An advocate of the people and a relentless leader for change, Congressman Jim McGovern has influenced and impacted the foundation of human rights. As a man dedicated to the nation’s biggest problems, including poverty and hunger, we couldn’t help but wonder, ‘what makes him tick?’ As a Sutton native with an ever-evolving commitment to the brighter future of Central Massachusetts, Congressman McGovern allowed us to peer inside the mind of a man diligently trying to reconnect people with the essence of food.
Food is a crucial component to our everyday survival, and while we enjoy the romantic side of dining – inviting friends for wine tastings and seeking out the finest meals, we can’t have it without understanding the connection food creates between people and cultures. “Family meals bridge gaps. Not just with family but with friends and strangers. The foods we have in common, what we enjoy most or enjoy least and coming together to partake in meals is important,” says Congressman McGovern. “I think we have to shift our focus more to meals. Our culture is busy, but we need to take the time to appreciate what we have and most of all, make time to really enjoy it. In Europe, meals are an event. People spend time preparing, making and enjoying their meals.
Congressman McGovern is right. Meals in Europe are not just about eating for survival but also about tackling the day-to-day challenges of unequal balance between work and family. The moment a family meal is instituted into the daily routine, even if it is breakfast or lunch, the balance between work and family becomes less of a burden. The time spent amongst family, friends and strangers over a meal or a bottle of wine is time well spent. In Spain, the tapas dish is meant to infuse this very theory into community and its relation to food – a theory practiced in the local Central Mass food scene with restaurants like Bocado. In France, lunch is the biggest food event of the day – a meeting of community over a meal that can last hours.
Split between his Irish and Polish heritage, Congressman McGovern is able to dabble in authentic homemade cooking traditions passed on from generations. “My aunt makes an unbelievable Irish stew every year after the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Worcester,” he says. While family style cooking is one that is dear to his heart, it is also something that is not easily duplicated. “I can not recreate my grandmother’s cooking, or my mom, for that matter – who still cooks till this day,” says Congressman McGovern as he continues to explain his long love of home cooked meals.
“We do a lot of cooking in my family. For me, personally, it helps clear my mind,” says Congressman McGovern. “I take great pleasure in creating something from nothing. Having a dish created by me that tastes good is only important if I can share it with everyone. My wife loves when I cook my umbrian pork – a pork shoulder seasoned with salt and crushed fennel, slowly cooked for four to six hours with a little white wine.”
As a student at Worcester Academy, Congressman McGovern’s ties to food were connected not in the school’s dining hall, but instead in the dorm rooms, where he was able to experience the cultural foods of his classmates. “Worcester Academy made a big impact on me in politics because of the international students. There is a whole world out there, I realized, and we need to care more than just about ourselves but about the world as a whole,” he says. “There was no variety in the dining hall at the time, instead my dining experience really happened when I was connected with the international students and their culture. I am still a fan of Indian food today and as I get older, I am more inclined to experiment with my food – and I love that. Some of my favorite restaurants are filled with Salvadoran, French, Spanish and European foods. The best part is that some of the world’s finest restaurants are right here in Central Massachusetts and I hope we are the next location to receive the Michelin Star.” Mass Foodies highlighted the new movement in Central Massachusetts’ food scene and it can’t be ignored. Worcester is a growing city and the food scene is helping, drawing the attention of visitors, investors and well-known chefs.
As Congressman McGovern continues to explore the various dimensions of food and culture, he is on a quest to open the pathway of food accessibility and better health for all members of the community, including restaurant owners and chefs. “There are extraordinary restaurants in Worcester that buy from and support local farmers. Restaurants and chefs are leading the way in helping to prevent food waste. There are 42 million people suffering from food insecurity throughout the country. It is a topic we do not talk about as much as we should, but it is solvable. Hunger, to me, is a political condition. We have both the infrastructure and resources to end it, but we do not have the political will and the restaurant industry is becoming more aware of this. These leaders are socially conscious of their contributions,” he says. “Food has a curable value. Food is medicine.”