Gavel & Pulses: The Little Known Links That U.S. Senate Holds with IndiaHot Buzz

June 24, 2019 09:42
Gavel & Pulses: The Little Known Links That U.S. Senate Holds with India

(Image source from: Thrillist)

The United States Senate shares an interesting link with India. You might have come through presiding officers in many assemblies and courts using a gavel, hammering it to the breakthrough arguments and assert authority over the proceedings. It is not the usual wooden hammer, but an ivory cylinder. 

The gavel was over a century old and had taken much pounding when, during a debate in 1954 the presiding officer, vice president Richard Nixon, hit it so hard it fell apart. Lacking elephants for ivory in America, the Senate turned to the newly opened embassy of India, which happily obliged. 

A replacement ivory gavel was made in India and presented to the Senate in 1954 by vice-president S Radhakrishnan who said he hoped it would inspire the senators to debate “with freedom from passion and prejudice”. 

                      (Image source from: Atlas Obscura) - The ivory gavels of the U.S. Senate.

A second link with the Senate might be provided by pulses. During recent second-term swearing-in of Prime Minister of Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhavan, what attracted the media and people most is Dal Raisina that played a starring role in the menu for the occasion. 

Apparently, this exclusive dish only available at Rashtrapati Bhavan was invented in 2010 by chef Machindra Kasture and was made from urad dal and rajma slow-cooked - taking around approximately 48 hours as cited by some reports probably refers to both soaking and cooking since even rajma might disintegrate if cooked for two days - and finished off with the herby, bitter notes of kasuri methi. 

Likewise, the U.S. Senate has its own slow-cooked soup, made with navy beans which are like small white rajma, ham hocks, and onion. It is cooked with pork knuckles, which contribute a great flavor and texture if cooked long enough to release their gelatine, and most recipes given for it usually add mashed potatoes for a heartier texture. The soup’s origins are unclear.

Bean soups are a New England tradition dating back to the 20th century, but food historians note that slow-cooking with pork is more typical of the American South, and this would fit with the Senate cooks being mostly African-American men, originally slave cooks. 

Senate history links the soup to either Senators Fred Dubois of Idaho or Knute Nelson of Minnesota. Both Midwestern states are major pulse producers.

Today these pulses are also exported to India, one country which values them for food.

Bean Soup is served every day in the Senate’s dining room.

By Sowmya Sangam

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United States  India  US senate