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Napolitano Uses Homemade Cooking to Bond With Staff, Colleagues

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Napolitano makes chorizo and eggs for her staff and visitors to her Longworth Building office. About once a month, she treats her staff to Tex-Mex food.

“We cook together, we clean up together, and it’s all because the congresswoman is generous enough to share the food she brings back with her from California,” O’Donnell said. “But it really brings us closer together because we’re eating good food and we’re happy.”

Texas Via California

Napolitano was born and raised in Texas and learned to cook Tex-Mex meals from her mother-in-law after getting married to her husband at the age of 18.

“My mother was more into — because she was a single mom and she worked all the time — was more into sandwiches,” Napolitano said of why she learned to cook from others.

Sharing her passion for cooking with friends, family and colleagues is important to Napolitano, who has been cooking for members of Congress, staffers and those who attend her fundraisers since she was elected to Congress in 1998.

In her early years in Congress, Napolitano would prepare the food for all of the fundraisers she hosted. By now, she has given her recipes and secrets to a chef, who prepares the food the same way Napolitano would.

Her food also helps her build relationships with other members of Congress, both in her party and across the aisle.

High-ranking Republican members of Congress such as former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and former House Rules Chairman David Dreier, a fellow Californian, are fans of Napolitano’s citric-acid-free guacamole, a trick Napolitano says makes her guacamole fresher and tastier than others.

“He [Dreier] would take the guacamole bowl and give this much to people and take the entire bowl because he loved the stuff,” Napolitano said, gesturing to the tiny amount of guacamole that Dreier would share with others, saving the rest for himself.

A slew of members in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — including Democratic Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, and Lucille Roybal-Allard of California — rave about Napolitano’s salsa and chorizo.

Brainstorming sessions with the CHS’ Building Our Leadership Diversity PAC, a group that helps raise money for Hispanic congressional candidates, are incomplete without Napolitano’s homemade salsa and fresh-from- California chorizo.

Napolitano is proud of her cooking and is happy that she can provide displaced Californians and Texans accustomed to Tex-Mex cooking a little taste of home away from home.

“At BOLD PAC weekly meetings over at Tortilla Coast, I bring chorizo and I bring salsa, and boy they dive into it,” Napolitano said of her colleagues. “They are so happy to see it. And this is because this reminds them of home.”

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