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Articles / Senator Michael Bennet Learned to Cook During Covid, Too

Senator Michael Bennet Learned to Cook During Covid, Too

Published May 3, 2023

Plus: Three new mini recipes, Girl Scout cookies are evil, and the awesome combo of Viola Davis + Matt Damon

Turns out that today’s guest on Food, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, is a fan of mine, and that goes both ways, especially after our conversation with him. He — like his good friend, and mine, Senator Cory Booker — is a champion of good food and food access. Michael has tirelessly fought for SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which we sometimes call food stamps — and for school and summer meals. He has also fought on behalf of farmers, and for a good and just Farm Bill, and more. The good Senator is an extremely personable and funny and kind guy; we start out a bit serious, I admit, but we get more lighthearted as we go on. 

The recipe featured in today’s podcast, Michael’s favorite tofu — Stir-Fried with Snow Peas or Sugar Snap Peas — can be found here. Marksisms below!

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This Week’s Marksisms

The Subtle Evil of Girl Scout Cookies

As they do, as they have almost every year I can remember, the Girl Scout cookies appeared. Their packaging has been modernized since I first saw them in the Fifties (in the Fifties, I thought they were amazing, which is the problem), but they still suck. Which is to say, they’re the rough equivalent of most cookies you see in the cookie aisle. Nevertheless, they were purchased, because when a workmate says, “My daughter is selling Girl Scout cookies,” you start salivating – thinking, in my case, of chocolate mint, one of my favorite junk food flavor combinations – and then you fork over your twenty bucks for four packages (I think that’s right), and then … they’re on the counter.

And you start eating them, like maybe after lunch but certainly after dinner, and maybe a little in between, and they are just awful. (I’m sorry, Girl Scouts, but maybe a bake sale? Or pivot to “Girl Scout Hummus”? “Girl Scout Celery Sticks”?) And they make you feel sick. And you get your partner to bring them to her office, where they can make others feel sick, because after all they’re “food,” so you can’t throw them out.

This is the lesson: If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times—I cannot have potato chips in the house. I will eat them, and I will feel bad. This is true of so many things, and especially bad cookies. (It’s not true of so many others. For example, we had celery sticks and carrots and good bean dip on the counter yesterday and I ate them and felt good.) The big lesson is that, as the public health people say, “If you give people lots of bad choices, it’s harder to make the right one.” In other words, the choices available determine the choices we make. Big Food spends a lot of money making sure that we grow up craving snickerdoodles and chocolate-mint-anything and if that shit is sitting on your counter, you’re gonna eat it.

Now, Three Things You Really Do Want to Cook

One: This quinoa thing I made that could not have been much easier but people went crazy over: Cook quinoa, as you do; while it’s cooling, stir in olive oil, a fair amount. Grate three or four medium beets and six or eight big shallots, or an onion or two, or equivalent; stir them in – the thing will almost immediately turn that beautiful rose color. Add sherry vinegar or lemon juice, more olive oil if needed, salt and pepper as needed. I topped with toasted pine nuts but if I’d had parsley I would’ve preferred it.

Two: Take a beautiful head of spring lettuce. Wash and dry it whole, gently. Use a small knife to cut out the little core – again, gently. Put it in a bowl and spread the leaves to receive your beautiful vinaigrette. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve. Pretty, right?

Three: Cook a little chopped bacon in olive oil, (or not; you can just start with olive oil), adding some fresh trimmed scallions, left nearly whole, when the bacon is almost done. Scoop that out, leaving the fat behind. Add chopped young kale, no stems thicker than an eighth of an inch, washed and left wet. Cook that, stirring, while you cook pasta. Serve it all together. SO good.

More NBA, Anyone?

Having written about the NBA last week, and being somewhat into it (though no more into it than I am about seeing what Aaron Rogers does for the Jets and Anthony Richardson for the Colts, but we can wait until September for that), I still find it difficult to believe the amount of enthusiasm I generated for the Warriors-Kings game this past Sunday, after watching, half-heartedly, the Knicks lose a game I was pretty sure they would lose.

I remember the Warriors from the Philly/Tom Gola/Wilt Chamberlain days (I realize that only one in ten of you knows what I’m writing about here, and even fewer care, so feel free to watch cat videos, of which this musing is the rough equivalent, self-indulgence-wise), and I have always liked them, but never more than now. So the game was exhilarating, as it can be when your team is the underdog and your best player is at his best despite being an aged 35 and clearly exhausted.

There’s actually a point here: We have a sport where the regular season doesn’t matter, hardly at all. It’s certainly not worth watching—all but the really bad teams get a shot at the playoffs; no team dominates (no team won 60 games this year, or even 55); there is this “load management” thing, i.e., players take games off so they’re rested for the playoffs, many games off; and it’s usually boring, especially given its meaningless-ness. But the playoffs are really fun.

(See this if you want to read a longer piece about this issue by someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.)

Formulaic Can Be Fun

Also fun is Air, a movie so formulaic that you know the plot and the ending even before you go into the theater, even if you haven’t read reviews (this one is spot on) or seen previews, because it’s so obvious, and Ben Affleck is not much of a director (or actor), but the writing is crisp and the killer New England team of Matt Damon and Viola Davis is a pleasure to watch. A rainy afternoon trip to the movies! Just like pre-Covid!

See you next week.