Saturday, June 24, 2017

"The Watergate Cookbook" - CREEP Stew (CREEP was the Committee to Re-Elect the President - Richard Nixon) - Made for the 45th anniversary of the Watergate break-in


Date I made this recipe:  June 27, 2017 – 45th anniversary of the Watergate Break In

The Watergate Cookbook (Or, Who's in the Soup?) by The Committee to Write the Cookbook
Published by The New Lone Star Press
© 1973
Purchased at St. Croix Booksellers, Stillwater, MN
Recipe:  CREEP Stew – p. 37

Let's start out with some definitions that will be important for you to know as you move forward through this cookbook blog post:

  • CREEP [stew]:  Committee to Re-Elect the President, not to be confused with the authors who formed the Committee to Write the Cookbook.
  •  The President in Question:  Richard Milhous Nixon, aka "Tricky Dick."
  •  Watergate: Wikipedia's definition of Watergate is "a major political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970's, following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex on June 17, 1972, and President Nixon's administration's attempted cover-up of its involvement."  Personally, I think saying "major" scandal is and understatement was Watergate was a monumental event that changed this country.
 In the interest of fair warning, prepare to be schooled on all things Watergate.  In fact, think of this as an episode of Jeopardy where every category is named "Watergate" or and episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire where every question that comes up is Watergate-related.  Feel free to phone a friend! (By the way, one of my favorite episodes of Cheers was when Cliff Clavin appeared on Jeopardy and every category was that postman's dream.)

There were many memorable (and sometimes sad) events of my youth:  JFK's assassination, MLK's assassination, Bobby Kennedy's assassination, Woodstock, Kent State, the Vietnam War and Watergate.  The Senate Watergate Committee hearings, held after evidence showed that Nixon's administration was heavily involved in the above-referenced break-in, were compelling such that I spent hours and hours in front of the TV set with my mother, watching and learning about all that had taken place.

My mom was a housewife, or if you'd rather, a "stay-at-home-mom," who did her ironing in the afternoon, usually watching several soap operas while she did so. Yes, I said "ironing."  I know it's a foreign term for some of you but my mom ironed everything from my dad's undershirts and handkerchiefs because that was what women back then did.  They ironed and sometimes starched the hell out of everything because it was important to them that we all looked good. These days, I break out my iron once, maybe twice a year just to keep the cobwebs off.

Now then, my mom was not exactly a soap opera fan but it helped break up the monotony of ironing so why not? And then all three networks (only three back then) began interrupting our regularly-scheduled programming to broadcast the hearings and well, those hearings were better than the soaps and so it was a win-win for all.

And so there we were, glued to the set which is something considering it was summer and therefore nice out.  Neither one of us had a particular interest in government affairs before this,  but watching almost all of Nixon's administration testify to wrong-doings and cover-ups were just too much to pass up.  To this day, I can still see my mom gasping with incredulity over what she was hearing: "Oh Ann Mar-ieee, can you believe this?"  Nope, couldn't.

And now, let's talk about what happened and what brought us to the interruption of our regularly-scheduled soaps.  I've tried to be as brief as possible as the event timeline was pretty long and pretty involved with lots and lots of players.  You should know that Nixon's presidency and the Vietnam War coincided as that will play out in our story, starting with the item that kicked everything off:  the Pentagon Papers.

In 1971, psychiatrist Daniel Ellsberg, a former defense analyst who came to oppose the war, leaked what became known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.  These papers contained information about the DOD's (Department of Defense) secret activities in the Vietnam War.  Months later, White House operatives broke into Ellsberg's office to "plug the leaks," [of classified information] earning them the nickname, "White House Plumbers." 

A year later, several individuals were arrested for trying to electronically bug the offices of the DNC (Democratic National Committee) located in the Watergate Hotel. Nixon planned to use that information to take down the Democratic party in the next election (1972). These individuals were tied to CREEP, The Committee to Re-Elect the President and today's stew is named for them!  Nixon was re-elected in November of 1972 but this proved to be the beginning of the end for him, especially after the Senate formed the Senate Watergate Committee and then broadcast their investigative hearings.

