First Lady

February 4, 2017

Where’s Melania?

Isn’t it strange that she turns out to be the least likely First Lady in history to opt out of the traditional role?  For much of American history brilliant and successful women (think Eleanor, Hillary and Michelle) have resigned themselves to being the power behind the throne, becoming Everybody’s Mom for the duration.

Suddenly we have a woman with no career to give up, simply opting out of the role and declaring independence. One more paradox of the Trump era. It’s going to be fascinating to watch.

What would a traditional First Lady be doing right now?  Giving tours of the white house, taking charge of  official entertaining, redecorating the family quarters, choosing a new chef and deciding which plates to use at state dinners.

Not to mention presiding over the upcoming Easter Egg Roll, which draws some 35,000 people. The tradition dates to the 1870s and Rutherford B. Hayes. Legend has it that when a group of egg-rolling children were shooed away from a neighboring lawn, he invited them to come to the White House on the following morning. When the guards opened the gates, the children had multiplied.

Here’s a picture of the roll during the JFK years from “Entertaining in the White House.” IMG_0590


This one’s undated: IMG_0588

And while we’re talking White House rolls, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to share this rather strange recipe from Lou Henry Hoover:




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  • Su says:

    Um…she’s not there yet because of her child and her duties as a mother…she stayed home so he can finish the school year and have his life stay as normal as possible. I think that’s very respectable; to consider that her child’s needs come first, before redecorating or choosing new china. She’s not ‘simply opting out’.

  • Tom Steele says:

    Melania Trump doesn’t eat. She certainly doesn’t cook. I’m not even sure she breathes. She’s among the most artificial-looking of our bizarre (at best) contemporary political figures.

  • A Worried American says:

    Sigh…this is the least of our worries with this administration. 🙁

  • Edy says:

    I’m very sad to see you go down the road of politics on your blog. Su has responded correctly. It’s good to see that they are not interrupting their son’s school year. As for others that have responded, it’s difficult to understand that they don’t even want to give this administration a chance. No we can’t all agree on everything, but let’s try to get along.

  • M.K. says:

    And the White House garden ?

  • Jade Grande says:

    Melania appears to avoid her husband all she can. Ivanka will fill many First Lady functions, probably to Melania’s relief. She’s shown no appetite for the role, or for Trump’s campaign/new position. The body language between the two (no one would call them a “couple”) has been parsed and there’s no warmth to be found.
    Malania’s invisibility is a tiny element of his big problems. As to “giving him a chance”, we’ve had two weeks of chaos, embartassing international incidents (between allies!), bungled executive actions, poor communications, insults to CIA heroes, a National Prayer Breakfast debacle, gag orders, lies and threats.
    I’d say the time for giving chances is over.

  • Angela Muller says:

    I always learn so much from your blog, but this post was small minded and petty. Just goes to prove you never really know someone.

  • DBC says:

    Sad that taking care of her child is food for criticism and that glad handing dignitaries should take precedence!
    Were she to follow her predecessors example, we would be out hundreds of millions more, with tax payers footing the bill for frivolous vacations!

  • Maryann says:

    Please leave it alone. Give her the privacy she deserves as a human being. I am so tired of all the negatives. It’s just not fun anymore reading all the negative stuff on blogs. I’m about ready to quit reading blogs.

  • Jill Russell says:

    Ruth, I think your blog is spot on. I for one do not see you as a one demensional foodie; I welcome your observations, whether I agree with them or not. I personally was appalled (although not at all surprised) to see our new president shoot ahead of his wife on inaguration day when having coffee at the Whitehouse with the Obamas. I think that simple act of disregard said volumes about their relationship. I doubt her husband asked for her support in his bid for the predicency, and if he did, I doubt she would have agreed to it. Did anyone else besides me find in ironic that during the Trump campaign, Melania said that she would make her first ladyship about anti-bullying? In my humble opinion, she happens to be married to a real bully. I guess she knows first hand how awful bullying can be.

  • Jane says:

    She is not the First Lady to have a child, what about country first ?

