Due to the vastly entertaining vice presidential candidates, who have regaled us with more surprises and dramatic tension than the gentlemen at the top of their tickets, no one in the United States has yet had a boring moment during this 2008 election season.
The VPs are not only political, generational and gender opposites, but also hail from regions that are worlds apart in climate, landscapes and culinary traditions. Regarding the latter, Senator Joe Biden represents a maritime state famous for its seafood, while Governor Sarah Palin is bringing to center stage the wild game cuisine of her Nordic home.
Curiosity has unleashed a media frenzy of news and gossip about the lives and careers of running mates picked by presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. The press, however, has so far neglected to cover the food angle—my turf—proving it has forgotten that “we are what we eat.”
So, in exchange for your promise to vote in this important election on November 4, 2008, here are some little-known facts about the VP candidates’ and their states’ favorite foods. Any clues to actual personalities might be purely coincidental.
Here’s a spicy little tidbit that shows Democratic Sen. Biden as being his own man, a non-conformist—at least as far as his taste-buds go. Yes, the long-serving Delaware senator is a teetotaler, and while fond of his state’s famous seafood, he is partial to homemade potpies and openly passionate about Italian food. It’s been said that if ever elected president, Joe Biden would hire an Italian White House chef, so he could indulge in his favorite dishes. The Senator is also well known for his own killer culinary skills. Just ask anyone who has tasted one of his famous pasta dishes.
Settled by English, Swedish, German, Dutch and other immigrants, Delaware’s rich melting pot cuisine reflects a most fortunate melding of their Old Country flavors and the vast array of local delicacies.
The Delaware diet consists mostly of fish and crustaceans, with fowl and other meats competing for attention. Crabbing for the state’s famous blue crab has been a long-standing sport along the beaches. Folks hereabouts seduce these succulent creatures into traps with chicken necks as bait. You haven’t lived till you’ve tasted the various local crab delicacies—steamed, fried into plump crab cakes, mixed as hot crab dip or crab spread, and of course, cooked up into the delectable crab bisque. For variety, dig into a crab or mixed seafood paella, and try one of the many fish dishes—among them, the grilled walleye, Cape Cod-style striped bass and a fish stew called “Muddle,” which is baked in a Dutch oven.
Delaware’s other staple, the broiled chicken, eventually grew into its ‘broiler chicken’ industry, and made the blue hen chicken the state bird. Locals usually serve broilers with sour-milk biscuits and cheesy corn pudding.
Heading north to “the land of the midnight sun,” one imagines dinner provided by hunting and fishing, rather than shopping in supermarkets. Republican Governor Sarah Palin relishes her outdoorsy Alaskan life. She is a true carnivore who follows the dietary philosophy proclaimed on her parents’ bumper sticker: “VEGETARIAN – Indian word for ‘bad hunter’.”
The intrepid Sara Palin hunts her own moose meat and chows down on hearty moose stew—her favorite dish, with moose burgers a runner-up choice. Palin’s fellow hunters also bag such wild game animals as caribou, elk, bear and reindeer. The latter is a transplant from Siberia, brought to Alaska to supplement the region’s dwindling whale food supply.
Alaskans, as well as the rest of us here in the Lower 48, feast on such northern bounty as Alaskan King Salmon (served smoked, made into jerky or a sweet Indian salmon candy), Copper River salmon and other cold water fish. Seafood, too, is plentiful—a notable example is the succulent Alaskan King Crab, as tasty as, but larger than its Delaware Blue relative.
While Alaska’s short growing season is not conducive to raising fresh produce, the state has an abundance of wild berries, from blueberries and high bush cranberries, to salmonberries (orange-hued raspberries), moss berries and watermelon berries which can be eaten fresh or preserved as jams and jellies.
In some distant past, sourdough bread must have won the state’s baked-goods competition, because today it is a wildly popular staple. In fact, “sourdough” is the slang word (nickname?) for a resident of Alaska.
To feed your inner Alaskan or taste the briny flavors of Delaware, whip up an Alaskan Moose Stew or a batch of Delaware Crab Cakes. They both get my vote!
Alaskan Moose Stew
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 pounds of moose, deer or venison, cubed
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
4 carrots, cut in coins
1 garlic clove, minced
3 large potatoes, peeled, cubed
10 ounces of frozen corn
10 ounces of frozen green beans
2 cups of red wine
10 ounces of beef broth
2 – 16 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of basil
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a stockpot, heat the oil on medium and braise the meat. Reduce heat and add the onions, garlic, celery and spices, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until tender. Add more wine or broth if desired.
Serve with polenta or dumplings.
Delaware Crab Cakes
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 pound of jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
½ small red pepper, diced
½ small yellow pepper, diced
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
1 ounce of brown mustard
½ teaspoon of lemon juice
½ sweet onion, chopped
½ cup of crushed crackers (multi-grain or saltines)
½ teaspoon of Tabasco sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon of Worchester sauce
¼ cup of fresh coriander, chopped
In a mixing bowl, combine the ingredients (except the oil), and chill for 30 minutes. Using an ice cream scoop, make equal portions and form into patties. Place cracker crumbs on a wax-papered cookie sheet and coat the patties.
In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium. Sauté the patties until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.
Serve with chili mayo.
(If you’d like to chew the fat or beef about something, email [email protected])