Eventually, most of Nixon's aides were arrested and charged with all kinds of illegal activity connected with the President's quest for re-election.  In fact, if you were alive back then, you might know this song - "The CREEP" also known as "Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, and Dean" and I shall talk about all these men in a moment but first, let me tell you that I bought that 45 when it came out and wish I still had it as it would be a collector's item.  As my dad would always say "Story of my life, a day late and a dollar short."

Now then, here's what you need to know about Haldeman, Ehlichman, Mitchell and Dean (And by the way, the song is really catchy—listen to it!).

  • H.R. Haldeman – Nixon's Chief of Staff – served 18 months for conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury.

  • John Ehrlichman – counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs – also spent 18 months in prison for the same crimes as Haldeman.

  • John Mitchell – Nixon's Attorney General.  His wife, Martha, was probably more well-known than he was as she was quite the colorful character who spoke out about a lot of things including the state of affairs in the Beltway.  John served 19 months for various crimes.

  • John Dean – This man captured my attention and the nation's as he was essentially the man who brought Nixon down.  Dean was Nixon's White House Counsel who became the key witness for the prosecution in the hearings.  I must confess that most of my time was spent watching him testify as he was just a golden boy – young and handsome with his beautiful wife, Maureen (Mo), by his side.  His testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee was compelling.

So these were the key players in this saga but I would be remiss in my duty as a blogger if I did not mention Rose Mary Wood's, Nixon's secretary, not because she was involved in this per se, but because of the way she accidentally/on purpose erased five minutes of an 18.5 minute gap in a Nixon recording.  Her excuse was rather preposterous, earning the act a press nickname, the "Rose Mary Stretch."  Please Google this so you can see what I am talking about as it was hilarious and quite unbelievable, even to a teenager.

So everybody testified and after the Senate was done with hearings, the evidence was passed on to the House Judiciary Committee who then passed the first of three articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice.  Nixon resigned before the full House voted on impeachment, the first president ever to do so, and Vice President Gerald R. Ford became president.  Ford then pardoned Nixon and that set off another firestorm as many felt cheated out of full resolution of this issue.  After watching the hearings for weeks, I can say honestly that  now I know how a jury feels after a plea deal is announced after weeks of listening to testimony.

This concludes a not-so-brief history of Watergate.  In 1976, the movie All The President's Men came out starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and it took us through the investigation of the cover-up of the Watergate break in, the introduction of Deep Throat (an informant) whose identify was only made public about a decade ago, and who gave Woodward and Bernstein the valuable advice to "follow the money," (the garage scene still creeps me out), and the ultimate fall of the House of Nixon.  It remains one of my favorite movies.

This very tongue-in-cheek cookbook was written by a group of friends who formed the Committee to Write the Cookbook in response to the Watergate scandal.  Many of the recipes are named for key players in the Watergate scandal, mostly from Nixon's "side" but with a few other's thrown in for good measure.  Once again, I had my trusty phone by my side as I was perusing this book so I could look up all the names listed (and there were several), and although it took a while, I considered it a good historical refresher after 45 years!

Since the Table of Contents is vast, and my "who's who" explanations go long, I'm going to talk about the recipe now and then if you are interested, you can read up on all the players at the end of the blog. I recommend it because I love history, plus it makes for great cocktail party conversation, but if you don't wish to, that's okay. 

Despite some pretty hilariously-named recipes, I kept it simple and went with CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President) Stew.  It was a great stew although I wish I would have seen at the beginning the tiny little note that said all recipes serve 5-7 people as I would have cut the recipe in half.  Good thing we like leftovers.

Although I don't normally change up too much with a recipe, I did in this case.  First, instead of buying and dealing with small, white onions, I bought one whole white onion and diced it up instead.   I also eliminated the mushrooms as the Cub [grocery store] I was at is a smaller store and didn't sell mushrooms by the each and I didn't want an entire packet.