  • Alice Tipton says:

    Dear Ruth, Pay no attention to Su. Michelle Obama had 2 young children and they are fabulous kids so if she can do it anyone can. For goodness sake they have all that help! What does she do all day? I am mystified as you are and you have a right to comment on the first lady or anything else. We are your fans and we can take or leave it! After all we are paying their salary. Trump is a disaster! He probably hates the White House. He’s in it for the power and the money he will make. Jill Russell is right. He is the BULLY! And I am sure he bullies Melania. Keep up the good work! Alice Tipton

  • greg says:

    Ruth’s writing to me is enhanced when the personal is brought in. Whether it’s about her Mother, her Father (and his font), or other topics mixed in addition to her commentary on food, the musings are most always interesting and always well written. The blog is entitled Ruth Reichel, instead of “Food.” Pauline Kael was a favorite New Yorker writer because she could write about much more than just movies. Ruth includes observations, thoughts — that even if we might not agree on, we can feel the author being expansive, real, bit gutsy, instead of cardboard and properly uncontroversial. It doesn’t seem very often that Ruth veers that far the table of food, but when she does, I like it and it makes her writing more personal.

  • Rachel says:

    I totally agree Ruth! Of all people, it seems that Melania would’ve played the post traditional if roles, but instead has been very non-traditional in her approach to the White House. My kids would love this silly rolled toast recipe. May have to give it a try!

  • Lena Moy-Borgen says:

    I agree with you, Ruth!

  • Judith Buckingham Perlstein says:

    I agree with many of the other comments. She should be looking out for her child but he could be home schooled for the rest of the year. I am sure the finest resources are available. I believe that the child is entitled to his privacy but Melania has become a public figure reluctant or not. I think people’s concern about her role is just that – concern. We are fond of our First Ladies. Keep up the good work, Ruth! Like all of us u are entitled to express your opinion. I for one will continue to read it.

  • Angela Muller says:

    Of course this is your blog and you can write what you like, but I really thought you were classier than this unfair, mean spirited post about a woman, even if she’s The First Lady, who puts her child first. I noticed you made no judgment about grown adults ridiculing a ten year old child. Good bye, Ruth

  • Jenn says:

    Hi Ruth, I’m a longtime reader and have enjoyed your books and magazines. I didn’t find it mean spirited–you were neither malicious nor scathing. Felt more like a “huh” food for thought observation. We are free to take it or leave it. Keep sharing your thoughts–it’s what makes you individual and very human (in the media).

    Ps – saw on Twitter that you’re in LA. Glad you visit often, it’s changed so much since you moved away. Even longtime residents are astounded by the continuous transformation.

  • Paul says:

    If you haven’t already, please see Maureen Dowd’s column in today’s NY Times, mirroring the same content of this blog. Interesting that there’s no mention at all of the stay-at-home mom wanting to be sure her child gets to finish the school year. I have to believe there’s a lot more to this story than the public is aware of at this point. And remember one thing: that she said at first, very clearly, that she wrote that convention speech. It’s a house of liars, I’m afraid. (This format evidently prohibits inclusion of URLs, so go to

  • Kristine Williams says:

    Well said, Ruth. Melania is not the first First Lady to have a child in school. We love and support you! Maybe I’ll spot you in the West Hollywood Ralph’s again while you are here in LA.

  • sharon says:

    Thank you for bringing it up. While she did’t run for office, I would think that she and her husband would be partners in serving the American people. However, it seems like the Donald likes to solo. I don’t blame her, I too would stay as far away from him as possible. I know you don’t write about politics but this election was very shocking and I have received letters an newsletters from the most unusual: Alice Waters, Gweyneth Paltrow, Peggy Noonan, etc. Absolutely everyone is still shocked that we have a President Trump. It is very difficult to think of him as our president and not a pussy-grabbing sexist bigoted bully.

  • freya says:

    I used to make a version of this as a kid! It was from a kids cookbook published by Better Homes and Garden. The recipe involved spreading cream cheese on white bread, rolling it up tightly, and dipping the outside into melted butter, then rolling in cinnamon sugar. We would then put it in the toaster oven until the outside was browned, then cut it into small pieces – they were called Cinnamon Snails.

    And yes, where is Melania??

  • Alex says:

    Sharon, you are right on point! And, Ruth, I support you!

  • Bennie says:

    Melania’s absence from the White House is not as concerning as her husband’s presence in it.

  • Jen says:

    Spot on! Although I think Melania wants to be far away from Trump as possible.

