Guests attending Rory Conway's presidential-debate-watching party probably thought they'd died and gone to Republican heaven. American and Texan flags hung on the walls next to red, white, and blue streamers; George W. Bush, Laura Bush and Dick Cheney smiled down beneficently from posters; freebie pins and stickers abounded; and the menu featured delicious dishes aplenty -- among them, baked beans guaranteed to sate even the most conservative palate.
Many of Conway's guests knew each other from various Catholic churches, and before the meal, the host, a 26-year-old administrative assistant, offered up a partisan prayer: "We ask You to bless us as we go forward in this election, that our country may make the right decisions to do Your will." Then it was onto the chow. The highlight? "McCain's Mean Beans," a recipe attributed to the Arizona senator in Susanne Grayson Townsend's new cookbook "How to Eat Like a Republican" (Villard Books, $14.95). "They have a kick," Conway said. "I was surprised by how spicy they were."
Move over, Josh Hartnett -- as that poster proves, you're not he only stud in town.
(Photos Nate Lankford For The Washington Post)
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Also on the menu of GOP grub: a guacamole recipe from the White House Web site; barbecue from Red Hot & Blue, the chain whose founders include former Rep. Don Sundquist (R-Tenn.); special W brand ketchup, ordered online at www.wketchup.com ("We didn't want any Heinz products," Conway explained); and a dessert sure to delight the party faithful: peanut butter and jelly (a Bush fave) on W-shaped slices of pound cake, accompanied by Edy's red, white and blue "America's Vanilla" ice cream. The finishing touch? A sprinkling of jelly beans -- "a little homage to Reagan," Conway said.
Although pre- and post-debate socializing was schmoozy and informal -- punctuated by the possibly unprecedented occurrence of a young woman in a cowboy hat pretending to make out with a poster of Dick Cheney -- actual debate-watching was mostly a serious affair. There were only a few outbursts of "Answer the question!" directed at Kerry or chants of "Four more years!" when Bush proved particularly inspiring. By night's end, most guests were in agreement: They'd thrown a fete the commander-in-chief himself would appreciate. "I think this is exactly the kind of party the President would have liked -- a barbecue in a crowded apartment," said Patrick Wilson, 34, a lawyer on Capitol Hill. "Kerry has kind of an imperial demeanor, but Bush would be quicker to chill out." Curtis Sittenfeld
McCain's Mean Beans
2 medium onions, chopped
2 teaspoons butter
Two 16-ounce cans red kidney beans
Two 16-ounce cans barbecued baked beans
2 cups no-salt-added ketchup
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
8 strips cooked bacon, cooled and crumbled