12 November 2008

Cooking on the Campaign

I was granted the honor of designated Comfort Captain for the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) operation in Warren, Ohio. Although it may sound a little dirty, it actually entailed the dual responsibilities of baking and cooking dinners for our team campaigning to turn Ohio blue - what a dream job! One Katie Lyle (the extraordinary volunteer lead organizer of GOTV in Warren) had the premonition for putting me on that task even before she met me or knew my culinary proclivities; those kind of instincts make her a natural leader.

For excellent campaign coverage including details of our victory in Warren and across Ohio, turn to Marcus Roberts' blog, Vom Politik. Though as Scot, Marcus has packed up his bags and campaigned in Warren for the '00, '04, and now the '08 presidential elections; he knows the terrain like few other people. This was my first time accompanying him, and I was primarily struck by the huge disparity of wealth evident even in this factory town. From trailor parks to McMansions (many of them which were under foreclosure), we spent five long and grueling days knocking on doors and getting people to the polls. The long haitus in my blogging since October can be explained by the extreme physical exhaustion that follows such work, a numbing crash resulting from running on adrenaline for so many consecutive days.

I have ministered Marcus back to health after many similar endeavors (such as after the DNC convention), and so had many ideas to implement straight away in my Comfort Captain role, including a policy of primarily home-cooked meals incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables wherever possible without sacrificing the comfort factor. A sample of the menus:


1) Meatball and roast vegetable hoagies, toasted in the oven with melted mozarella.
2) Pasta Alio lio: my mother's recipe of spaghetti in a garlic and olive oil sauce, heated up with red chili flakes, and brightened with lots of chopped fresh parsley on top - no anchovies for this crowd.
3) Meat and bechemel, roast vegetable, and tomato and mozarella lasagnas, homemade down to the tomato sauce (since I'm picky about that sort of thing).


1) The required morale-boosters of brownies and chocolate cookies (both of which, I must admit, tasted better from a mix than from a recipe of my own devices. I especially recommend Ghiradelli for the brownies!)
2) Banana bread & muffins - the sleeper hit despite my limited baking skills!
3) Crisp apples (an item that I enjoyed even though they were snubbed by most in favor of snacks 1 & 2...)
4) Bagels with cream cheese and peanut butter
5) Lots of granola bars

We supplemented this with a dinner out at the Sunrise Inn (which was great) and some take out from Pizza Hut and McDonalds (not so great): experiences of readily-available American food which spoke volumes as to the advantages and disadvantages, trial and error of trying to eat well in this country. It also led to a revelation mid-way through Pennsylvania on our drive back to New York that there should be a Federal Restaurant Czar to set standards for acceptable ingredients and recipes in the chain restaurants that dot our country alongside the highways. No wonder America is obese when all the food readily available enough to fit into our busy lives leaves a sickly sweet aftertaste of overprocessing. It's a plastic coating that covers your tongue, leaving dead taste buds in its wake that confuse sugar withdrawals for hunger pains.

Not to end on a negative note, however, I need to give my many thanks to the gracious and interesting people we met and imposed ourselves upon during our stay in Ohio: especially to Katie and her new husband, Adam, who were saints when it came to having so many people invade their home (and kitchen)! You both are fabulous - congratulations on electing Obama as our 44th president!

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