  • Mrs LJ says:

    It’s true that Melania is not fulfilling the “traditional” role of the First Lady, but remember, this is not a “traditional” presidency in ANY sense. Furthermore, I think reducing her role to “Giving tours of the white house, taking charge of official entertaining, redecorating the family quarters, choosing a new chef and deciding which plates to use at state dinners” is sexist and turns the First Lady into nothing but Suzy Homemaker, when many of them have worked very hard on their own personal causes.
    We would all do well to avoid falling into the mindset of “it’s always been done this way, therefore it should always be done this way”. Both Obama and Trump were elected on a platform of change. Why should the man/husband be the only one to move forward and innovate, while the woman/wife is continually stuck picking out plates?

  • Melanie Weiss says:

    Two words: Eleanor Roosevelt. She had her own digs, traveled extensively, and would have bristled if she’d had to live the way the public expected As A Woman.
    No fan of the Trumps, believe me, but I don’t think this is fair.

  • Shannon Davis says:

    As a mom I can TOTALLY respect Melania’s decision to keep Barron in his school until the year ends. However, if she doesn’t move to the white house after that then there’s a SERIOUS problem. Have we ever had a president divorce while in office? Ahahahaha!!! Look, Trump is a hot mess any way you slice it and the next four years are going to be LONG!!!! #Notmypresident

  • admin says:

    Melanie, Eleanor may have had her own digs, but she was very much present as First Lady. She used her position as a bully pulpit, did her best to influence policy when she thought it was important, and was very much in charge of the White House. (In fact, the food she ordered was so universally reviled that most guests ate before they got there.)

  • Kate Donegan says:

    I fully support you and agree with the content of this blog entry. I do believe there’s much more going on than we know of – yet. Watch what happens when the school year ends. Remember: You are entitled to express an opinion.

  • Jim says:

    It almost seems as if she wants to distance herself from the WH mess and the on-going PR debacles that ensue on an almost daily basis. Look closely at recent pictures, she seems completely disinterested, bored, and can’t wait to get away back to NY.

    All your thoughts are welcome – keep writing!

  • Liz says:

    Let’s see, Trump has been in office for about 3 weeks so far? Why don’t we wait and see what the next four years bring, instead of jumping to conclusions so quickly. And like some of the others who commented, I fully support her decision to finish homeschooling her child for the year. I homeschooled two boys, and I can tell you that moving to the White House in the middle of the school year would be disastrous for the classroom.

    While we are criticising Melania, let’s just thank our lucky stars that we don’t have Bill Clinton as a first lady!!

  • Peggy says:

    I’m rather floored that people think Melania is June Cleaver. I’m pretty sure she’s not making pancakes each morning and most definitely is not “homeschooling” her child. Now, what the nanny (or nannies) may be doing, who knows?

  • Aimee says:

    While I don’t think we should expect any woman to give her life over to entertaining in support of her husband’s career, even if she has no career of her own, I just want to say, as a longtime fan, that I’m in no way off-put by politics here, because food is political. I also love that last, undated photo–thanks for sharing it.

  • Robert F says:

    How do all of the people claiming that she’s putting her children first know that?

  • Rebecca Bisbee says:

    Dear Ruth,
    Having been your supporter for many years, I continue to support you. I had to reread your post 3 times to figure out what the complaints were about. Some people decide that when they have set their minds to something, that’s it, they are never going to change. My only comment is that Melania could do so much more, by setting the tone of the White House, and by her actions, trying to make her husband less unpopular. Her son currently attends private school, which could be done in Washington. Yes, we will see if either of them do move to the White House in June, or if Trump ever spends a weekend there. And do these people realize how much it costs us tax-paying Americans to support the extra security needed to protect two residences?
    Please continue to do what you do. Just remember that nothing is the same as it was.

  • DanNYC says:

    Without food, we would not be thinking. And what is more thought-provoking than the subject of these comments. Free speech is the one of the pillars of our society. I am always glad to hear you speak.

  • DanNYCity says:

    Without food there would be no thinking. And what is more thought-provoking that the subject of these comments. Free speech is one of the pillars of our society. I am always glad to hear you speak.

  • Kecia says:

    I can only imagine how excited she is to NOT have ‘him’ around. Can you imagine putting up with him on the daily? Ughhh! This is a 4-year vacation for Melanie.