(WASHINGTON) — It can be hard to find a truly bipartisan issue on Capitol Hill these days, but the Minnesota delegation came together Wednesday for a cause dear to just about every Minnesotan: hotdish.
For the last three years, Sen. Al Franken has been hosting the “Annual Hotdish Off,” as a way to bring the Minnesota delegation together in a bicameral, bipartisanship way. Every member of the delegation brings along their favorite variety of hotdish, a casserole dish popular in Minnesota, consisting of some variety of starch and meat, mixed in with soup and other ingredients.
“It’s a very neighborly thing to do, and it’s a good excuse to get our delegation, the Minnesota delegation, both the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, we like each other,” Franken told ABC News.
At Wednesday’s cook-off, it was also clear that the casseroles can also cook up some heated rivalries.
Franken recalled running into Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., in the halls of Congress recently, when Bachmann reportedly issued a hotdish threat in jest.
“I was over at the House meeting with the peace officers, or at the visitors’ center, and we crossed each other, and she said she was gunning for me,” Franken said, dishing up the story to the rest of the delegation in a lighthearted moment.
Bachmann quipped back to correct the senator, to the laughter of her fellow representatives: “What I said is: I am going to smoke you.”
Bachmann’s lively competitiveness endured through the competition, with the congresswoman unabashedly hovering over the competition’s judges — former Congressman Vin Weber, R-Minn., and Gerry Sikorski, D- Minn., as they sampled the various dishes.
“Notice Al and I are hovering,” Bachmann declared, before realizing that Franken, who had donned an apron, was sampling the various dishes.
“Are we allowed to eat it?” Bachmann asked. When a nearby aide replied that they were, the congresswoman went to get in line herself to sample the casseroles.
In the end, only one hotdish could take home the gold: Rep. Tim Walz’s, D-Minn., “Hermann the Germann Hotdish,” a mixture of brats, Schell’s beer, cheese, celery, and onion, in addition to a mixture of soups and other spices. The dish was named after the congressman’s good luck “Herman the German” bobblehead figurine, which Walz explained was the only thing that fell over in his D.C. office during the earthquake that hit Washington in 2011.
But as Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., jokingly reminded Walz, winning the hotdish competition doesn’t guarantee you’ll win an election.
“Just because of what happened last time!” Klobuchar qualified to a laughing crowd, in reference to former Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., who tied for first place in last year’s cook-off but lost his reelection bid in 2012.
The event served as a lighthearted reprieve from the bickering that often characterizes Capitol Hill. But even lighthearted events can be infused with the lawmaking tendencies of Washington.
Franken told ABC News that he may need to lay some ground rules for future competitions, as some have protested against Walz’s use of the “Herman the Germann” figurine, which is a small replica of the “Herman the Germann” statue located and beloved in Minnesota.
When asked about the competitiveness and rivalries that became apparent during the event, Franken jokingly remarked, “Don’t trust politicians at a food contest.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Jennifer Rizzo, CNN