April 1, 2014
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Feeding the Volunteers

We’re having a special election for the State Senate. It’s the latest in the chain. Obama appointed John Kerry, our US Senator, to the cabinet. So we had an election — and we elected Ed Markey, our Representative, to the Senate. So then we had a special election, and we elected Katherine Clark, our state senator, to the House. Today, we have another election for her seat.

Kate’s Fourth Rule of political volunteers reads:

4) FEED US. This can be as simple as offering us a cup of coffee during a cold standout or a bottle of water to bring with us on a hot canvass. Granola bars and raisins are easy to manage food. Some of us might find providing homemade snacks to be an enjoyable way to help. There are great cooks and bakers in the volunteer ranks. It saves money and adds a nice atmosphere. A little sustenance will make us more efficient, obviating the need for breaks to buy food.

I’ve been trying to help all these campaigns with social media, web sites, online strategy, email — you know, the stuff I do. But I’m a volunteer, so all they want is knocking doors and making phone calls. I’m no good at that, so I cook.

If our team wants volunteers – and the powers that be say we do – we’ve got to do a better job at attracting volunteers under the age of seventy. Decent food might make things a little more fun. Of course, real work that uses real skills would help even more. One fact of the new reality that still hasn’t quite dawned on these old political groups is that the Democratic rank and file has changed. Sure, in 1932, we had a disadvantage because the other team had all the doctors and lawyers and writers; we had pipe fitters and longshoremen, but what does a campaign need with a pipe fitter? But nowadays we have all the doctors and writers, and we treat them like pipe fitters.

I’m OK cooking for two, or maybe the occasional eight-person dinner party. Today, we needed sixty — 20 breakfast, 20 lunch, 20 afternoon sustenance — for different groups at different staging areas. So I’ve been cooking since 6PM yesterday, with six hours off (11PM-5am) for sleep.


The scones are Alice Waters, the Bagel Bombs are Christina Tosi, and the focaccia is Susan Goin. So a feminist breakfast, too, in its way.


Our candidate was born in South Africa, which is meaningless in the campaign but a Fun Fact. So I did an improvised take on South Africa’s bunny chow, curries served in a hollowed out bread loaf. Canonically it’s wonder bread, but this crowd isn’t going for white bread and, if you want Democratic volunteers to eat anything, you have to provide small portions. (They’ll eat lots of little things, but if it looks big they won’t touch it.)


I started with the kolachkis for the Markey campaign. They’re a good campaign food: around here, they’re interesting enough for everyone but not scary enough to frighten the proverbial old ladies. I’ve done them with apricot, but fig’s a lovely combination with smoked sausage.

Koeksisters, as far as I can tell, are the South African member of the churros family, a relative of the doughnut. I have some trisol I wanted to try again, so this made sense. But some disaster befell my choux paste and it was not nearly thick enough to pipe, even after adding additional flour. So, they’re messy and incoherent koeksisters.

Bottom line

Sixty is a lot more than eight. I sure hope people enjoy this stuff. I sure hope we win.