for the last President to spend 240 days a year at his so-called ranch with his Saudi friends.

    December 1, 2010 at 12:50 am |
  3. Homer Simpson

    Marge ??? Do you know if there are any Presidential Donuts ???

    November 29, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  4. Homer Simpson

    Mhmmmm......Chicken Fried Steak....aahh

    November 29, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
  5. John R.

    The only President who toned down the AF1 fare was Carter, and the Republicans bashed him for that too. Fact. They said he was cheapening the office.

    November 24, 2010 at 9:56 am |
  6. Annoyed

    No wonder it costs almost $1 trillion to send him and his entourage to India.

    November 24, 2010 at 9:37 am |
  7. kite005

    Looks and sounds like pretty good food but nothing extravagant. I would have grabbed the tabasco also.

    November 23, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  8. DonS

    Obscene.......whether or not you are a Republican or Democrat, it's just plain obscene.

    November 23, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  9. TURDI

    In order to convince the reader that Obama is NOT a Muslim, we know the reporter (photo-journalist Mark Walz) should have reported that Obama ATE the bacon. But Mr. Walz did NOT ! Why? We know, it would be a LIE if Mark Walz wrote something like that, for which lie he can not bear the responsibility as a journalist as well as the moral consequence as a person of Judeo-Christian culture. For such persons the real TRUTH lies just in what he did NOT say (the Germans used to say, … die Wahrheit liegt gerade in … was Sie nicht sagen! In English-speaking culture it is called “reading between the lines.” In plain words, Mark Walz wants to mean, Obama did not eat the bacon-dish, or, in other words, Obama is a Muslim ! By virtue of Mr. Walz's report we now know for sure that Obama is Muslim, since otherwise our photojournalist would have happily reported, “Obama has enjoyed the bacon-wrapped scallop with great delight.”

    A 2010 poll shows that 61% Americans thinks, Obama is, or may be, a Muslim.
    Only 34% of American adults say Obama is a Christian, down from 48% in 2009.

    November 20, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
    • MoohammedHairyBack

      YOU look Soooo enticing with that Pork Chop around Your neck.

      November 20, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
    • Mark

      You are a remarkly stupid individual.

      November 25, 2010 at 10:51 am |
  10. State Of Blue

    Pork wrapped scallops? I guess thet puts the whole "Obama is a Muslim" thing to rest.

    November 18, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
    • TURDI

      State of Blue has stupidly erred: Mark Walz's article does not at all say Obama eats the bacon. It only says, the US Air Force serves bacon on its planes, period. Of course our Air Force is NOT a Muslim! What's the problem with that? However, to conclude that Obama eats the bacon, not only is too far fetched, but logically also incorrect.

      November 21, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  11. Bad Andy

    I wish I would have gotten on this post the other day cause JDizzle McHammerpants just killed it. I wanna be facebook friends with him!!!!

    November 18, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
  12. Irie

    Wow..can't believe the fuss over chicken fried steak! I live in the south, and that's just Saturday morning breakfast! Not expensive at all!
    And as for all the "Fried chicken and watermelon" comments, it amazes me that in this day we're still going that route. Down here, if you even dream about having a picnic without both, no matter what your race, you'd better wake up and apologize! Seriously guys, get over your status quo being gone. It's over, k?

    November 18, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  13. RichardHead

    What in the hell is a "Moran"? Are those the people that keep ringing my doorbell and leaving booklets?

    November 18, 2010 at 11:34 am |
    • AuroraDawn

      LOL Richard they are annoying ! What a moran is...I'm not sure LOL

      November 18, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  14. AuroraDawn

    ...It's spelled MORONS.....As in what kind of MORON...can't spell MORON when using it as a diss....

    November 18, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  15. Ughhh You Morans

    You "morans", this is the President of the United States. He is the living embodiment of America. He receives foreign dignitaries.

    Air Force One is a symbol, a symbol of American prosperity. When we think of America, we think of the land of good and plenty. It is not without its faults, but do you want the President going around the world chowing down on spam? People, use your brains, don't be freakin' "morans".

    November 18, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  16. T-Dog


    November 18, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  17. AuroraDawn

    @ Rod C. Venger....the fact you got married and went on a honeymoon is lovely. The fact you ate Taco Bell upon your nobody's problem but yours. I am not trying to be rude. However, if you can't afford to eat maybe you should have skipped any sort of Honeymoon.

