Published January 13, 2015
Democrats promised big changes when they took power on Capitol Hill in 2006, and they delivered — when it comes to making over the cafeteria.
Since taking her post, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pursued what she calls "greening the Capitol" through a smoking ban and the introduction of gourmet foods in the lunchroom.
But the health kick has elicited grumblings from colleagues in Congress. Gone are the days of meatloaf and Jell-O, replaced by mahi mahi, brie and baguettes.
"I like the food we had before," House Minority Leader John Boehner said Wednesday morning. "I like real food, food we can pronounce the name of."
Boehner reportedly continues to puff away in his office, despite a ban on smoking on the Hill and a ban on the sale of tobacco products on House and Senate grounds.
Pelosi says the restrictions are part of a broader plan to make the Capitol more environmentally friendly and socially conscious.
The new cafeteria has eco-friendly coffee cups, napkin dispensers that dispense one napkin at a time and elaborate recycling centers stocked with biodegradable straws.
But staffers complain those straws melt in their coffee — and as they pick from choices such as fresh fruit, pan-roasted Chesapeake rockfish with yellow pepper relish and leg of lamb with almond couscous, the griping quietly draws on.
"This is silly feel-good crap by a bunch of do-gooders. ... We should be worried about the housing crisis, the unemployment rates and the national debt," one high-level Democrat said.
"I really don't like Nanny Nancy telling me what I can and cannot eat for lunch," one Republican aide said via e-mail. "If I want to eat unhealthy, I should have that choice."
A sample lunch on Capitol Hill might include a couple wedges of brie and cheddar, a few grapes, a strawberry and saltines.
"The health nannies' arbitrary ban on legal and heavily taxed products bodes ill for the future marketing of Mountain Dew and moon pies," Republican Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter said.
Not everyone is appalled by the fruit and cheese fare.
"A big jump from high school cafeteria to fancy-pants gourmet," said Caryn Schenewerk, staffer for Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. "I just wish my pay improved."
FOX News' Shannon Bream contributed to this report.