The history is muddled, the senator has discovered, though important enough to produce an entire file in the Senate archives. Two senators are alternately credited with the mandatory inclusion of the soup on the Senate dining menu, where it has remained, steadfast, since 1903, the only permanent menu fixture. First, there is Fred Dubois of Idaho, a bean soup devotee who is said to have pushed through a resolution to that effect while chairman of the committee in charge of the Senate restaurant -- but no one has ever located any evidence of that resolution. Then there is Knute Nelson of Minnesota, a bean soup lover from his Civil War days who is said to have insisted on seeing his favorite on the daily menu.
(There is also the tale of House Speaker Joe Cannon, who reportedly forced bean soup onto the permanent House Dining Room menu in 1904 after discovering there was none to be had. "Thunderation!'' he hollered. "I had my mouth set for bean soup. From now on, hot or cold, rain, snow, or shine, I want it on the menu every day." But that is House soup, and we are talking Senate soup here, so let us not digress.)
Only [Don Perez] or one other chef -- Roberto Canizares, who preceded him and taught him the recipe -- makes the soup every day. ("We're the only ones who can make it consistent," Perez says.) The recipe calls for Michigan navy beans, water, ham hocks, onion, butter, salt and pepper. Perez admits to adding a little garlic into the mix, but no one has called him on it yet. He knows that you do not mess with the senators' soup. A little carrot for color? Forget it. Celery? Never! And mon Dieu, don't dare drizzle a bit of creme fraiche over the top! Jazz up the presentation? Not a chance.
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