Senator Tina Smith keeps "Hotdish" competition alive in Washington

Sen. Tina Smith says she'll keep the tradition alive if she's back next year.
Sen. Tina Smith says she'll keep the tradition alive if she's back next year. (GRAYDC)
Published: Apr. 25, 2018 at 3:23 PM CDT
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The Minnesota delegation gathered on Capitol Hill Wednesday to take part in a purely Minnesota tradition. Tater tots and cheese tingled the senses in a Senate hearing room. Lawmakers donned their finest dining attire for the annual “Hotdish Off” between congressional offices.

“It brings the entire Congressional delegation together, Republicans and Democrats. It’s just really fun,” said Senator Tina Smith (D-MN).

Hotdish is a casserole-style food usually containing cheese, tater tots, protein and whatever other Minnesota ingredients one can find to throw in the oven. Smith is carrying the torch passed on by her predecessor Al Franken (D-MN). Smith has a lot on her plate in her first year in the Senate, but she says getting together with Minnesota colleagues from both sides of the aisle, switching paperwork for paper bowls, brings a welcome break.

“You come together over a meal and, you know, there might be things that you’re disagreeing on but then when you sit down and eat it’s not that big of a deal anymore,” said Smith.

The competition featured four judges and 10 Hotdish creations from each Congressional office. Tom Emmer (R-MN) had the best carb-filled treat, decided after a tiebreak. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) says despite not winning since the first year of the competition, it’s important to keep this event alive.

“It brings people together in our state, and at a time when things are so polarized, anything you can do to bring people across the aisle together is fun,” said Klobuchar.

Just before the competition kicked off French President Emmanuel Macron addressed a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill. Klobuchar was asked if an invite was extended to the president to try some authentic Minnesota cuisine. She said it might cause diplomatic problems if he showed preference for one state.