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[personal profile] mimulus_borogove
In last night's VP debate, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin both set their hypothetical John and Jane Smiths "around the kitchen table" having difficult talks about the woes of the middle class. Having just made a pasta frittatta for dinner, I had food on the brain, and that got me thinking of the debate in food terms. What if, instead of the mini-speeches we got, we were instead dropping by for dinner at their kitchen tables? Not a fancy Sunday dinner, mind you, but a weeknight "since you're in town, why don't you come have dinner with the family?" dinner.  So I tried to translate their words and messages into food.


Sarah Palin invites you into a kitchen whose decorations include a moose head and a praying-hands plaque. "Hello there!" she says. "Sit on down! Since I'm a mom and and American, I made an apple pie!"

The box from which the frozen pie emerged is clearly visible, poking from the garbage. While the family says grace ostentatiously, you peek at the ingredients. It's from a faraway bakery run by a food conglomerate known for its wasteful practices. A glance at the ingredients list tells you that it's mostly made up of bleached flour, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial vanilla flavor. You try a bite; the crust is gummy, and the gelatinous filling shows only a mild tolerance for fruit. Still, it's warm, and she put some ice cream on top…and it is pie. You manage to choke down a piece.

"Gosh-darn good pie," you say politely. "And it's really innovative of you to serve it as the first course."

"They wouldn't try that in Washington!" Mrs. Palin laughs at her own joke, then gets serious. "This is all we're having for dinner." "

"Oh." You are hungry, and it looks like you'll stay that way.

Mrs. Palin gives you a steely look. "You're not trying to say you don't like pie, are you?"



Joe Biden leads you down a book-lined hall to a well-used, somewhat messy kitchen.  "Have a seat," he says. "We're having frittatta tonight. It's a bit of an experiment." He doesn't sound apologetic.

The frittatta uses a bit of everything: zucchini, cherry tomatoes, eggs, cheese, cooked pasta. "I hope you like it," Mr. Biden says. "Maybe another time I could serve you something fancier, but this is what America has to offer right now."

"It's pretty good," you tell him. Having gone hungry on oversweetened pie the night before, you're happy to have a real meal: protein, carbohydrates, vegetables. It's a little over-browned in places, and it could take a little more salt, but it's filling.

"The trick to making frittata comes from practice," he tells you. "Over time, you learn what works together. Leftover pasta may not be glamorous, but it's a good base. You can make it with potatoes, but we've had those so much lately, nobody can stand them. But what's important is knowing your ingredients, knowing what will work and what won't."

Mr. Biden goes on to tell you the provenance of each of the ingredients, down to the specific farm. It takes a while; sometimes it's complicated. But he really seems to know his stuff. And the more you eat the frittatta, the more you find to like: a subtle flavor throughout, a burst of sharp spices here and there.

"Maybe we'll have something more exciting for you next time," Mr. Biden says as you leave. "When I'm cooking for real."


I am astonished that some people are declaring this so-called debate a draw. Palin came in with a few speeches and a number of buzzwords and used them relentlessly and off-topic. Biden put thought into every answer, and he had an excellent recall of events and a good understanding of cause-and-effect. Palin's homespun language and "shout-out" to third-graders seemed calculated, forced, and cheap; Biden neither talked down to anyone nor downplayed his knowledge, and his memories of being a single parent welled up in a way that appeared spontaneous and sincere.

It's clear to me: If anything happened to the president, I would much prefer to sit down at Biden's kitchen table. And I say this despite a deep and abiding love of pie.


Date: 2008-10-03 08:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clair-de-lalune.livejournal.com
You've made me hungry! *lol*

I think it's clear that Biden knew more and that makes sense, given his experience, but that can't have been a surprise to anyone. Palin performed well, better than many people thought, and so did Biden - I do think it was a performance for both of them. So, judging on performance alone, it was a draw. As I am currently undecided, the debate didn't help me. I was really reluctant to take a chance on a VP Palin already, but she didn't do anything during the debate to make me think it would be impossible for me to do so.