Also gone was the meat glaze because Cub didn't have what I was looking for and besides, only a tiny amount was required, and I ditched the small amount of tomato puree required in favor of a small amount of tomato paste that I "cut" with some beef broth.

As to the directive to "flame" the brandy, I was using a deep stew pot and didn't want to risk burning myself again with that directive so I skipped it and let the mixture simmer in the brandy the entire time.  Talk about delicious!

So here you go, one recipe for CREEP Stew and a whole education about the 45th anniversary of the Watergate Break-In.  My, how time has flown!  Once again, let me remind you Jeopardy and Who Wants to Be A Millionaire fans as well as history and politics buffs, that drinks and details are being served on the lido deck.  Kidding.  Once again, let me remind you all that recipe [name]samples from the Table of Contents and commentary can be found at the end of the recipe recap.

CREEP Stew – serves 5-7
4 large white mushrooms
3 T. butter
3 T. oil
1 ½ lbs top sirloin
¼ cup brandy
12 white onions
6 carrots, sliced
6 small parsnips
1 celery heart quartered
1 zucchini sliced
½ tsp tomato puree
1 tsp meat glaze
3 T. flour
1 ½ cup stock
¼ cup red wine
1 bay leaf

Cut the meat up into stew pieces. Brown the meat in butter and oil and pour in the brandy, then flame.  Remove the meat. Add onions, carrots, parsnips, celery to the oil and brown slightly.  Remove vegetables, set aside.  Add the mushrooms and zucchini and cook 3 t0 5 minutes, remove and set aside.  Put the meat back in the pot and add the tomato puree, glaze and flour, stock, red wine and bay leaf.  Cook additional 20 to 30 minutes.  Add mushrooms and zucchini just before serving.  Season to taste.

