It should come as no surprise that the filibuster is exclusive to politics. Who else would allow a tactic in which a person prevents an entire group from acting by talking for as long as he or she can? So, in honor of politicians talking, I decided to search the dusty annals of filibuster transcripts to give you a recipe to devour while these politicians go at it. Tonights meal: Southern Fried Oysters and “Pot-Likker,” a recipe read during the epic 15 and a half hour filibuster of Senator Huey Long of Louisiana in 1935.
A filibuster (from the Dutch word for “pirate”) is a technique by which a senator may hold the Senate floor in order to delay voting on a certain bill. Senators are allowed to have the floor as long as they want, as long as they keep talking; there are no time limits. It has been used many times to stymie congressional action, but talking for hours on end is difficult without material to read from. So, throughout the great filibusters in history, senators have read entire excerpts from treatises, song lyrics, and they’ve even divulged family recipes.
One mildly-famous, long-lost recipe came from Senator Long (that’s him orating above) on the evening of June 12, 1935, as he fought to keep Senatorial oversight of senior appointments to the National Recovery Administration. (He didn’t want his political enemies in Louisiana scoring sweet jobs.) During his 15 hour standoff, Mr. Long knew the senators were growing restless, and implored the Vice President to allow the Senate to adjourn for the evening, so he could continue the following day. Even in 1935, our senators were just a bunch of party animals.
“I think we ought to adjourn,” he said, according to congressional record. “Many of us have dinner engagements….The banquet halls are yearning, the dance halls are yawning, the galleries are packed, packed with those who are crying for the presence of Senators, and I should be glad to have every Member of this body attend these functions tonight – If they never go again, Mr. President, if they never go to another one I wish they would go tonight…Why not let us adjourn until 2 o’ clock in the morning and come back."
“Mr. President, as is known, I have considerable social obligations in this city myself…" he continued later. "I have prepared recipes for many celebrated Louisiana dishes that I was instructing people how to mix and prepare…, people up in this part of the country never have learned to fry oysters as well as we have done down our way.”
As the good senator rambles on like Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," talking about how great of a chef he is, he hands a gift to the American people: his recipes for Southern Fried Oysters and Pot-likker. I dug through hundreds of dusty old pages of congressional records to find the recipe just so I could share it here with you. I’ll let Senator Long explain his methods, as quoted from his actual filibuster:
Southern Fried Oysters
-Start with a frying pan “about 8 inches deep and about 17 inches in diameter.”
-New Orleans Oysters
-10-pound bucket of cottonseed-oil lard.
- Meal, and salt, “to salt the meal. And you need a strainer.”
“I took the oysters…and laid them out on a muslin cloth, about 12 of them, and then you pull the cloth over and you dry the oysters…and you roll them into a meal which is salted….You do not want to cook the meal or put water in the meal at any time or anything like that. Just salt the meal and roll the oysters in it. Then, let the grease get boiling hot. You want the grease about 6 inches deep. Then you take the oysters and you place the oysters in the strainer, and you put the strainer in the grease, full depth down to the bottom. Then you fry those osters in boiling grease until they turn a gold-copper color and rise to the top, and then, you take them out and let them cool just a little bit before you eat them.”
In order to tell when the oysters are done, “you wait until they rise to the top, and when they rise to the top, a golden-copper color, then the oyster is cooked just exactly right.”
“There is no telling how many lives have been lost by not knowing how to fry oysters, but by serving them as an indigestible food.”
At this point, Senator Tydings from Maryland quipped: “Does the Senator realize when he describes how these oysters are cooked and how appetising they seem to be, that those of us who are listening are being inhumanly punished?”
“Now I come to potlikker…Potlikker is the residue that remains from the commingling, heating, and evaporation – anyway, it is in the bottom of the pot.”
-Turnip Greens (or mustard greens)
-1-pound sliced side meat
“First you get some turnip greens. You have to wash turnip greens many times…Take the ordinary green, turnip greens or mustard greens, though turnip greens are better than mustard greens. Turnip greens contain more manganese than do mustard greens.”
“You wash the turnip with the greens or you can cut the turnips off and peel them and wash them by themselves, and then wash the greens by themselves if you want to do it that way. All right this far!”
“Then you take the greens and turnips and you put them in the pot. Remember this: Do not salt them. Do not put any salt, do not put any pepper, do not put any mustard, do not put any kind of seasoning in the pot with them.”
“Put the greens in the pot. Cut up the turnips…Put them all in there together.”
“Then…put in a sizable quantity of water, I should say about as much water as you have of turnip greens. Then put in there a piece of salted side meat…you ought to put about a 1-pound hunk of side meat that is sliced, but not clear through, just down to the skin part….That side meat is just salty enough…in that it will properly temper the turnip greens when it has been cooked through. That will be all the seasoning that is needed.”
“When you have cooked the greens until they are tender and the turnips until they are tender, then you take up the turnips and the greens, and the soup that is left is potlikker.
“That brings on the real question of the art of eating potlikker…You draw off the potlikker and you eat it separately from the turnip greens.”
“I have stated those recipes for the Record this afternoon so that they may be had by all Members of the Senate and by the public at large tomorrow.”
— All quotes from the Congressional Record – Senate, June 12, 1935, the 74th Congress, 1st Session, Record pages 9122-9124.
Regardless of whether you agree with the merits of filibustering, at least this senator provided something long-lasting with his rant. I mean, nowhere during Strom Thurmond’s record-breaking 24 hour and 18 minute filibuster against the Voting Rights Act of 1957 did he provide a single recipe. Pretty weak, Strom. It is really just a shame that this recipe didn’t make it to Jose Andres’ America Eats Tavern. Maybe next year.
In any case, this recipe is as American as any other, so please enjoy it. As the politicians heat up the debate, heat up some oysters, drink down some pot-likker, and watch Biden and Ryan duke it out Congress-style. And if we’re lucky, Ryan or Biden will divulge a recipe for homemade bourbon.