As for Biden looking a bit choked up, I heard a story on NPR earlier this week in which it was described how he'd actually become tearful when he started talking about having lost his wife and child during a campaign rally. It was reported (or perhaps they played a clip of him saying it - I can't remember) that he'd felt incredibly embarrassed for having been so emotional publicly, so I was really happy for him last night when he managed to hold it together. I can imagine that he'd have been mortified, if he'd gotten more choked up...and, I wonder if bringing it up again was a way for him to prove to himself that he could talk about it publicly.

Date: 2008-10-04 03:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jaderabbit.livejournal.com
Sweety dislikes Palin more now. He thought the "her reward is in heaven" thing was a nasty thing to say about Biden's wife, considering his first one is already dead.

I don't know if Biden brought it up to be emotional. I think he brought it up because it illustrated his point. Palin was making such a point of understanding family hardship just because she's a mom, and he said--rather tactfully--that being a single dad was pretty hard, too. She doesn't have a monopoly on family difficulty. I think the fact that it made him emotional was just something he tried to conquer as it came.

Date: 2008-10-04 03:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clair-de-lalune.livejournal.com
I vaguely remember her saying something about "reward" being in Heaven regarding teachers, implying that teachers don't get enough reward in life, I suppose. I don't recall that it was directed at Biden's wife, but, if so, I see how that might be interpreted as being tactless; although, I very much doubt she meant it to be nasty or hurtful.

--I don't know if Biden brought it up to be emotional.--

No, I don't think he brought it up to be emotional, either, since I don't think he wanted to show that kind of emotion.

Date: 2008-10-04 04:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jaderabbit.livejournal.com
I agree that in this case, it was more out of cluelessness than nastiness. But I shudder to picture her talking to world leaders in that fashion.

Ah, point. We agree about Biden's position on the man-tears.

Date: 2008-10-04 12:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cynodd.livejournal.com
Since the bar for Palin seems to have been set very low, and she didn't trip over it, that's a win for her. She did what she needed to do: sound folksy, talk semi-coherently, and convince Americans she is "one of them." Clearly Biden is the better debater, knows his stuff better, is more intelligent, and can answer a question better.

The problem is, that people are juding on "performance alone," and what seems to be important is whether or not Biden getting choked up was believable and whether or not Palin's winking was endearing, not whether or not she answers the actual question.

Date: 2008-10-04 03:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jaderabbit.livejournal.com
And that worries me. I really don't think debates should start with handicaps. You show up, and you're persuasive or you're not. There really isn't a "most improved" award.

I've had media coaching, and I'm pretty sure that Palin was very rehearsed. She didn't stray from her talking points at all. In my book, that's not a good thing when she's supposed to be showing, among other things, that she can think on her feet.

Date: 2008-10-04 02:58 am (UTC)
auros: (Cooking)
From: [personal profile] auros
You'll have to come visit some night when we're making a frittata. :-)

Date: 2008-10-04 03:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jaderabbit.livejournal.com
Which I misspelled all through the post, alas. But I feel so funny about editing them.

I do like frittata, provided they don't get tough. What do you use as your carby substrate?

Date: 2008-10-04 04:41 am (UTC)
auros: (Cooking)
From: [personal profile] auros
We don't always put a lot of carbs into it; we basically saute whatever veggies we happen to have around, and maybe some meat (we did one with a nice cured salami the other day, and we've used bacon before), and then top with grated cheese, pour beaten egg over it, let it set a little over the stove, then move to the broiler. If there are carbs in it at all, it's usually finely-cubed potato.

Date: 2008-10-04 04:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jaderabbit.livejournal.com
Yum. Sounds like a nice alternative to omelettes.

Date: 2008-10-04 12:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clair-de-lalune.livejournal.com
I don't see any reason to feel funny about editing something like that, but you could always just put a note at the bottom like "edited for spelling errors" or some-such. :)

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