‘United We Eat’
Cookbook seeks to bring nation together with food
Capri S. Cafaro knows the unifying power of food.
As an Ohio state senator from 2007 to 2016, she often would celebrate legislative accomplishments on bipartisan bills by baking a pie to share with her colleagues from both parties.
The Youngstown native, who lived in Hubbard when she was in the Senate, said she believes the need for a little culinary bonding is even greater today.
“At a time when the nation is so divided, what is the one thing we all agree on? That’s food,” she said. “We all need to eat. We all love to eat. There’s something very relatable about food. … Everyone has a family recipe. Everyone has state pride. This is a way to find the similarities, the common ground.”
That idea inspired “United We Eat” (Story Farm, $30), a cookbook that will be released on the Fourth of July and features recipes representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
While Cafaro adapted many of the recipes herself, nearly half were submitted by current and former political leaders from both sides of the aisle.
Contributors include former presidential candidates (Hoosier Pie from Pete Buttigieg, Taconite Tater Tot Hotdish from Amy Klobuchar, Pork Butt and Smoked Corn from Mike Huckabee), governors (Sourdough Bread from Wyoming’s Mark Gordon, Working Woman’s Posole from New Mexico’s Susana Martinez) and political operatives (Jean’s Seafood Gumbo from former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile, Smith Island Cake from former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele).
Cafaro appears regularly on the FOX New Channel, and the network’s green room gave her the opportunity to personally ask many of the contributors.
“Everyone that participated was really excited to do it,” she said. “Everyone agreed on the spot.”
The challenge became, “Everyone works on elected time, even when they’re no longer in office,” Cafaro said, and that initial yes required many, many follow-ups to get all of the information needed.
Representing Ohio is a Zucchini and Eggs breakfast recipe supplied by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland. He first submitted his grandmother’s Pasta e Fagioli, but U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-Rhode Island, submitted the same dish.
For those in the Mahoning Valley wondering how Cafaro could take a Pasta e Fagioli recipe from an Irishman, Kennedy got the recipe from Frank DiPaolo, described in the cookbook as the “elder statesman of Providence (R.I.) politics.”
“I asked (Tim), ‘Can you please give me another recipe?’ He obliged and I was greatly thankful for it,” she said.
The cookbook’s recipes are divided into the categories of breakfast, starters, mains, sides and desserts. In the recipes that Cafaro adapted, she tried to focus on regional delicacies and dishes that used ingredients grown in the state or that originated there. For example, North Carolina is represented by Pepsi Salad, and Pepsi-Cola was founded in New Bern, N.C.
She also includes some state trivia and a little history about the dishes, like the patent battle for the rights to Mumbo Sauce, a Washington, D.C., favorite.
Cafaro’s interest in cooking started as a child, watching her mother and grandmothers in the kitchen. While her maternal grandmother taught her how to make Italian favorites, she also made the recipes from the Betty Crocker and McCall’s cookbooks that were staples in most American homes.
“She was just as likely to make chiffon cake and mac and cheese as she was pizzelles and lasagna,” Cafaro said.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced Cafaro to cancel many of the promotional events planned around the book launch, and there was talk of delaying the book’s release until 2021. On the plus side, she’s releasing a cookbook at a time when people, out of necessity, have been cooking more at home instead of dining out.
“Hopefully, this is another tool for people to hop on and in the process learn about different flavors and the states around the country as well,” she said.