Heard on the Hill

What is carrot pudding? And other burning questions from Congress’ high-calorie cook-off

46 lawmakers strapped on aprons to raise money for the March of Dimes

Lawmakers don their chef gear on Wednesday to raise money for the March of Dimes. (Kathryn Lyons/CQ Roll Call)

Now that I’ve awoken from my food coma, I’m able to share how I (over)indulged at the 37th Annual March of Dimes Gourmet Gala Wednesday night. Forty-six members of Congress competed in this year’s cook-off, but only six lucky members won trophies, plus coveted bragging rights.

Now, any cuisinier who fed me last night is a winner in my book — even Sen. Bob Casey, who shared his family’s carrot pudding. What the &%$# is carrot pudding, you ask?

“It’s ... sugar and flour — it’s like cake,” explained his wife Terese, who was helping her husband serve the hungry (and curious) masses.

Seven hundred guests brought their appetites to the event at the National Building Museum to taste-test nearly 50 different recipes, which ran the gamut of size, texture, taste and smell.

If anyone came hangry, it was soon cured by Sen. Bill Cassidy’s decadent “Chocolate Pecan Pie,” Rep. Linda Sanchez’s “Taquitos and Guacamole,” Rep. Jack Bergman’s “Pesto Flatbread with Arugula” and Rep. Kathleen Rice’s “Avocado Toast,” which, I imagine, won the millennial vote. While there’s no confirmation of the amount of calories consumed, I can confidently say it was well over 176 — thanks to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who kindly displayed the crucial nutrition fact next to her “Spicy Bacon and Brew Muffins.”

(Kathryn Lyons/CQ Roll Call)
(Kathryn Lyons/CQ Roll Call)

Five Washington-based chefs judged the various dishes and crowned the congressional culinary kings. Sen. Angus King got “Judges Choice” for his “Lobster Stew,” Rep. Salud Carbajal won “Healthiest Recipe” with a “Central Coast Ceviche” (sorry, Wasserman Schultz!) and the “Hometown Hero” award was snagged by Rep. Bob Latta with his “Johnny Appleseed Crisp.”

Sen. Gary Peters’ got an “Easiest Preparation” nod for his “Michigan Cherry, Goat Cheese and Sage Crostini,” while style points and “Best Presentation” went to Sen. Jim Risch for his “Idaho Baked Potato Sundae Surprise” (spoiler alert: the surprise is vanilla ice cream).

The “People’s Choice” distinction went to Rep. Dean Phillips with his “Miriam’s Potato Latkes,” a dish named after his “grandmother’s grandmother,” said Phillips.

The Minnesotan, who also won third place at this year’s Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition, told me this latke dish is harder to make because “peeling a potato and creating the mash is really time consuming. [With] a hotdish you just throw a bunch of stuff together.”

While there was no award for the “Longest Recipe Name,” it’d easily go to Rep. Mike Thompson and his “Really Fast, Really Healthy, Really Good Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Lump Crab.”

That’s right — this year, men made a clean sweep of all the awards, even my made-up one.

Regardless of who left boasting trophies and compliments to the chef, the real winner of the night was the gala’s host, March of Dimes, who raised more than $1.3 million dollars. Bonnie Perdue, the event’s honorary co-chair and wife of Sen. David Perdue, said in a statement, “March of Dimes is doing incredible work to support expecting mothers and ensure every child has the best possible start.”

And as the March of Dimes took care of the moms, Sen. Roger Wicker took care of the dad jokes. “It’s late in the evening — these are half off,” he said as he offered out the last of his deviled eggs, sliced in half.

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