Election Day was chock full of many big and small partisan dramas. Some stayed up to watch (and eat), while others went to bed, but all of us woke up to reality. We’ve got a lot of work to do in this country – there’s no disagreement on that – and sitting around gloating about the election results or plotting revenge (depending on what you think of the outcomes) isn’t going to help. So where to go from here?
The election cycle was a time for partisanship, and on Inauguration Day the victors will celebrate. It’s trite but true – there will always be winners and losers in elections. That’s not going to change, and it shouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean that we should now go back to our partisan corners and engage only with people who think and vote like we do.
I’ve always been a proponent of family dinners. They build lasting connections that family members can rely on when times get tough. When my kids were adolescents, I sometimes questioned my own sanity as the conversations at the kitchen table took unexpected and occasional bizarre turns. The food didn’t matter and the decorum was often questionable – but we all survived. I don’t hold myself up as any paragon of virtue. I’m just one of millions of parents who have tried to model good behavior and build trust over a meal.
What if we all modeled for Congress and the President the type of behavior and relationships we’d like to see by eating together and asking them to do the same? I’m challenging myself – and you – to invite to dinner people whose politics or life choices we might not agree with. I’m not naïve and don’t expect magical changes to occur. I’m just looking for the same deepening of respect that I saw between NJ Gov. Christie and President Obama over the past week.
The meals can be simple potlucks; the guest list haphazard or carefully managed. I’m always in favor of multi-generational gatherings. Many of us come from traditions that welcome strangers to join us at the table. In my case, the Jewish tradition of welcoming “the stranger” to our Passover seder inspires invitations that go beyond the usual circle of friends and family.
Heck, I’m so into this that I would even volunteer to put together family dinner-style meals for senators and members of Congress to get them to sit down with members of the other party over pot roast and kugel, vegetarian lasagna, chicken biryani or whatever else they’d like to eat. They aren’t likely to start this on their own; let’s tell them we are breaking bread together and expect them to do the same. Maybe we can even get pollsters interested in measuring our effort. After all, regardless of party, the “pols” all follow the polls.
We’ll get back to partisanship when the time comes. But in the meantime, let’s find out what movies we like in common, which sports teams are playoff contenders next year (for Chicago and Boston baseball fans, who have to always hope for next year), and whatever else comes to mind as the food gets passed around. The topics can be unifying like gardening tips or recipes, or evince a competitive spirit as sports fans tend to show when discussing each other’s teams – the only absolute should be that the dinners are a “politics-free” gatherings.
And speaking of getting together, let’s all get together tomorrow for Hurricane Sandy victims. Led by Barb of CreativCulinary and Jen of Jenn’s Cuisine, foodbloggers are raising money and support for victims of the hurricane. Check back here Friday mid-day for a recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts – and information on how you can help too.