South Beach Obama Bake-Off

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Let’s start by saying that, for the good of our country, we sincerely hope that MoveOn.org is better at political activism than they are at baking. This thought occured as we surveyed the Hungry For Change Bake Sale, two small tables of baked goods set up by the crafty lefties at Marjorie Stoneham Douglas Park in South Beach (the green space next to Starbucks on Ocean Drive between Third and Fourth Streets) -- not exactly the best location for pedestrian traffic.

One table was located right by the coffee chain, the other a short distance away on the Drive; many of the desserts on both tables were the same. The aim was to sell voluntarily donated baked goods at such sales nationwide, profits forwarded to MoveOn’s Obama campaign.

Was there a plethora of alluring treats glistening in the sunlight? Cakes, pies and pastries culled from family recipes passed through the generations? “No” said Karyn Altman, who brought along homemade oatmeal cookies. “It’s not a family recipe,” she admitted, “but it was made with love for Barack Obama.” Did the desserts showcase South Florida’s indigenous fruits -- Key lime pie, coconut custard pie, mango tarts -- or reflect our ethnically diverse culture? Well, there were bananas used for the Obamana Bread; organic ones at that. But the rest of the baked goods were comprised of brownies, raisin bran muffins, vegan banana-chocolate chip muffins, mini loaves of corn bread, There were also rounds of homemade “devil dogs,” some with white cake, some chocolate, all filled with sweetened whipped cream, and a particularly unappealing pecan pie “made with almonds” in a pale puff pastry shell. Desserts generally ranged between one and three dollars apiece, but prices were eminently negotiable. “Whatever you can pay,” said Beatriz Baldan, who was manning one of the tables by herself when we arrived.

Beatriz, a spry woman sporting short-cropped grey hair, was born in Argentina, but lived in New York for thirty years before moving to Brickell Key, two years ago. Why is she here today? “I am a supporter of MoveOn.org and have been a member for many years. And also to support Obama. I’m 66, white and Latino -- just the person who’s not supposed to be supporting him.” She lets go of an easy laugh.

Kim Duncanson and Lise Efronson drop off a tray of “natchez cookies.” Lise is a yoga instructor from Canada, who now resides in Miami. She teaches at the Wellness Community and at Fairchild Tropical Gardens. Kim is part owner of Green Garden Organics, one of South Florida’s premier growers of wheat grass. “The recipe is from South Carolina or North Carolina, I’m not sure,” says Kim while placing the cookies on the table (it is a Charleston recipe). They are made with graham crackers, caramel, butter, pecans and chocolate chips -- the last ingredient glistening as it melted in the mid-June midday sun. “The recipe was published in Bon Apetit years ago, they come from a bed and breakfast. There’s a whole history behind them but I don’t remember.”

At the other table was a middle-aged gentleman wearing shorts, a bright red T-shirt and a beige fishing cap. He was holding up a Hungry For Change placard, approaching passersby, chanting a bit, and in general livening up an otherwise moribund scene. He volunteered information to us as we approached the table, as if he was some sort of politician seeking votes. In fact, his name is David Patlak and he is running for County Commission in District 5. He handed us his card, and was quick to give us the talking points: “After eight long years of the Bush agenda, most Americans are really hungry for change, and that’s why MoveOn members are holding bake sales across the country this weekend.”

Maybe that’s why the baked goods weren’t very impressive -- these people have more important things on their minds.

- Lee Klein

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