Why did the Democrat cross the aisle?

To eat the chalupa!

Let me explain. One of the highlights of my year was the opening of the O’Connor House. The 1950’s adobe ranch-style home was moved brick by brick to its new location behind the historical museum in Papago Park. I’d been invited by a special mentor to have lunch but had no idea that the home’s previous owner, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, would be in attendance. Nor did I know that it would be the first time Justice O’Connor had seen the home since it was moved. And finally, imagine my delight in being seated next to her for the meal.

Sandra Day O’Connor and the O’Connor House

The Justice toured us through her former home and shed tears describing the life she and her family had there. What I found most intriguing was her description of her kitchen and the activities that took place within.

Prior to her appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice O’Connor was the majority leader of the Arizona Senate. In 1972, she was the first woman anywhere in the country to hold such a position. And when she wasn’t in the Senate, she was at her adobe home, in her adobe kitchen.  She held a robust social schedule where she invited leaders and representatives from both parties to her home for Mexican food and beer. Sometimes she didn’t know them well and sometimes, they didn’t like each other but in her words, “they made friends.”

Instead of pointing fingers or shouting threats, during her tenure as Arizona Senate Majority Leader, Justice O’Connor won adversaries over by inviting them to share a meal.  Today, in the US Congress, our representatives travel great distances to convene for three days prior to traveling back to their homes. Much of their time is spent on airplanes and resting from their journey.  What if, instead of adhering to such a schedule, they “stayed over’ and spent time in fellowship consuming Mexican food and beer?  Would there be more civil discourse? Can a shared meal be a method for achieving consensus?

Sandra Day O’Connor’s Sonora Beef Chalupa
Serves ten
  • 2 ½ lbs. of pork tenderloin
  • 2 ½ lbs. of roast beef
  • 4 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 2 cans of green chiles or 8 fresh roast chiles
  • cayenne pepper
  • fresh Jalapenos diced (you be the judge)
  • 1 ½ cans mushroom soup
  • 1 cup sour cream

Put all meat in a large pan; cover with 4 cloves of crushed garlic, green chiles, cayenne pepper and diced fresh jalapenos. Cover and cook at 250° at least six hours. Add mushroom soup and sour cream. Return to oven and cook another 1 ½ hours.  Serve with warm flour tortillas, salad, and salsa. Build consensus!

Leave a comment


  1. Amy

     /  March 21, 2010

    I sweat S D O’C something fierce. Thanks for the info!

  2. Kathleen Bartolomei

     /  March 21, 2010

    My dear … Spot on! Another brilliant life lesson from the kitchen! With the adventures and people who come into your life, no wonder your operative word is “delight” … and no wonder you live a life of joy! I do hope you clip this out and send it in a card to Madam Justice … she will be delighted!

    btw — Just saw the humorous line about the chalupa. My laptop timed out, and I saw it when I opened the link!

  3. Rena

     /  March 21, 2010

    wow…fabulous….loved your post…what an experience!! thanks for sharing…

  4. Diane D'Angelo

     /  March 21, 2010

    So cool! I’m envious.

  5. Anne Smith

     /  March 21, 2010

    What an amazing experience! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Sally Mom

     /  March 21, 2010

    Tammy, That was heart warming and tummy warming. What a privledge for you and the Justice. I wish I had been a fly on the wall.
    Thank you for sharing and I can hardly wait to make the CHALUPA sans the pork. Yum!
    You continue to be always amazing.

  7. Brum

     /  March 22, 2010

    My Uncle Jim knew Sandra Day O’Connor pretty well. I don’t know if the connection was political, geographic or genetic…maybe a mixture of all three. I’ll have to ask him if he ever had Chalupas y Cerveza in that old adobe.

    and THANK YOU for including green chile!!!!

  8. Susan

     /  March 23, 2010

    What we also need are more women leaders, I think, to go along with the beer and chalupas. I’m in awe of your experience, Tammy.

  9. Unreal! I can’t believe you shared a meal with Sandra Day O’Connor! What an honor and amazing that food can bring even battling politicians together the way it did in her home.

