Michele Bachmann may be a tax lawyer, a Minnesota congresswoman, and a GOP presidential candidate, but first she's a mom who says that Thanksgiving is the best family day of the year. "Since I was a little girl," she tells us, "I just loved this meal because it's the time when the entire extended family comes together."
It's also a day when traditions rule. First the basics. Bachmann says she always plans weeks out, trolling through the local newspapers for good deals on turkey. "I usually start at the grocery store with the cheapest turkey," she says from the campaign trail. "The biggest I can find, usually 28 pounds, huge, I just try to get the largest I can. I watch the sale ads in the paper and I go." Breaking with the practice of several White Houses, she adds, "I don't pardon my turkey. I cook my turkey." There's gravy and mashed potatoes, salads, pumpkin and apple pie, and whipped cream made from scratch. "My husband likes French silk [pie], so if he's really good, he gets French silk." Usually she starts cooking at 4 a.m., but her family will help this year because she will be campaigning late the night before Thanksgiving. [Read: Why the GOP (and Democrats) Should Be Thankful for Mitt Romney.]
After dinner the games begin, specifically "turkey bingo," she says. "It's bingo, but whoever gets bingo first must say 'gobble-gobble.' " Prizes like jams and jerky are offered, but there's a family rivalry twist: Winners pick the prizes they know the others want. And while her kids are grown now, "it always ends up that they chase each other around to get their prize." Sometimes neighbors are invited. "You can have six people shouting 'gobble-gobble' at the same time. You've got to see it to believe it. It is just hilarious," says Bachmann. [See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP hopefuls.]
There's also a serious side for the Bachmann family. Michele tells us that she's a student of the Pilgrims and has an 1898 edition of Pilgrim leader William Bradford's journal of the plight the first settlers faced at Plymouth Rock in the early 1600s. "It brings tears to my eyes, the suffering that the Pilgrims endured to come here," she says.
One note in Bradford's journal takes center stage even before Bachmann's turkey is cut. On each plate, she first places five kernels of corn, exactly what was rationed for Pilgrims during one early period. Then everybody offers a story for what they are grateful for.
Bachmann says of the Pilgrims: "I think that their story is under told and under sold. They really are, I think, the originators of the greatness of this country, and how they lived with their lives in such a quality way and how they prayed for subsequent generations, they are my heroes, my great American heroes."
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Illustration by Ed Wexler