Barbecuing fresh trout for a family is one thing, but when you're cooking for 70 or more newspaper food editors and writers, you can't blame a cook for wondering how it will all come out.
Even when it's the vice-president of the United States, an expert at answering questions from the press, twirling fettucini and watching the fish all at the time gets a bit tricky.
Fritz Mondale took it all in stride even though the garden got a bit smoky when the fish caught on fire. As the flames died down someone asked if the fish should be basted.
"I think we can throw them away now," Mondale said, but it was far from necessary. The fish came out fine.
It all took place in what the vice-president and Mrs. Mondale call the grill garden as they entertained members of the food press attending an annual convention in Washington.
A barbecue grill and tables were set up in a private grassy area, surrounded by a high green hedge with a border garden of dwarf marigolds and ageratum.
A few minutes after the guests arrived, there was much static from walkie-talkies announcing the vice-president's arrival. He had come from his weekly business lunch with the President, looking very businesslike with briefcase.
In a few minutes he came from the house dressed for cooking, in a while butcher's apron over blue cord trousers and a blue shirt with an embroidered pocket emblem saying "Grand Ole Opry's Stoney Mountain Cloggers," a gift from a campaign trip to Nashville.
Before the chef arrived food editors were served cold beverages and a special appetizer Mr. Mondale said he would never attempt to make, lumpia. These are the Philippine version of Chinese egg rolls, but much smaller and lighter. The naval personnel who run the house had made them.
Though it doesn't seem to be very wellknown, the vice-president really does cook. Fish is probably his specialty since he's been going fishing for years with the same cronies, cooking much of the catch. Fishing is his favorite kind of relaxation, he said, and he likes to deep fry fish as well as barbecue it.
"My fishing pals love to cook," he said." They're Italian and they've taught me a few pasta dishes." One, Fettucini Alfredo a la Pimento Mondale, he made for us for lunch.
Moving from the smoky grill over to a table Mondale mixed the pasta in a silver chafing dish, adding cream and butter and grated Parmesan cheese.
The fish he cooks comes from his fishing trips and he often brings back some for friends. He gave a northern pike to President Carter recently, he said, although he'd promised a walleyed pike, but didn't catch one.
Since the stewards are off Sundays Mr. Mondale often cooks a sunday night supper. He sometimes barbecues hamburgers, steaks, or chicken. His other Italian rcipes include some spaghetti dishes.
The vice-president admitted he has never cooked for an audience before and said he really wasn't too keen about the idea. He laughed when someone said he probably wouldn't have done it except in an election year.
"I've learned a limited amount about cooking, but not everything," he said.
"The last time I made fettucini I used oleo- margarine. Don't do it," he advised.
Members of the food press asked many questions.
"Did you have this grill specially made?"
I just told the Public Works Department to get a barrel and cut it in half and make a barbecue out of it."
"Will you take it with you when you leave?"
"No, I'm low-budget vice-president."
"Have you ever entertained President Carter?"
"Yes around Christmas time."
"Did you do the cooking?"
"No, that's one of the rules."
"Do you want to take credit for those fish?" someone asks.
"No," he said, "if they aren't good you'll write bad stories.
By this time the fish were done and finally was convinced to serve them.
The trout delicious and other dishes also -- fettucini which had been prepared in the house, wild rice, and fresh vegetables.
Mondale seemed to enjoy himself and the company. He stayed around for some time after his cooking demonstration and talked about his fishing -- what kind of fishing he likes and where he goes -- in Minnesota, Canada, the Great Lakes.
After what everyone agreed was a star performance, he left for a tennis game and a week of vacation.
After the luncheon Mrs. Mondale gave a tour to show the art collections in the 85-year- old house, designated in 1974 by Congress as the first official residence of the vice-president of the United States.
Each year Mrs. Mondale selects the works of living American artists from a different region of the country and puts them on view in the vice-presidential residence.
As suggested by twin white anchors on the main entry gate, the building, once known as Admiral's House, belongs to the Navy. Originally it was the home of superintendents of the Naval Observatory and in more recent years has been occupied by the chiefs of naval operations.
The house has a pillared porte cochere, a broad veranda that sweeps half way around, and a Romanesque tower on one corner. Inside it has an ambiance of comfortable, gracious living.
The rooms are spaciously proportioned and the beige and off-white tones of walls, rugs, and fabrics are a pleasant background to the striking display of art.
Most of the furnishings were purchased by the Navy, although a few original items are in the house. Betty Ford selected the china, crystal, linens, and flatware, but before renovations were made Gerald R. Ford became President.
Some pieces were added through the generosity of Vice-President and Mrs. Nelson Rockefeller, who enjoyed using the house for entertaining. Their gifts include two classical French clocks, distinctive pieces of Oriental furniture, a Coromandel screen, and elegant rosewood armchairs.
Especially handsome is the Adam style dining room table, which was in the former vice-president's parent's home on 54th Street in New York City. rockefeller has said, "Our family always had breakfast at that table from the time I was about six until I went off to Dartmouth."
The Mondales are the first vice-presidential family to make this house their home. Here are recipes for dishes the vice-president cooked. Barbecued Trout 2 trout, 1 1/2 pounds each 2 stalks celery 1 medium onion 1 large tomato, unpeeled 6 slices bacon 1/4 pound melted butter Juice of 1 lemon Salt and pepper to taste
Clean and bone fish. Chop celery, onion, and tomato coarsely. Season fish inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff with chopped vegetables. Wrap fish with bacon strips.
Place fish grill basket. Place on grill, 12 to 15 inches from coals. Combine melted butter and lemon juice and brush fish with mixture. Grill fish, turning several times and brushing with lemon-butter each time. Test after 25 minutes. Fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. Cooking time approximately 30 minutes. Serves 4. Wild Rice
Place one 8-ounce package of wild rice in saucepan and cover with 2 to 3 inches of water. Bring to boil and simmer slowly for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, repeat procedure 2 more times. the fourth time, cover rice with chicken or beef broth and boil slowly until fluffy. Serve.
The following fettucini recipe is a specialty the vice-president likes to make for family dinner. Fettucini a la Pimento Mondale 1/4 pound whipped butter, at room temperature 1/4 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese 1 clove garlic, minced 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, minced 1 tablespoon pimento, minced 6 to 8 quarts hot water 1 tablespoon salt pepper 1 pound fettucini noodles 1 canned white truffle, sliced very thin (optional) Extra grated parmesan cheese
Creamy butter until light and fluffy by beating vigorously against the sides of a heavy bowl with wooden spoon. Beat in cream, a little at a time, then beat in grated cheese, a few tablespoons at a time. add garlic, parsley, and pimento.
Cover bowl and set aside in refrigerator if not to be used at once. Be sure to bring it to room temperature before tossing with fettucini.
Set a large serving bowl or casserole in a 250 degree F. oven to heat while cooking fettucini. Bring water to bubbling boil in a large kettle. Add salt. Drop in fettucini and stir gently with wooden fork a few moments to separate strands and prevent sticking to bottom of pot.
Boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Test by tasting. Pasta should be soft but al dente -- slightly resistent to the bite. Drain immediately into a colander and lift with 2 forks to be sure it is well drained. Transfer at once to the hot serving bowl.
Add creamed butter mixture and toss with fettucini until every strand is well coated. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in the truffle. Serve at once. Pass extra grated cheese in a separate bowl.