  10. ozarkhomesteader

     /  March 26, 2010

    What a wonderful opportunity! And getting House and Senate partisans together for regular meals sounds like a great idea. It’s very hard to be uncivil if you know the person.

  11. Glad to see we seem to share the ability to admire a woman – hell, anyone for that matter – for who they are and not just their politics.

    • Yes, I’m certain that she and I would not be perfectly aligned politically but that doesn’t take anything away from her greatness and her ability to bring about civil discourse.

  12. Reblogged this on Agrigirl's Blog and commented:

    Five years ago, my friend and mentor Sue Clark-Johnson arranged for me to have a really special day. This week, Sue died far too young and far too quickly. As my friend Richard Morrison said, “Among many other accomplishments, she was a former Publisher of the Arizona Republic newspaper and the immediate past Director of the Morrison Institute of Public Policy. She worked tirelessly for Arizona. This is a sad day. While she was of a diminutive stature, she was a giant among us.” God bless you Sue.

  13. What a great and sad story. Sad, because I am saddened that your friend lost her battle with cancer. Another person I wish I could have met, like Molly Ivins, a hero of mine.

    As someone who has long paid attention to the political arena–one of my earliest memories was seeing JFK come down Broadway as a kid living in New York City–I have almost always felt both parties had something to offer. I mourn the loss of civility and camaraderie replaced by implacable positions where civility leaves one accused of compromise, as if that is a bad thing.

    I’ve long admired Ms. O’Connor, who was willing to speak her mind regardless of what others’ felt–which is how leaders, and truly all of us, ought to behave. When you are a civic leader, it is sometimes your job to speak uncomfortable truths , more so when those truths cause discomfort to your usual allies.

    It is even more true, though, that there needs to be more breaking of bread together, and other socializing together, of leaders with differing opinions. When I was Mayor of Bellingham, I made it a point to meet with many groups, ranging from very conservative business groups to leadership of the Lummi Nation, a local Indian tribe. I went to the Lummis without ever having expectations, but rather to get to know them, and be known by them. When a political friend asked me why, I replied to build a relationship based on nothing but friendship. I reminded him that most politicians I’d see go out to meet with Lummi leadership went while asking for something–and then asked my friend, “How has it worked for them in the past when someone from the government comes out and asks them for something?”

    My point is that the key to getting things done revolves not so much around political perspective–though I have mine, and as strongly held and believed as most–but around relationships. If you can trust the intentions of the person you are arguing with, it’s possible to get good things done. Ms. O’Connor clearly understood that, and indeed, she got things done. And I bet, in her own arenas, Sue Clark-Johnson did likewise.

    Thanks for sharing their stories–and the recipe, which I will have to try with my spice-loving teenagers.

    • I’d campaign on your behalf. A community is nothing but the sum of relationships that people have within it. I believe this deeply and try to live my life in that regard.

  14. What a great memory Tammy, so sorry to hear of your friend’s passing. I’m an admirer of Justice O’Connor, from afar she sounds like a true original and a real role model. So much would be accomplished if we would share meals and allow our lives to overlap a bit more.

    Justice O’Connor and I share a love of heritage breed cattle – she raises Randall Linebacks and sells humanely raised rose veal in the Shenandoah Valley. http://www.randalllineback.com/veal.html

  15. What a great experience! yes, bringing people together over a meal or for an activity changes things. I used to work with the daughter of a senator who almost always makes me want to shout at the radio when he’s on. After knowing his daughter, I hear him now and think, “that man has a family that loves him.” He’s still wrong 😉 but I don’t feel the need to shout any more!

  16. Danielle Luko

     /  February 1, 2015

    So sorry for the loss of your special friend, Sue Clark-Johnson. What a wonderful day she arranged for you five years ago. Yes, I believe we can make change by getting together over a meal, or over many meals and other types of get-togethers. It’s a shame that all politicians would not have access to read your blog post.

    I have been working on being an agent of change for the better. Thank you for your post, Tammy.


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