NEW ORLEANS — In Louisiana, politics and food go together like, well, politics and food. Especially spicy politics and spicy food. You might even say that Louisiana politics is a lot like a bowl of gumbo, or a pot of jambalaya, or a bottle of Tabasco--piquant and pungent and simmering with Cajun intrigue.
Or maybe you wouldn't say it exactly that way. Truth be told, it would be refreshing if a few less people said it that way. As it is, dozens of fine journalists have come to Louisiana to write about the state's fiery brand of politics--its zesty menu of rogue candidates and their hefty appetite for public peccadilloes--only to dig a little too deep into the metaphorical cookbook.
It seems the urge to wax gastronomic is simply irresistible in a place where the food is so good and the politics is so bad. Yet election after election, the cliches remain the same. The most recent flurry of reports, in which Republican Woody Jenkins has charged Democrat Mary Landrieu with voter fraud in her U.S. Senate victory last fall, is enough to give anyone heartburn:
The latest political scandal here is like a hot Louisiana gumbo with just about everything thrown in.
--ABC News, April 19, 1997
This is not just another Louisiana gumbo with too much local intrigue and Tabasco to be of national interest.
--Newsweek, June 2, 1997
Given that this is Louisiana, where politics and corruption blend like red beans and rice, few doubt that last year's narrow election of Mary L. Landrieu to the United States Senate may have been something shy of stainless.
--New York Times, June 10, 1997
Like spicy food and stupefying heat, wormy elections are part of the fabric of life in Louisiana.
--Washington Post, Dec. 20, 1996
Political skullduggeries are as much at home in Louisiana as crawfish or beignets.
--Time, July 7, 1997
Whatever the results, Louisiana's election gumbo promises to provide some spicy political morsels.
--National Journal, April 26, 1997
Even before the Landrieu-Jenkins election erupted in charges of foul play, the race to succeed retiring Sen. J. Bennett Johnston already had spawned its fair share of culinary wordplay:
In the endlessly fascinating and spicy gumbo of Louisiana politics, the Senate contest is a complex mix of the old and the new.
--National Journal, Aug. 3, 1996
Louisiana politics, of course, is notoriously nasty, with lots of name-calling and gumbo-slinging.
--The Atlanta Journal, Sept. 23, 1996
The GOP field, meanwhile, is as mixed up as a bowl of jambalaya.
--Washington Times, July 22, 1996
Today, Republican Woody Jenkins and Democrat Mary Landrieu, two candidates with Gulf of Mexico-wide differences, are locked in a runoff as spicy as a Cajun cook-off.
--Associated Press, Oct. 16, 1996
Just months before that, Louisiana Republicans tried to exert more political clout by holding the first-in-the-nation caucuses of the 1996 presidential campaign. The tactic gave an early boost to conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan but otherwise failed to generate much excitement:
In a state where voters like their politics like their music and food--hot and spicy--Buchanan seems to be catching on.
--ABC News, Feb. 3, 1996
Pat Buchanan, the gumbo du jour, has been a strong and articulate advocate of vital conservative causes.
--National Review, Feb. 26, 1996
While the caucuses attracted the attention of political analysts and the national media, here in Louisiana--where politics is normally as much a way of life as gumbo and Mardi Gras--they have barely caused a ripple.
--Houston Chronicle, Feb. 7, 1996
No event, however, did more for Cuisinart journalism than the emergence of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke in Louisiana's 1991 gubernatorial race. Although Duke lost to the state's oft-indicted populist leader Edwin W. Edwards, his candidacy inspired a smorgasbord of food imagery, including this newspaper's own well-seasoned headline:
Gumbo politics: How it cooks in Louisiana.
--Los Angeles Times, March 28, 1991
Louisiana's politics goes heavy on the hot sauce
--(Memphis) Commercial Appeal, Oct. 25, 1991
A wild governor's race that includes former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke is brewing like a spicy Cajun stew in Louisiana.
--Reuters, Aug. 22, 1991
Here in Louisiana, where the politics are often as spicy as the gumbo, the showdown for governor was so hot that it set some unlikely brows to sweating.
--Bergen (N.J.) Record, Nov. 17, 1991
Canadian politics make a bland stew usually, all watery complaint and stale sanctimony. For an appetizing change, sniff the fiery gumbo of sex, corruption and racism now being served in Louisiana.
--Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 15, 1991
The tension is gumbo-thick.
--Gannett News Service, Nov. 13, 1991
There are plenty more examples. But that's probably enough to make you Pnauseous, or at least wonder how most reporters spend their time on assignment in Louisiana.
Times researcher Lianne Hart contributed to this story.