    November 18, 2010 at 8:25 am |
  18. Dennis2547

    The President of the United States of America should have what ever he wishes to eat aboard AIR FORCE ONE. As for the media folks/ press corp whom, by the way, always, always follow, the President when he travels. Lucky them to have a nice meal. No big deal and none should be made of it for all those of you whom commented, about all the poor poverty folks in the USA. This President and his staff and others are doing a hell of a job a far cry from the previous administration than there miss handling of everything from Katrina to the 9/11.
    A breath of fresh air with a President that speaks well and can be understood by all. Not the like the kid on the MAD Magazine cover whom looks so much like George W. BUSH. They need to find a Darth Vader outfit for tricky dick Chenney. Can't believe the guy is still alive.
    But back to the above article about cuisine aboard the AF One aircraft. We won't want to have the President or his guests eating from paper plates would we? Just imagine a STATE DINNER at the White House served on thick paper plates and plastic forks, spoons and knives? I think not.
    A retired US Army veteran from Northern California

    November 18, 2010 at 3:53 am |
    • patty

      thanks for standing up! Someone who has the guts, finally!

      October 5, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  19. Rod C. Venger

    How nice for you, Mark Waltz. I'm a newlywed of 4 days, just back from a relatively inexpensive honeymoon...inexpensive by necessity not by choice...and tonight, our first day back home, we ate at Taco Bell while you were catered to, at taxpayer expense.

    No wonder you give the President such favorable reviews.

    November 17, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
    • Cheese Bear

      Mr. Rod C. Venger, the writer paid for his meal and passage on AF1. It has nothing to with your tax money.

      November 19, 2010 at 2:59 am |
  20. Phil, Ohio

    Wish I could eat like that, I might put on some needed weight.

    November 17, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
  21. mij

    OK, I'll bite... So how much did the "whole trip" from soup to nuts cost us. As in U.S.. Including the brute squad.

    November 17, 2010 at 9:28 pm |
  22. Sam J

    Really, a tray? I've flown Business internationally, and nobody would give you stuff on a tray... International First means caviar. This is far from extravagant, you'd get better service flying commercially.

    November 17, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
  23. alienmom

    It is great that you are recording history.Kindly edit your work for typos.Is this too much to ask of today's journalists? Check your last sentence.There is no excuse for sloppy wriitng.

    November 17, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
  24. Flip

    What do you loonies expect: the President to fast until the national debt is repaid? Get real.

    November 17, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  25. AuroraDawn

    ..WOW,I'm kind of surprised at the reaction. Granted as I have mentioned before...I'm Canadian. With the economy in the state it's in in both of our countries...cutbacks need to be made everywhere not just by the taxpayers. I reiterate my earlier note...I just found the meal unhealthy not particularly extravagant. Someone posted..."who eats fruit for a snack'...well my family does. Scallops,lobster,prime rib,filet mignon a little expensive but not extravagant.

    November 17, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  26. Craig

    I guess it bears repeating: THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES PAYS FOR HIS OWN FOOD (AND HIS FAMILY'S) AT THE WHITE HOUSE AND ON AIR FORCE ONE, UNLESS IT IS A STATE DINNER. In my mind, there are more than enough reasons to find fault with Mr. Obama, but this isn't one of them.

    November 17, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • Christopher

      Craig, where in the heck do you get your info? My state's governer doesn't even pay for any meals. That is a lie from the deepest pits of hell and you know it. The prez doesn't pay for one single meal at all, ever while he is serving as president. I'm okay with feeding him since he pretty much has a 12 hour day everyday, the problem is that normal people eat a sandwich or something like that most days, he has a gourmet meal prepared by a professional chef every day. Not just occasionally like the rest of us but EVERY DAMN DAY! And he feeds probably hundreds of other people the same food daily as well on the taxpayer dime.

      November 17, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
      • TellMeNoLies

        It amazes me that people can't just google this information...the press pays to fly on AIr Force One,the President and his family pay for their own grocery can repeat these simple truths (as people have on this thread) a hundred times and the haters are still going to deny it.....these truths were also in effect during republican administrations.....Come on people use your own brains,instead of what the pundits say......

        November 17, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
      • Christopher

        Tellmenolies needs to learn to tell the whole truth instead of part of it. Tell me, do you get a seperate expense account on top of your salary to pay for groceries? Do you have a team of people to do your shopping and a team of chefs to cook the food the shoppers buy? If you do have a grocery expense account, can you buy gourmet foods for each meal with it? The president has basically a built in loophole. If you think that he is paying out of pocket for his meals you are stupid. Of course that's why there is an expense account set up instead of just taking it out of the general fund, so that they can fool idiots like you. Look a little past the obvious my friend and it's amazing what you'll find.

        November 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
      • TellMeNoLies

        Christopher, I rest my case...the truth is too basic for haters like you.......

        November 17, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
      • Michael B.

        Yes, your state's "governer" does pay for his own meals, unless it is the State inviting someone for a "State" dinner, just like with the White House. As I explained earlier, the president is given an allowance, but if he exceeds it, he is REQUIRED to pay that overage. That's part of the reason the president gets (last I checked) $400,000 a year, and why they generally tend to have lots of money. It's also why elections cost so much, because the winner's party often "transfers" much of the money raised to help cover the president's expenses. That's also why the first family has to do fundraisers to pay for all the furnishings in the White House that they don't bring with them. You'd be surprised at how much we, as taxpayers DON'T pay for.

