'Breaking Bread' series aims to show the 'disarming effect' food can have on political talk

The latest season of a series that combines dining and democracy — and showcases lawmakers chowing down on some of their favorite foods — is aiming to show that even in fractured times, bipartisanship can taste delicious. 

“Breaking Bread,” which premieres its second season on July 4 on Bloomberg Originals and PBS’s “The Open Mind,” features host Alexander Heffner hitting the road to dine — and sometimes fly — with politicians in their home states while talking policy and more.

Heffner’s culinary adventures take him everywhere from a fondue and curds spread and a visit to a farm in rural Wisconsin with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D), to a Baltimore Orioles game with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D), to a salmon burger meal and a stop at a renewable energy fair with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R).

The season two premiere finds Heffner gobbling up some Mexican-style, bacon-wrapped franks with Sen. Mark Kelly before boarding a plane with the former Navy pilot and NASA astronaut. With the Arizona Democrat in the pilot’s seat, the “Breaking Bread” host said it’s a move the pit of his stomach nearly regretted. 

“Having these Sonoran hot dogs before getting on this tiny jet — which was the schedule outlined to me by the senator’s staff and I was really just excited to meet him and consider him a really courageous public servant — I just buckled up and I’m glad I made it through,” Heffner quipped. 

In another episode, which run weekly on Thursdays, Heffner chows down on chicken and waffles with Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) in Savannah. 

“It was interesting to have the real chicken waffles with Sen. Warnock — compared to the vegan chicken and waffles I had with Sen. Cory Booker,” Heffner said of the meat-free meal he shared with the New Jersey Democrat in the first season of the show. 

In addition to tasting America, the second season, Heffner said, highlights more pastimes and outings with lawmakers. But food, he said, “continues to have a disarming effect, where people can speak candidly.”

“I think that’s a prerequisite for any legislative change in that there is there is an indispensable quality of the food that can’t be replicated with other activities,” the “A Documentary History of the United States” co-author said. 

Heffner praised the bipartisan “charismatic and forward-looking” lawmakers who appear on “Breaking Bread,” saying “it’s not about kumbaya or compromise for the sake of compromise.”

“These voices are the voices that that could and should be running the country in many ways,” he said.

I think across the board, if they could wave their magic wand and have a more peaceful, functional politics, they would,” Heffner said. “That’s what this season really is trying to get at.” 

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