On Thanksgiving, Lawmakers Give Back (and Enjoy a Little Turkey, Too)

For countless members of Congress, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to give back to the communities they represent at the Capitol. Lawmakers volunteer at food banks, shelters and other charitable events to distribute meals to needy constituents.

But they also clearly enjoy the food.

House Speaker John Boehner frequently gushes publicly about his mother's recipe for brining turkey. Using six bay leaves, three tablespoons of peppercorns, two cups of kosher salt, eight ounces of pure maple syrup, one head of garlic and two gallons of water, he boils the concoction, then lets it cool. The Ohio Republican then washes the turkey and removes the insides, and then puts it in a five-gallon bucket. He pours the brine and water over the bird until it is completely submerged. He then lets the turkey soak overnight.

The next morning, he washes the turkey, and pats it dry before stuffing it with dressing and tying it off. He rubs it down with butter, salt and pepper, and places it in a pan breast-side down. Halfway through, Boehner turns the turkey over. He cooks it at 350 degrees, 15 minutes per pound, and removes it from the oven when it reaches 155 to 160 degrees. Then he lets it stand for 30 to 60 minutes, covers it in foil and towels until it's ready to carve.

This year, an aide says the speaker is spending the holiday with his family.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is spending the holiday with her family in San Francisco. Pelosi volunteers each Thanksgiving at St. Anthony's Dining Room, where she has served meals to San Francisco's poorest residents each year during the holiday season.

Pelosi's volunteering is a family affair, with her children and grandchildren in tow. Pelosi, the California Democrat who is not shy about her love of everything chocolate, says her favorite Thanksgiving dish is chocolate mousse. She uses one pound of dark chocolate to make the treat. In a double boiler, she melts the chocolate slowly, careful not to boil it. Then she removes the chocolate from heat and stirs in eight ounces of unsalted butter until it's smooth.

While that cools off for 15 minutes, she beats eight separated egg whites with four ounces of sugar until soft peaks form. Then she folds the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture. In another bowl, she beats cream until it's stiff, and then adds everything together, chilling it for two hours.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., says her home is "the central hub for the traditional lunch for family and friends."

"Dad carves the turkey," Bachmann says. "We place five kernels of corn on each plate as a reminder of how little the Pilgrims had to survive at Plymouth. We each say what we're thankful for." '

The tea party darling says her favorite dish is traditional stuffing "with an over abundance of celery and onion." After the meal is cleared away, she joins her family for "multiple rousing games of turkey bingo, where the owner of the winning card shouts, 'Gobble, gobble!'"

"The winner gets to choose from an array of prizes, like beef jerky, or special chocolate," she adds. "Usually, that is followed with a neighborhood walk, and then we all watch 'It's a Wonderful Life,' served with leftovers. The last thing we do is draw names to see who in our large family we give a gift to for Christmas."

In Virginia, turkey brought Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott together with Gov. Bob McDonnnell, a Republican, to volunteer at the Central Virginia Food bank. "Here in the greater Richmond area, the Central Virginia Food Bank is positively impacting lives by providing meals to those who would otherwise have to go without," Scott said. "Making sure that we provide for the least of us should be our number one priority in Washington as we work towards addressing our serious fiscal issues."

Added Cantor: "When people are in trouble or facing tough times, it's an opportunity for neighbors and communities to step up and provide a helping hand. Especially as we celebrate Thanksgiving, we must remember that we can all do our part to help those in need."

Today, Cantor, whose favorite dishes are corn pudding and sweet potato pie, is celebrating Thanksgiving with his family and kids in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is spending the holiday with his family and is "looking forward to spending time with his daughters and granddaughters."

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., says she is going to meet her brother and sister and their families at her brother's home on Harpers Ferry. She says her favorite dish is dressing, and that football is a Thanksgiving family tradition. Her brother, Arch, is carving the turkey this year.

Rep. Charles Rangel of New York says his favorite dish is turkey with stuffing. The Harlem congressman plans to gather this year at his daughter's home with family and friends. Thanksgiving is traditionally a family reunion for the Rangels, and the congressman often volunteers on the holiday. This year, the Democrat, who just won his 22nd term in the House, says he will defer the duty of carving the turkey to his son-in-law.

Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., says his favorite Thanksgiving dish is his own recipe for broccoli cheese casserole. This year, Runyan, a former NFL offensive lineman, is attending his son's high school football team's annual Thanksgiving Day game where he is also cooking gumbo. During his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, he volunteered to help serve food to Guard and Reserve units stationed in the area. Runyan will carve the turkey at his family's gathering.

Gobble, gobble, indeed.

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