05 November 2010

...and politics (not... A Chicken In Every Pot)

I picked these Brussels sprouts after a good, hard frost - cut them actually, cut each tight bud close to the wrist-thick stalk with a small paring knife. I shocked them in cold water after parboiling them in a scant half-inch of liquid water on the cusp of turning gaseous (the H2O, not the sprouts!) for a mere minute. Into the saucier I added a cut of butter, then slices of piment d'esplette, which I sauteed with all their seeds, adding a little heat to this fall classic. A big nob of leftover sweet potato was next, and finally, with the flame turned up, the Brussels sprouts. Salt, pepper, and a perfect fall dish, the heat of the peppers waking up the living green of this much-loved brassica.

And politics? Yes, I ran for city council in this beautiful, small, Minnesota college town on the Cannon River, and on Tuesday I won the election. On January 4th I'll take the oath of office and begin a four-year term as a member of Northfield, Minnesota's city council.

I started this blog with food on my mind. And it was hard to think about food without paying attention to the context in which it ends up on the tip of my fork, so I named this blog Duck Fat and Politics. From the beginning friends and readers have asked me about the politics part of the blog, and for the most part I've referred to politics as the broad set of relations between people and society, thinking less about electoral politics than the way we interact with each other (and our food.)

Electoral politics has long fascinated me, and I've often wondered if I'd be any good at it, making sense of competing, conflicting ideas, and making decisions I can live with, trying to address the complexities of living in a community. With a busy job, young children, and always making a real effort to be fully engaged as a parent and spouse, elected office was something just a little too far away, something that would require me to make sacrifices I wasn't able to make, or something that required qualifications and skills I didn't possess. So, while elected office intrigued me, it wasn't too pragmatic to think about a real run for elected office because of these limitations.

But, time passes (too quickly for the most part,) and a few years ago I renewed my lapsed subscription to The New Yorker, and noticed that my bedside pile of books was regularly growing and shrinking: time had returned! And I had time to think about politics and elected office again.

While I've written about politics only a few times in this blog, I'm surrounded by politics in the same way you are. Watching our economy expand and nearly collapse in recent years, I’ve been startled by the range of responses and reactions of individuals and political parties. So much change occurs on a local level where part-time elected officials grapple with the consequences of rampant partisanship on a national level.

Progress depends on compromise, and I don’t think the partisanship we see accurately reflects our various communities. We’re united by so many commonly shared beliefs yet we’re allowing the disagreements to set the tone of our political life. I’m comfortable with compromise, negotiation, and ambiguity. And at the same time, I know that at times progress occurs only when decisions are made and some possibilities are eliminated. I like arguing my point but I enjoy resolving things, too. I can’t promise a chicken in every pot, but sharing a big pot of stew might be a good place to start.


  1. What beautiful writing!

    Excuse this digression, but .......

    I totally agree that compromise is vital for local politics. But, the filibuster prevents either party from doing anything nationally -- necessitating hardcore partisanship. It's ugly and sad, but it's the only way to get things done and representatives shouldn't be blamed for it. Our systems are broken and people react accordingly.

    Local leaders need to know this so they can explain it to citizens -- so there can start being support for making our national institutions as compromise-y as our local ones. It's not a partisan issue, but it ironically produces the most extreme partisanship possible ... It needs to change.

  2. Good luck, Patrick. Keep us posted. I agree that if we're going to fix it, we'll have to start with issues right outside the door first. Movements start with a few people taking steps together.