        December 2, 2010 at 8:38 am |
    • Michael B.

      Finally, someone in here who's smart about this!

      December 2, 2010 at 8:33 am |
  27. Howard

    While hard working Americans are clipping coupons, and asked by our government to tighten our belts even further ... with increasing prices and inflation on its way ... our elitist president and first lady continue to extravagantly indulge themselves with the finest foods, accomodations, etc. ... all, with our tax money. We the people need to kick these free loading ego maniacs out of OUR whitehouse, and cut their bloated allowance to that of the average American.

    November 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • Christopher

      Howard, I agree that it's a big problem but putting the blame on Obama is like your buddy for giving you a cold you caught from him. This is how things worked under Bush, Clinton, the other Bush, Reagan and so on. Now in my opinion a good president would put an end to it but we haven't seen one in more than a century so I don't see it happening any time soon. We the people need to first understand that all politicians are corrupt and then we need to demand 100% transparency except when dealing with security interests and we need to actually pay attention when things are transparent and hold leaders accountable. That won't happen because people either think this is okay or they aren't interested in the first place but that is the only way to solve this massive problem.

      November 17, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  28. Christopher

    For all you that think this is no big deal and it's a cheap meal. When's the last time you ate like that. When's the last time you had biscuits, country fried steak and grave, yogurt parfait with granola and scrambled eggs for breakfast. Remember that this is an everyday thing for the president and any guests he may have. I haven't had a breakfast like that in probably 4 months or so. It's a treat when we get that kind of breakfast. It's the norm for our president who is supposed to be working for us. When did we (his boss) have the chance to agree to this stuff? And keep in mind this is just breakfast which is typically the cheapest meal of the day anyways. The snack was more expensive than the breakfast. I haven't bought scallops in over a year. Why? I CAN'T AFFORD THEM! And to pair them with beef kabobs and have fruit available at all times. Most people don't eat fruit as a snack. know why? IT'S EXPENSIVE! And again, this is everyday for our president and whatever guests he may have and they didn't even serve lunch or dinner it doesn't appear. What if they had. Lunch and dinner are generally far more expensive than breakfast and a snack. It isn't our presidents fault. That's just how the system has worked for many many years. It doesn't make it okay though. We'll continue to ignore it though because Americans seem to be okay with gov't waste whether it's on food or the pork that is in every bill voted on in the senate. We turn a blind eye and say things like. Oh, it's not that extravagant.

    November 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  29. dybo

    What type of bar drinks are available?

    November 17, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  30. Christopher

    I'm sorry to be that guy but this is rediculous. AF1 is an insanely luxurious plane with a huge staff and a gourmet kitchen all paid for by the taxpayer while Americans either go hungry or are on gov't support. I'm not saying the prez doesn't need to get around and that we shouldn't feed him but he isn't entitled to live in the lap of luxury and to wine and dine all of his press team on the taxpayer's dime. Scallops easily run 10 dollars a pound and this was just their snack? I know many who can only afford a small bowl of off brand cereal for breakfast and don't get snacks at all and they are the one's paying for this. It isn't Obama's fault as this is a systematic thing and all presidents live this way but why do we the people put up with it. I know this is small in comparison to all the gov't waste going on but whey do we put up with that too? We are so blind as citizens. There is no excuse for this, you can make as many as you want and try to justify it any way you want. "well they are at work." Since when does a normal person get fed at work? Everyone I know is responsible for their own lunch at work. They either go somewhere or if they can't they take it with them. Yes even gov't employees. "Well he's the president, shouldn't we take care of him since he is serving us." Last I checked the presidents salary was 400,000 dollars plus a place to live and a fleet of cars and a staff bigger than even the richest celebrities could even dream of affording. I think the 400,000 by itself is more than enough compensation. He has a hard job but it's one he wanted. It's one he worked very hard to convince us to give him. A nation that is broke full of people who are broke should absolutely not be footing the bill for the leader to have a lavish lifestyle. It's corruption that apparently no one cares about and at best it's extremely unethical.

    November 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
    • Cheese Bear

      Sir! The President PAYS FOR HIS OWN MEALS unless it's a state dinner. Also, the press paid for their own meals and passage aboard AF1. Do some research before complaining. You could have had a valid point if all your assumptions were correct, but you only made yourself look stupid and ignorant.

      November 19, 2010 at 2:55 am |
  31. TRON

    No Fried Chicken and Watermelon???

    November 17, 2010 at 11:42 am |
    • Jerv

      Come on now, that was uncalled for.

      November 17, 2010 at 11:49 am |
    • kayme

      Oh my gosh!! That was so....... original.

