The Corner

Senate Cafeteria Food

I’m sure that the Senate cafeteria food is as bad as Mark Hemingway descibes in his charming piece, which is why I was both amused and surprised a couple of weeks ago, while having lunch with a Corner-reader friend at a fancy midtown Manhattan restaurant, when the waiter made a point of announcing that the special for the day was Senate Bean Soup.  It was a warm, humid day, and it seemed like an odd choice but there is quite a cult around this particular dish. Half a dozen Senators claim that the white beans come from their state. Ben Nelson recently sent the recipe to his constituents. Foodie reviews range from raves to “bland, tasteless goo.” We passed. But the soup has been on the Senate Dining Room menu for roughly a century, since long-gone Speaker Joe Cannon expressed disappointment at it’s absence one day.  I suppose even traditions run their course.

Just one dissonant note about privatization: it would be a pity to do what the Pentagon did when it privatized — that is to bring in a multitude of fast food options. It may have erased the food budget deficit, and it certainly gets the building’s 25,000 workers fed, but it didn’t really make for healthier eating. And it brought in all the ambiance of a stop on the New Jersey turnpike. Being a romantic and all, I’d like to think of the Senate cafeteria as the high-ceilinged, old-fashioned kind of place where actual Senators gather to connive and horse-trade, as they did in a scene in Advise and Consent, a great movie I recently revisited. 

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