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Marla Romash Headshot

Just Desserts: The Kissing Congressman and Other Spicy Stories

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Before Facebook, Twitter, and texting, before Spotify, Pinterest and Snapchat, before sexting, before cable news channels, there was "The Ear." It was a column in the Washington Star where you turned for the juiciest news (gossip) in the capitol. The newspaper and the column are long gone. The woman who wrote it, Diana McLellan, died last week. The stories about her death made me think how much has changed in the gossip business.

Now it's the news business, and there are spicy stories everywhere. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and texting; Spotify, Pinterest and Snapchat; cable television, and, of course, sexting. Am I missing anything?

I can't decide if there's more to write about or just more places to write and share video. Which brings me to the "Kissing Congressman," Vance McAllister of Louisiana.

C'mon, admit it. You watched that video of McAllister making out with his scheduler in a dimly lit hallway. I know, I know, part of you said, "Ecch." And the other part clicked on the link, watched the video, then said, "Ecch." Both McAllister and the scheduler are married to other people, for now.

The scheduler resigned. The staffer who leaked the video to the local newspaper resigned. Not the congressman. He said he would resign, but then, "after much thought and prayer" (of course), he changed his mind.

McAllister announced this week he's running for re-election. There was the wife, in white (of course), with the five kids (of course), standing by as McAllister announced he would run for re-election and let the voters decide if he should stay in Congress.

Chutzpah. That's what my mother would say. (Actually, my mother's more than 90 years old now, so she probably would say something more colorful). I'd say something more colorful, too, but it wouldn't be printed, at least not here. (Hint: it's what I usually say when my arm accidently hits the side of a hot oven door.)

I've not been around that long, but long enough to know that this kind of stuff has been going on in Washington long before technology made it ubiquitous. Of course, it had to get really out of hand back then for names to be named and published, like stripper Fanne Foxe's 2 a.m. leap into the tidal basin from the car of an intoxicated Congressman Wilbur Mills. That was 1974.

Now, we've got Elliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner in New York, Mark Sanford in South Carolina, Chuck Robb in Virginia (forgot about that one, didn't you?), David Vitter in Louisiana, Ken Calvert in California, Larry Craig in Minnesota, and -- lest someone accuse me of bias for excluding him -- Bill Clinton. I'm sure I missed a few. (A veritable feast of spicy stories for the late Diana McLellan and "The Ear.")

I want to forgive. I want to believe in redemption. Maybe if I was a Baptist or something it would come easier. Mostly I want to kick all these guys to the curb -- or back to their families for some serious therapy and reconciliation. But they keep coming back, like moths to the flame of power and celebrity.

So I'm heading back to the kitchen to the heat that attracts me, and a really spicy recipe for a Firecracker Apple Cake perfect for the 4th of July and this election year. To the voters in McAllister's district: I'm hoping you'll give his re-election "much thought and prayer" too. Enjoy the recipe.

Firecracker Apple Cake
1 ½ c AP Flour
2 tsp Cinnamon
¾ tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Ground Nutmeg
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Ground Ginger
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
¾ c Vegetable Oil
¾ c Packed Light Brown Sugar
¼ c Sour Cream
2 Large Eggs
1 T Vanilla
1 ¾ c Peeled, cubed Granny Smith Apple

Caramel Chile Glaze
2/3 c Packed Light Brown Sugar
6 T Half and Half
2.5 oz Unsalted Butter
2.4 oz Egg yolks (about 4 large yolks)
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper (Make this a heaping teaspoon!)

Butter and flour large 8-10 c Bundt or tube pan (Actually, I prefer white shortening to butter, in greasing baking pans.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees (conventional oven)

To make the cake:
Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, ginger, and cayenne pepper.
In a different bowl, whisk together oil, brown sugar, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla.
Add dry ingredients to wet, fold together just until blended.
Fold in apple cubes.
Pour into bundt pan. Bake 375 degrees until toothpick comes out clean (usually around 40 minutes)
Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes.
Flip cake out of pan onto plate.

To make glaze:
In medium sized heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir all ingredients until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about four minutes. Do NOT boil. Spoon half-cup of warm glaze over cake. Transfer remaining glaze to a small pitcher. Cool cake completely.
Cake can be covered and stored at room temperature up to 8 hours ahead of serving. If you make the glaze ahead of time, cover and chill, rewarm glaze before you serve it. Slice cake, pour a bit of warm glaze over each piece.

BTW, this is great with vanilla ice cream!