Broccoli returns to White House

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NEW YORK (Reuter) - Hillary Clinton says that she wants to open up the White House to all US citizens, return broccoli to the presidential residence's menu, and ban smoking from its premises, the New York Times reported yesterday.

In her first interview since the inauguration, Mrs Clinton agreed to speak to the Times last Friday only about her role as First Lady and not about her professional responsibilities.

She said that in addition to prohibiting smoking entirely in the White House, she and President Bill Clinton wanted to encourage people to feel more a part of government by occasionally opening the building to the public.

She said there might be more open houses like the one held the day after the inauguration on 20 January, as well as day-long meetings to which ordinary Americans would be invited and events involving children and families.

Mrs Clinton said the White House kitchen would focus on American food rather than a French-style menu, and restaurant chefs would be consulted about menus. In a reversal of policy that held sway under the Bush administration, broccoli would be on the menu.

'We're big broccoli eaters. We do a lot of vegetables, and a lot of fibre, and a lot of fruit,' Mrs Clinton said. 'That includes the President,' she added. 'You know, he gets an unfair rap. An occasional trip to a fast-food restaurant is not the worst of all possible sins.'

Smoking has been forbidden in the kitchen, locker rooms and maintenance areas of the White House since November 1991, but is allowed in the family quarters, offices and public rooms, the newspaper said.

'We did it at the governor's mansion and it took some people some adjusting,' Mrs Clinton said about a smoking ban. 'We tried not to be too harsh about it. The big issue about health is so paramount to me that I don't think we should permit smoking.'

As for menus that play up American cuisine, Mrs Clinton said: 'We're trying to get a kitchen cabinet, so to speak, of people who will advise us about new menus, new ideas. It will keep us up to date about what a lot of American chefs are doing around the country.'

'Asking people for their advice - whether it's about policy or food - is a way to give even more people a feeling of inclusion,' she added. 'And besides, you get good ideas.'