Kamala Harris / Instagram
More so than any other politician in recent memory, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has made her affinity for cooking a part of her persona— citing food writers like Alice Waters as one of her favorite authors, schooling less-inclined colleagues in the art of a good tuna melt, and whipping up Indian fare with famous friends on YouTube.
It makes sense, then, that she took advantage of a 90-second commercial break during an MSNBC appearance to talk turkey… about turkey. In a 2019 video that resurfaced on TikTok this week, the then-senator weighed the pros and cons of a wet brine versus a dry brine—and why white wine (“a nice big bottle… cheap”) is the secret sauce to perfecting a plump bird.
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We have Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, who also appeared on MSNBC that day, to thank for the video. When he asked Harris about her Thanksgiving turkey recipe during commercial break, she explained that if you have time to do a wet brine, you should.
“Do it like a pot of water, a couple bay leaves, a little sugar, a cup of peppercorns, you could even do a slice of orange, something like that,” Harris told him, before an MSNBC producer interrupted her for a mic check.
“Yes, I’m here,” she told the producer. “I’m going to talk about a recipe while you’re checking, is that okay?” Harris then turned her attention back to Capehart, “She’ll tell me if I’m annoying her.”
“A dry brine is easier,” Harris continued, “Brine for 24 [hours], but 48 hours is best if you have the time.”
“You guys getting a fresh turkey?” she asked Capehart, who responded, “Yes.”
“Okay,” Harris said. “Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, chop up a little thyme… Do the salt and pepper all over, like just lather that baby up on the outside, in the cavity.”
The trick, she added, is to, “mix [the salt and pepper] up with some thyme, a little rosemary if you want. [Put it] under the skin with some butter, before you’re going to cook it, so that that butter will just melt in there… then get a nice big bottle of cheap white wine to baste with butter.”
The exchange lasted less than 2 minutes, before Harris pivoted back to talking about politics. Capehart, who uploaded a video to Twitter using the hashtag #kamalacooks, said he recorded her advice, because he can’t cook and it was as if she was “speaking a foreign language.”
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Harris has been cooking since she was a little girl. For her, time in the kitchen is a welcome distraction from the many pressures of a life in politics. “As a child, I remember hearing the pots and smelling the food, and kind of like someone in a trance, I would walk into the kitchen to see all this incredible stuff happening,” Harris told Glamour in May. “My mother used to tell me, ‘Kamala, you clearly like to eat good food. You better learn how to cook.’”
She’s been to known to show off her food skills in social media videos, like this one from last year where she cooks masala dosa with Mindy Kaling or, in April, when Harris called out Senator Mark Warner for his tuna melt tutorial gone wrong, tweeting: “Mark—we need to talk. Call. Please. Your friend KDH.” Within a week, Warner joined her for a do-over demo on Instagram Live.
Food is also a way for Harris to address political issues. This summer, she recorded a cooking session with celebrity chef and Gramercy Tavern co-founder Tom Colicchio to spread awareness about the struggles small businesses and local restaurants face during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If I’m cooking, I feel like I’m in control of my life,” she told The Cut back in August 2018. Fast forward to today — when so many of us have turned to cooking to help quell pandemic-induced anxieties — her words feel more relevant than ever.
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