Bipartisan Soup Pots

'Mr. Sunday’s Soups' and a new Cheddar’s prove food knows no politics

Food, good food, is the unification measure this country needs. When you’re swapping recipes or have biscuits in your mouth, who has time for harsh diatribes or mean-spirited political attacks?

Even I, with my intractable (perhaps, with a name like Rose Kennedy, even hereditary) liberal do-gooder bias, have discovered that food talk obliterates political boundaries and makes us all brothers under the skin—or maybe that should be beneath our aprons.

Witness: the newly released Mr. Sunday’s Soups, written by D.C. hostess Lorraine Wallace, who’s married to Chris Wallace, anchor of Fox News Sunday (whence comes the name “Mr. Sunday”).

I clutched at straws when I saw “Fox News” in the credits—isn’t Lorraine’s husband my man Mike Wallace’s son? Technically, yes; but Chris was raised by his stepdad, and got to know his dad only in later years. In fact, Chris is the one who said his biological pop had “lost it” after the 60 Minutes legend told the Boston Globe in 2005 that George Bush’s reelection showed America is “[expletive]-up.”

Nah, the dad connection didn’t cancel out the Karl-frickin-Rove endorsement on the back cover, or the cheerful tales of other Fox News staffers hustling over to Wallace manor on Sundays for soup.

But you know what? I found I didn’t care. I’m fascinated with Lorraine’s recipes, like Italian Wedding Soup from Frank Pellegrino of New York City’s Rao, and Chef Martin’s gazpacho from Round Hill in Montego Bay. She also does this cool thing of serving salads under certain soups. And we both like farmer’s market finds, soups that freeze well, organic produce, and recipes that involve parsnips (Parsnip and Celery Root Puree), hominy (Ancho Pork and Hominy Soup), and barley (Beef and Barley soup).

I tried this godawful mess of an All-American Cheeseburger Soup she makes and loved it, dill pickle and all, and I even made it on Sunday. Chris Wallace’s show happened to be on. While we ate, we watched Food Network.

***

I’ve had a food-trumps-politics experience in my personal life recently, too. My kid’s high school was the typical riot of parental political ambition, and I always felt this one parent was maneuvering (maybe subconsciously) to try to discourage my daughter from a certain school team. I say “tried” only because my child is way more stubborn than her; we were never chased off and eventually triumphed. But that parent has this karma-balancing factor, an inarguable feather in her cap: She introduced me to Cheddar’s restaurant, in Cookeville.

Co-chaperones, we stopped there several years ago, and I was so tickled with the high-pitched ceilings with gently paddling palm fans, abundant fresh-fried chicken tenders, spinach con queso dip with a little kick of cayenne, and the fresh corn cut from the cob served in a kiss-of-butter sauce. Even better were the prices, like $9 for my go-to, the tilapia with mango salsa and two side orders. After that first trip (when the conversation for once wasn’t stilted, and I think we may have even laughed once or twice), I’d stop in every time I trekked to the Nashville airport or visited friends at Tennessee Tech, and That Woman’s stock climbed with every visit.

Last week, we got our own Cheddar’s in Powell, which joins units in Alcoa and Kingsport I’d never known about. I was invited to a lovely pre-opening, where I got my tilapia and spinach dip, just like Cookeville’s, and watched an energetic staff pour drinks from an airy bar in front of a lavish, soothing fish tank.

I thought about my adversary that night, and considered striking her good deed from the record, now that I’d found another Cheddar’s entirely on my own steam.

Nah, I concluded, foodies don’t play petty politics.

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