And now for our Table of Contents
  • Soups includes:
    • "Nixon's Perfectly Clear Consommé" (Nixon was known for saying "Let me be perfectly clear" when he was not, in fact, clear. Nixon also said "I am not a crook" and well sure, it was a defense, but not a winning one.)
    • "Liddy's Clam-Up Chowder" (G. Gordon Liddy was a Nixon "henchman" as dubbed by the press.)
  • Green and Leafy includes:
    • "Haldeman's Cold Crew Cut Platter" (H. R. Haldeman was known for his military-style crew cut.  He was one of Nixon's key "henchmen.")
    • Margruder's Dandy Ly-in Salad (Jeb Magruder was another "henchman.")
  • Waterfriends includes:
    • "Rebozo's Key West Red Snapper" (Bebe Rebozo was Nixon friend and confidant who lived in Key Biscane, Florida.  I recall a lot of discussion about "Bebe Rebozo's yacht" and I thought at the time that it might be nice to have a yacht but probably not the greatest thing to be Bebe Rebozo!)
    • "C-aught I-n the A-ct" (subtitled "something smells fishy') fish fillets; the CIA was also involved in pre-Watergate shenanigans.
  • As For the Birds includes:
    • "[John] Mitchell's Cooked Goose with Stuffing" – ha! (Mitchell was the Attorney General of the United States.)
    • "Muskie's Pigeon Pie" (Edmund Muskie from Maine was a U.S. Senator and later, Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter.  Muskie was a Democratic front-runner in the 1972 election primaries until the release of The Canuk Letter disparaging Muskie by CREEP.  Need I tell you the election did not go well for him?)
  • Cover-Up Dishes includes:
    • "Cox's In-Peach Chicken" (Archibald Cox was a Special Prosecutor who was fired during the Watergate scandal by Richard Nixon.)
    • "CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President) Stew," today's featured dish.)
  • Double Entrees includes"
    • "Martha's [Mitchell's] Sweet and Sour Tongue" (ha!)
    • "Baker's Shake and Bake" (Tennessee Republican, Senator Howard Baker, was Vice Chair of the Senate Watergate Committee. He is best known for asking "What did the president know, and when did he know it?"  By the way, when looking up Howard Baker, I was reminded that Fred Thompson, who most of you know from Law & Order, was also on the committee as the second senator from Tennessee.)
  • Accomplicements includes:
    • "Richardson's Boston Baked Beans" (Elliot Richardson served several positions in Nixon's cabinet.  When he served as the U.S. Attorney General, he resigned rather than obey Nixon's order to fire Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox.)
    • "Hunt's Stewed Tomatoes"  (E. Howard Hunt served in the CIA and was one of the "plumbers" during the Watergate break-in and yikes, we share the same birthday month and year!)
  • Rolling in the Dough includes:
    • "Nixon's Hot Crossed Wire Buns with Tapping (icing)" (This is self-explanatory.)
    • "Vesco's Off-Shore Sour Dough Bread" (Robert Vesco was investigated for, and charged with embezzlement, after some money he helped himself to ended up in Nixon's CREEP funds.  After fleeing the country, Vesco resisted extradition back to the U.S. and even got Costa Rica to pass a law – Vesco's law – preventing extradition.  He was also a drug smuggler.  What a guy!)
  • Heavies includes:
    • "Segretti Spaghetti" (Donald Segretti was a political operative for CREEP – Committee to Re-Elect the President.)
    • "Hunt's Hush Puppies"  (As stated above, E. Howard Hunt was the worst kind of plumber!)
  • Just Desserts includes:
    • "Odle's Strudel" (Robert Odle was the former Director of CREEP and was the first to testify to the committee's organizational structure.)
    • "Ziegler's Zabaione" (Ron Ziegler was Nixon's White House Press Secretary.)
  • Hearty Sandwiches includes:
    • "Russo's Pentagon Pizzas" (Anthony Russo was a reporter who reported on the CIA's systematic torture of enemy combatants during the Vietnam War.)
    • "Baldwin's Hoo-Joe Franks in Bacon" (Alfred Baldwin was a former FBI agent who monitored the electronic bugs planted in DNC headquarters.)
  • Wake-Er Uppers includes:
    • "Reisner's Rice Pudding" (Robert Reisner was Jeb Magruder's assistant. I chuckled when I read that he "successfully hid from the FBI investigators" and so his testimony could not be included in a Justice Department report. Not that this is funny, you understand, and yet it is.)
    • "Strachan's Breakfast for Champions" (Gordon C. Strachan was H.R. Haldeman's assistant; Haldeman was Chief of Staff.)
  • Tidbits to Wet Your Appetite includes:
    • "Kleindienst Curry Dip" (Richard Kleindienst was Nixon's Attorney General for less than a year.  He also pled guilty to a crime in a peripheral scandal.)
    • "Montoya's Refried Beans" (Joseph Montoya was a Democrat from New Mexico who served on the Senate Watergate Committee.)
  • In the Drink includes:
    • "Inouye's Hawaiian Punch" (Daniel Inouye (D) from Hawaii also served on the Senate Watergate Committee.)
    • "Sloans' Fifths" (Hugh Sloan, Jr. was CREEPS's treasurer. After learning about the "plumbers," Sloan resigned and became a trusted source for Woodward and Bernstein's Washington Post articles.")

There!  Don't you feel too cool for school?  I do.  Although I knew several of the people listed above, I still looked up all names listed and as you can see, it is vast.  I only wish the cookbook authors would have compiled such a list for the back of the book as that would have saved my big, long, and involved trip down memory lane.

On a related note, I mentioned much earlier that the Vietnam War was part of my childhood, and just like Watergate, I was glued to the set every night waiting for updates.  The U.S. pulled out all troops in 1975 and I watched the airlift of American personnel and Vietnamese refugees unfold on TV.  At any rate, someone on Facebook today posted a Vietnam War Quiz that only 2% of the population gets right, and also a quiz to see if you could distinguish facts and events from WWI and WWII.  I did really well in the W's quiz and I'll have you know that I got 87% right on my Vietnam War quiz ("You scored 87% You are a General!")!  I minored in History in college and also grew up with the Vietnam War so there you go.








 





 



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