By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Food Columnist
Many political candidates and elected officials rely not only on their own party for advice, but since the days of Andrew Jackson, they’ve turned to an unofficial group of trusted friends and advisors, referred to as the “Kitchen Cabinet.”
This seemed right up my alley, so for the past few months, I’ve worked in the “Kitchen Cabinet” as “Chef of Staff” for my good friend Kate McAlister. I have known Kate, and worked with her for hundreds of volunteer hours, within several organizations, for many years. Kate’s running for the District 1A House Representative seat, and as her volunteer event coordinator, I’ve been doing my best to see that she’s elected.
Besides the fact we’re both Irish redheads, there are many real and important reasons I want her to win. My three (of seven) grandchildren who are being raised and educated here in Idaho top that list. My progeny and yours deserve so much more than what we currently offer them with this dismal statistic: 49th in the nation for educational spending. I find that figure simply appalling, and I hope our combined efforts will get Kate elected and raise the bar for education.
My role is to assist supporters who’ve graciously agreed to open their homes and host a house party. It’s a pretty simple formula: invitations are sent, food and beverages offered and midway through the evening Kate shares her message of hope and progress with the interested (and most often, generous) attendees. My efforts include coordinating dates with Kate’s campaign manager, Char Godec (another savvy Irish redhead), advising the host of logistics and a proposed timeline for their event and arriving early to set up the campaign swag.
Usually I arrive to find the host(s) in full swing of the last- minute kitchen preparations, and I just can’t help myself—my culinary thirst needs to be quenched. I duly remember my mission and try to stay on task, which has always been a challenge in my food-centric life (I remind myself of a time many years ago in Scottsdale, when I missed the all-important and mighty gavel strike that recorded the highest price ever paid for an Arabian mare because I was peering behind the staging drapery, desperately searching for the caterers, hopeful to score the recipe for their magnificent oysters, floating in a little puddle of ceviche and served on the half shell—still a favorite recipe of mine).
Even though I try to be mindful of my duties, I invariably find myself peering into pots and onto plates to ask, “What’s this, what’s that…it smells heavenly, it looks delicious,” and so on. The food is as varied as the hosts: writers, a winemaker, artists, bankers, small business owners, a cinematographer, foresters, a past-elected (Republican) official and, not surprisingly, many educational professionals. For the most part, I’ve also observed that this demographic is a real dog-loving lot. I’ve been greeted with tail wags and shoulder thumps and foiled more than one potential food heist by a canine friend.
At Jim and Lily Mitsui’s Sagle home in Sagle, a tasty potato salad, prepared by Jim, was a delicious accompaniment to slider-sized ham sandwiches. For Erik Daarstad’s event, a few of us brought along an appetizer that was easily overshadowed by Erik’s own savory salmon log. We’ve shared handmade pizza, tangy deviled eggs (which rivaled my own), homemade huckleberry cobbler and an endless array of colorful dips and flavorful chips.
More than food, I see these culinary offerings as extensions of personalities and passions.We often gather in or near the kitchen, the heartbeat of the home where one can feel the pulse of the person or family who dwells within this space. And the passion extends beyond airy kitchens and food offerings. For the most part, the people who’ve gathered at these events are like-minded, outspoken and looking for change.
Some house guests simply walked across the street to hear Kate’s message and now, have chosen to walk across the aisle to place their vote. I hope you’ve had a chance to hear her speak, either at an event or through the media. If you haven’t, will you please take the time to do so? I hope her message resonates as loud and clear with you as it did for me. We have a lot of choices to make in the next few days, including, hopefully, a victory party menu for me.
You know what’s on the menu for dessert, don’t you? The only thing as American as apple pie is your right to vote—please exercise it! Then reward yourself with this recipe for All-American Apple Pie. You may want to bake one up for your victory party too.
Victory Pie (Latticed-top Apple Pie) – Makes 8 servings
Find a pie partner, one peels apples and one works on the crust. Rolling the pie dough out on flat parchment paper or pastry cloth makes crust easier to work with. Keep things cool, light on the water and don’t overwork the dough. And, use only fresh lemon juice and zest in the filling! Top this beauty with a scoop of ice cream or a slice of sharp cheddar.
•2 ½ cups all purpose flour
•3/4 tsp salt
•1 ¼ sticks chilled unsalted butter,
cut into ½-inch pieces
•1/3 cup chilled solid vegetable
shortening, chopped into small
•6 tbs (or more) ice water
•½ cup sugar
•¼ cup golden brown sugar, packed
•2 tbs corn starch
•1 tbs lemon juice
•2 tsp grated lemon zest
•1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
•½ tsp cinnamon
•3 pounds Golden Delicious apples,
peeled, cored, thinly sliced
Blend flour and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 6 tablespoons ice water and process until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather into ball; divide into 2 pieces.
Flatten each into disk. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours. (Can be made a day ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly before rolling out.)
Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Add apples and toss to blend.
Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Fold edge under, forming high-standing rim; crimp. Add filling. Roll out second dough disk on floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into twelve 1-inch-wide strips. Arrange 6 strips across pie. Form lattice by arranging 6 strips diagonally across first strips. Gently press ends into crust edges. Brush lattice with milk. Sprinkle lightly with additional sugar. Bake pie 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F.
Continue baking until juices bubble thickly and crust is deep golden, covering edges with foil if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 20 minutes.
Cool on rack 1 hour.