The Case of the Missing Senate Bean Soup
Posted at 3:30 p.m. on May 14
Politically motivated government shutdowns. Bottom of the barrel public approval ratings. Career-ending sex scandals.
Few things seem to phase congressional staffers anymore — save for the absence of their daily helping of Senate Bean Soup.
(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)
A well-seasoned aide sent out a distress call late Tuesday, after making a terribly unsettling discovery.
“A tipster just emailed me asking why the Senate Carryout isn’t serving Senate Bean Soup this week for the first time in the two decades he has been working here. The people want to know,” a colleague alerted your trusty HOH reporter.
Was this the end of an era?
Had an out-of-town catering operation unilaterally decided to shun the social compact that has kept the signature brew — a hearty blend of creamy white beans, smoked ham and savory onion — on the minds (and lips) of D.C. lawmakers for more than a century?
But it was only a temporary cataclysm.
“Yes, we ran out and replaced it temporarily with another soup until we restocked the Senate Bean Soup,” Restaurant Associates spokeswoman Gina Zimmer said of the momentary drought that devastated bean soup devotees.
The dish, which first filled congressional bellies in the early days of the 20th century, has long-since evolved from mere sustenance to rhetorical hallmark.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy invoked it as a punch line in late 2000, during a heated debate of a sweeping bankruptcy overhaul bill.
“This is a no-brainer. We already debated it and voted on it 80-17. We have a hard time getting an 80-17 vote here to support the bean soup in the Senate cafeteria,” the Vermont Democrat razzed naysayers. (Remember simple majority votes? Ahhh, good times.)
Then-Sen. Frank Murkowski heralded the fabled foodstuff on the Senate floor during a tribute to his fellow Alaska Republican, the now-late Ted Stevens, back when Ace of Base still ruled the airwaves. He called it “one of Sen. Stevens’ favorites.”
Will the next generation solons be robbed of this gustatory reference point?
“Have no fear, the soup is here to stay!” Zimmer assured us, noting that her company typically stirs up three gallons of the stuff every single day.
Of course, our heart still skipped a beat when we strode into the Senate Carry Out on Wednesday and spotted only oatmeal and a roasted tomato-spinach offering bubbling in the warming pots. “If it’s not out there, there should be some in the Refectory upstairs,” a carry out staffer clued us in. (She was right.)
Or one could put on a pot of boiling water and follow the incredibly simple recipe on the Senate website.