      December 2, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  32. DianeDiaz

    I'm a Republican, but even I expect the President to eat a half way decent meal.
    Calm down, people.

    November 17, 2010 at 11:02 am |
  33. Craig

    I am a Republican and not a fan of President Obama......HOWEVER, in the interest of accuracy, the President of the United States actually PAYS for all food he and his family eat both at the White House and on Air Force One, unless it is a State Dinner. It has been this way since the JFK was in office. Surprising, but true.

    November 17, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  34. Geelarks

    Tenderized, lean pork steaks (seasoned, lightly floured & fried in veg. oil) are delicious. Bake a potato and open some green beans & water chestnuts or mushrooms and you have a gourmet meal. It's not difficult and you have something really good to serve your family & guests for very little $. I cooked 2 pork steaks last night for $1.97. I bet Obummer would have loved the meal. :-))))

    November 17, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  35. John Brinster

    It certainly is not the Spam and Pop Tarts some experienced last week, nor the no food policy airlines provide.
    Maybe the OBamas should try spam on AF1 being Hawaiian and all.

    November 17, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  36. Wrin

    Chicken fried steak is made (at least the way I was taught to cook it by my southern mom) with cubed steak, typically a very tough piece of beef from the butt-end of the cow that's had the crap pounded out of it (the steak, not the cow!) to help tenderize it a bit and that has to simmer in the gravy for 20-30 minutes to tenderize even more. Even after all that, it's still got some chew to it. If the AF1 steak was 'fork tender', they were using a different, better, MORE EXPENSIVE cut of meat.

    November 17, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  37. AuroraDawn

    Personally, the meal sounds...unhealthy at best. I also think Michelle Obama shouldn't be espousing about obesity. Last week in an interview she was not looking the most slender.

    November 17, 2010 at 9:32 am |
    • RichardHead

      Too much rutabaga from the White House Garden!

      November 17, 2010 at 9:40 am |
  38. Rebecca

    I am not a lover of President Obama, but I don't view the breakfast that was served as extravagant. There's a small restaurant in Noble, Oklahoma called Kendalls, they serve the best chicken fried steads anywhere. They are so big if you order the big one that it covers a huge plate. I'll never forget my sister in laws eyes bug out the first time she saw itl Priceless!

    November 17, 2010 at 9:09 am |
    • RichardHead

      I love a good medium rare horse from Oklahoma. It tastes different than that Texas stuff.

      November 17, 2010 at 9:19 am |
  39. Rhonda

    Wait a that a PLASTIC jelly container on the breakfast tray of Air Force One?

    November 17, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  40. ed

    This is such a non story. who cares what they eat on airforce one. if we have to worry about the money, then we are worse off than I thought.

    November 16, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  41. coly

    This would be the LAST thing I would want for breakfast. BLECHHH. So who is paying for this meal and I don't even want to know the carbon footprint. I hope all enjoy it while they can!!

    November 16, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
  42. Bubba

    Why is everyone so concerned about Michelle pushing healthy food choices while her husband eats what may not be considered the most healthy foods? Laura spend years pushing reading and we all know how much of a grasp GW has on the Elglish language.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
  43. logcabincook

    The way my East African relatives pronounce it, and the way I have always seen it spelled is "SAMOSA" No B. In fact if you put the word "sambosa" into Google, it asks if you mean "samosa" and proceeds to show you lots of tasty information about these treats. Oh look, even this dialog box is tagging "sambosa" as a misspelling. Dear CNN: USE A SPELL CHECKER AND DO YOUR HOMEWORK!! (In a Food column, no doubt, tisk tisk!)

    November 16, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
  44. Professor N

    Hmmm – Feeding and flying American reporters in luxury class on taxpayer money. Well it explains the WHY we have to read European, Australian and New Zealand papers to get some actual FACTS. It you look up the words bribery and Corruption in Blacks Law Dictionary you can see where WE THE PEOPLE have a huge amount of restitution forth coming if we can find an honest judge – like the one who sentenced Bernie Madof.

    November 16, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  45. Ken Dyer

    Not exactly the Ritz, if that's all they have on Air Force one, they need to hire me. If they had a taste of my home made sauces and fall of the bone ribs, they'd keep me on 24hr standby!

    November 16, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  46. Aaron

    It's funny, all these people whining about Country Fried steak on Air Force one is a joke. Yet when Bush was eating his beef and real choice steak (which for those morons who think country friend steak is a 5 star meal compared to their boxed Mac and Cheese dinners, steak is a little more pricey), they would think it was justified. I'm making grilled fish with asparagus for dinner tonight. I'll take that over country fried steak any day. I can at least get what the president had in a TV dinner in the frozen food section if I really wanted to for $1.09...

    November 16, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  47. timd

    That's nothing. Back in Bush's day they were serving cocaine and tequila sunrises.

    November 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • kayme


      December 2, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
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