Politics and Food

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What our politicians eat and where they dine becomes newsworthy.  Clinton is still thought of as the fast food connoisseur, JFK enjoyed French cuisine and his chef became famous in his own right.  George W apparently never ate out, and Nixon loved Trader Vic’s.  When President Obama and the First Lady celebrated their wedding anniversary at the chic and sleek Equinox restaurant, everyone wanted to know what they had for dinner.  Michelle Obama’s White House garden is the topic of numerous articles, and her efforts to engage chefs in her anti-obesity campaign got her an appearance on “Top Chef.”  Presidents and politicians are foodies, too, and sometimes it’s very well thought out where they want to be seen.  A presidential visit can put a restaurant on the map, boost business, and bring publicity that money cannot buy.  Food writers and bloggers want to know exactly what delectable morsel passed their lips.   The Obamas also seem to select restaurants to send a message to the public about their values, healthy eating, and keeping the image of an all-American family.  The President recently flew to the Gulf of Mexico and  had a seafood lunch in an endorsement of the oil-spill threatened tourism industry.  Most of the time, politicians in general prefer the public to think of them as regular people who one could relate to on most levels. 
I have never been close to any politicians, but was once invited to a pig roast where Adlai Stevenson III was in attendance.  Adlai III is the grandson of Adlai I, who was Vice-President under Grover Cleveland from 1893-1897, and son of Adlai II who was Governor of Illinois from 1949-1952, a Presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956, and the United States Representative to the United Nations from 1961 to 1965.  And strangely enough, Adlai II made Libertyville, Illinois his hometown, which is where I live.  His home is open to the public, and is registered as a National and State Historic site.  Adlai III lives in another Illinois town near Galena, a charming little town situated on a tributary of the Mississippi River, which is where the pig roast was held.  Our good friends, Cathy and Michael, have a family farm near the Stevenson farm.  On a visit with our friends, one of the local farms held the pig roast and the nearby neighbors were invited.  If Adlai III wanted people to believe he was a regular guy, the pig roast was a perfect venue.  He seemed very comfortable in these surroundings. 
The photo above is on the back of the cookbook, written by Adlai’s wife, Nancy, and was written and sold or distributed during  Adlai’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1970.  The cookbook is filled with photos of the Stevenson family on their farm engaged in various activities with their children such as enjoying a meal together, riding horses, and playing games, in addition to campaign photos thrown in here and there.  In the introduction, the family farm is described as being decorated with fresh pine branches, flowering crab blossoms, or wild flowers carefully transplanted from the Stevenson historic home in Libertyville.  The furniture is arranged for comfort and conversation.  The children’s paintings and drawings are hung to be admired by all.  The kitchen is described as not fancy, but well used, and a congenial meeting place for all their family and friends.  Now doesn’t all this sound like someone you would want as your Senator?  I think that was the point with the lovely and informative cookbook.  Nancy’s mother was Italian, so there are wonderful recipes including a spaghetti sauce with clams, sorrel soup, and  Italian dressing.  There is also “The Guv’s” lamb stew and recipes for wild duck and quail.  There are recipes for kid-friendly meals, party ideas, and some great food gift ideas.  One I particularly want to try is the barbecued pecans.   The cookbook must have been a success because four years later, there was another one called “More Potpourri,” with even more recipes than the first one.  In the introduction of the second book,  Nancy says we can all make statements about our country’s concerns “in the kitchen” as well as in the “public forum.”  She may be a politician’s wife who needs to help with campaigning, but it is clear Nancy loves to cook and take care of her family. 

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