Thursday, January 15, 2009

Being Donna Brazile II

Donna Brazile's book, Cooking with Grease, is a great read. She talks politics, heading chapters with a great Southern Louisanna dish of her hometown. Ms. Brazile stirs a delicious delightful sometimes heartbreaking tale of political life on the national level through the aroma of her mother Jean's kitchen:

Chapter 1: Jean's Kitchen: Finding the Right Pot
Chapter 2: Blackend Fish
Chapter 3: Red Beans and Rice
Chapter 4: Crawfish Etouffee
Chapter 5: Garlic Grits
Chapter 6: Jambalaya
Chapter 7: The Melting Pot
Chapter 8: Smothered Chicken
Chapter 9: Brown Gravy (Roux)
Chapter 10:Crabmeat Lafitte
Chapter 11:Stuffed Po' Boys
Chapter 12:Creole Shrimp Bisque
Chapter 13:Bell Peppers
Chapter 14:Dirty Rice
Chapter 15:Cochon de Lair (Roast Suckling Pig)
Chapter 16:Oysters Bienville
Chapter 17:Cafe Du Monde: Coffee and Beignets

Here is a mouth watering example of a preface included before each chapter. The mixture of politics and cusinse is a perfect blend:

Chapter Sixteen, Oysters Bienville:

"Oysters Bienville is named for Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, the founder of New Orleans. The oysters are served in the half shell and topped with shrimp, mushrooms and grated Parmesan cheese and heavily seasoned. Throughout the Gore campaign (which she managed), I attempted to expand the Democratic base beyond its core-the oyster-by adding spices and novel ingredients-new voters and a broader message."

Throughout the book Ms. Brazile weaves memories of Jean's kitchen along with the diciness of national politics. Having begun in politics at the age of nine successfully campaigning in support of a city council candidate who promised to build a playground in her community, she wrote of this period in an early chapter of the book with memories of her mother and paternal grandmother preparing meals:

"A typical breakfast was scrambled eggs with onions with green peppers, toast, bacon or hot sausage, buttermilk biscuits, and Tang, the popular powdered orange juice drink of the sixties. Jean and Grandma, who was a great cook, kept the kitchen fires burning from morning to night. They were always stirring up something, frying something, smothering something, smoking up the kitchen. I know now that the secret ingredient Jean put in everything she cooked was love."

The preface to Chapter 14, "Dirty Rice," prepares us for what will follow:

"Louisanans like their rice and their politics the same way-colorful and dirty. I didn't realize just how low down and dirty the electoral process could become with citizens unable to cast their ballots and confusion on top of it all. The last few months of the 2000 presidential campaign were painful, to say the least."

Being a senior political strategist and former campaign manager for Gore-Lieberman 2000-the first African American to lead a major presidential campaign, Cooking with Grease is replete with amazing stories. The tale is honest and real. She writes:

"Everyone has warned me, from day one, that at some point I would get on Gore's bad side. But it didn't happen to me until the recount. And I got kicked over a principle-the right to vote-and that didn't sit well with me. I was very upset. I had spent my entire career fighting to expand the electorate, helping people to learn how to register people to vote, and I thought about Gore's daddy who lost his Tennessee Senate seat in 1966 because he took a principled position, in support of Voting Rights Act."

Ms. Brazile can be assured that her many years of work on Voting Rights and her desire to expand the Democratic base paid off huge in the election of Barack Obama for president. In hingsight the 2000 campaign seems like a forerunner of what was to come. Cooking with Grease shows how she used the aroma, magic and the binding together of roux to bring change to Washington much of which was learned from her Southern Louisanna hometown.

Cooking with Grease is a great book! I'm looking forward to her second.


dave wheeler said... affiliations aside, the two folks I admire the most in the world of politics are Donna Brazile and James Carville. Passionate, focused, and driven are terrific qualities to have and as I look at what lies ahead with Foundations4 they are the qualities that drew me to the project in the first place. I recall an interview I saw of Ms. Brazile during the Gore campaign where she spoke of her love for grassroots organizing and the importance it plays in changing the political landscape. This was a real person, one who did the hard work, paid the dues, and despite her success she said the most rewarding work she had done was working on the frontline in the communities. Gotta love the frontline folks!

A new approach to community organizing and improvement is needed to build from the common ground, not the political one. I will be reading this book for sure and applying the knowledge to improve the quality of life for working single parents and the communities they live in. Can't wait to see how that turns out.

Who said men couldn't learn from women? Thanks Judith...

judith ellis said...

Thank you, Dave, for that. Brazile is brilliant, passionate, and full of love and kindness. We are all blessed by her indeed; her ease is embraceable. Get the book; I think you'll enjoy it.

Brazile and Carville are hard-nosed senior political advisors with larger than life personalities. But they seem very down to earth too. Is it by accident that both are both from Louisiana?

It must be the food. :-)