There may not be a chicken in every pot, but by election day there is a chicken in every politician. Eating your way across the country is part of campaigning: scrapple in Pennsylvania, corned beef and cabbage in Boston, tortillas in Texas and knish in New York.
Over 100 years ago, The Louisville Journal wrote of the Democrats' propensity to rally the faithful at large barbeques:
"There seems to be no way of convincing these fellows that they are fairly beaten. They have one sort of answer for everything. If we show them that we have elected our Lieutenant Governor by a majority of nearly 30,000, they reply by swallowing a pig. If we show them that we have gained great strength in the Senate . . . they reply by devouring a turkey . . . there is no withstanding such arguments. We give it up."
When you gather the party faithful for the election-night watch, there is much tradition to draw on. A buffet of Candidate's Coney Island hot dogs, for instance; the previously mentioned turkey with Ballot Box Stuffing, salted peanuts and a round of El Presidentes (stir together 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth, 3 ounces light Bacardi rum and a dash of Angostura bitters with 3 to 4 ice cubes, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and twist a strip of orange peel over the drink), and to celebrate the final results, the Old Hartford Election Cake (recipe below).
While Walter and John and Barbara natter away, you can dazzle your guests with the following election trivia:
Meaner than Mean: In 1828 the opposition, having already savaged the reputation of Andrew Jackson's wife, put out a broadside announcing, "General Jackson's Mother Was a Common Prostitute."
Straight Shooting: In the aftermath of the Civil War the Republicans, far from suggesting someone Bring Us Together, issued forth with the slogan "Vote the Way You Shot."
A Choice Not An Echo: In 1884, the candidates were Sen. James G. Blaine, whose reputation had been severely damaged by a shady stock deal, and Grover Cleveland, who was found to have fathered an illegitimate son. One observer suggested the following course:
"We are told that Mr. Blaine has been deliquent in office but blameless in private life, while Mr. Cleveland has been a model of official integrity, but culpable in his personal relations. We should therefore elect Mr. Cleveland to the public office which he is so well qualified to fill, and remand Mr. Blaine to the private station he is admirably fitted to adorn."
And the voters did, undoubtedly celebrating the event with a slice of: Old Hartford Election Day Cake (Served only on election day when the men returned from the polls) 1/2 yeast cake 1/2 cup lukewarm water 1 tablespoon butter or other shortening 1 tablespoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 1/4 cups sifted flour 1/2 cup butter or other shortening 1 cup sugar 2 eggs, well beaten 1 cup raisins 1/4 cup sliced citron 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice 3/4 cup flour 3/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 cup brandy
Soften yeast in lukewarm water and add next four ingredients, mixing well. Set aside in warm place to rise overnight. Blend the 1/2 cup butter or other shortening and 1 cup sugar and beat until light. Add eggs, raisins, citron, lemon rind and juice. Sift together remaining flour (3/4 cup), soda, salt and nutmeg and add alternately with brandy. Combine raised batter with cake batter, pour into a well-greased bread pan and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour. Bake in a moderate over (350-degrees) 1 hour. While warm, frost with confectioner's sugar which has been dissolved in enough warm water to make the right consistency for icing. Makes 1 large loaf.