The Kate O’Beirne Literary and Fricassee Society

9 Dec 2010


A few days ago, the National Review‘s Kate O’Beirne took part in a panel discussion at the Hudson Institute, a “nonpartisan policy research organization” out of Washington, DC. During the discussion—entitled, “Less from Washington, More of Ourselves”—O’Beirne apparently said:

The federal school lunch program and now breakfast program and, I guess in Washington DC, dinner program are pretty close to being sacred cows…I just don’t get why millions of school children qualify for school breakfasts unless we have a major wide spread problem with child neglect.

We-e-e-ll, so far, so good, I suppose. In fact, I couldn’t agree more about the “major wide spread problem” part. But then the whole “nonpartisan” label falls off the Hudson Institute faster than a dirty Post-it Note®, as O’Beirne goes on to say:

You know, I mean if that’s how many parents are incapable of pulling together a bowl of cereal and a banana, then we have problems that are way bigger than… that problem can’t be solved with a school breakfast, because we have parents who are just criminally…ah…criminally negligent with respect to raising children. And yet, that’s the kind of program that has huge bipartisan support with very little thought about why we’re now feeding children. Talk about a fundamental parental responsibility. In what sense can we begin asking the “more of ourselves” piece to go with this less government?

That’s an excellent question, and O’Beirne may want to ask the parents of the 43% of Black American children who live in poverty.  Since that’s not really possible, however, and since they might not appreciate being called morally deficient criminals (go figure), she could ask more of herself in a literary way, by turning to the words of Jonathan Swift, who actually wrestled with this same problem almost 300 years ago:

“I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.”

This seems silly, I know. After all, Swift was writing about the problems the British gentry class was having with the destitute Irish, while our current version is waging war on its own citizens. But no matter. He quite clearly gave an American the credit for his idea, which leads me to believe that his anonymous gastronomic comrade may well have been one of Kate O’Beirne’s ancestors. Given that, and her comments at the Hudson Institute, she might just have a taste for this sort of thing.

What’s more, another of the O’Beirne clan appears to have been friends with the poet W.H. Auden, who wrote about him in Epitaph On A Tyrant:

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

So O’Beirne’s family seems to have good roots. I just hope she has an appetite to match: economists tell us those children aren’t going away anytime soon.

*****

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2 Responses to “The Kate O’Beirne Literary and Fricassee Society”


  1. I taught 34 years Miami Dade County Public Schools. Some schools 90% qualify. Does not seem like anyone here has ever asked “Why are we doing this free food thing?” There really is a need for this altruism, but no one seems to ask”What is wrong at home that it is necessary for us to do this?” It is even sadder that many qualify but never eat lunch at all because system would find out parents illegals.

  2. Priscilla Says:

    Oh, my God. What have we come to?


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