Support the news

In Kitchen Refuge, Patrick Rules04:02

This article is more than 9 years old.
Gov. Deval Patrick in his Milton home (Jess Bidgood for WBUR)
Gov. Deval Patrick in his Milton home (Jess Bidgood for WBUR)

Gov. Deval Patrick is famous for his love of cooking, and I'm looking forward to a morning in the kitchen with him — but I'm about to be disappointed.

That's because by the time I get to his sage-green Colonial revival house in Milton, at 10:15 on a Saturday, he's already made quiche for a New England Cable News crew. He offers me the last piece.

"The quiche has all sorts of things from local farms," Patrick says. He thinks it may need a little salt, but it's so good.

"A little breakfast," he says. "The crust is not my best."

He made the crust himself. You can tell.

"The onions are local," he says. "The eggs are local. The cream is local. The kale is local. I've never put kale in a quiche, but it seemed as easy as spinach. Did I mention the cheese was local, as well?"

Cooking is such a big part of Patrick's life that it's how he has made some of his friends.

Morgan Mead became good friends with the governor when the two of them were house-sitting in Lincoln during the summer before Patrick began Harvard Law School, when he was 21.

"Characteristically for him, he was having some people over for lunch to celebrate the Fourth of July, and we were standing at the kitchen sink shelling peas for this lunch he was putting on, this 21-year old, and we started to talk, and it was the first time we had really had a conversation, and he was such a great listener," Mead says.

"I think that really is why we became friends. I think he's the best listener I know."

(Jess Bidgood for WBUR)
(Jess Bidgood for WBUR)

Mead, now an English teacher at Concord Academy, remembers another cooking adventure with Patrick.

"Dropping in to see him in Brooklyn once, when he and Diane had just gotten married, and they bought this house in Park Lefferts, where her family was from, and he went off and got lobsters and grilled us lobsters on the grill and it was about 110 degrees outside, and he made this fire and stood over the fire," he says.

"We had a wonderful house in Brooklyn," Patrick says, "an old, late-1800s townhouse that had been owned by Alice Walker, the author."

That leads me to a natural question: "Your own book, where is it?" I ask. He laughs.

Patrick's autobiography was due to be published this year.

"It's almost done," he says. "You know, most of it had been done before I even went to talk to a publisher." He says the publication date is next year.

But what if he loses the election — would the publisher still be interested in publishing it?

"Oh, my gracious, don't even ask a question like that," he says.

Gov. Patrick's Political Accomplishments

But losing the election to his Republican opponent, Charles Baker, is a very real prospect. As the fall campaign is about to get under way, though, Democratic political analyst Dan Payne says Patrick's fortunes seem to be rising.

"I think he's doing a pretty good job considering that a year ago, he was pretty much counted out for re-election," Payne says. "It was really a matter of time before he would lose, but in the last six months or so, he's really turned things around. He's focused on his base. He's used his strengths as a public speaker, and he's been a little bit more feisty with his opposition than he had been."

Patrick says that if elected to a second term as governor he wants to "finish what we started."

"We're leading the nation in job gains," Patrick says.

"I think one of the biggest challenges I have found in this job is being heard over all the folks who stand on the sidelines and root for failure."

Gov. Deval Patrick

He's close: in July, Massachusetts gained more jobs than any other state except Michigan. After Rhode Island, Massachusetts has the highest unemployment rate in New England.

"But we still have a lot of people out of work, so we gotta stay on that path and I want to finish that," he says.

"What are you proudest of in this first term?" I ask Patrick.

"Everything from ending abuse in the state pension system, to tightening the ethics and lobbying rules, to simplifying the transportation network, abolishing the Turnpike Authority, to civilian flaggers at state construction sites to lowering people's auto insurance rates by introducing competition," he says.

The Political Challenges

"Of all those reforms, though, education reform in some ways is the most personally important to me, because for that whole 17 years we've been on this course of improving the public schools, we've had a persistent achievement gap," Patrick continues.

"And stuck in that gap are poor children, children with special needs, who speak English as a second language, more often than not children of color, and those are our children, too."

To those who would be inclined to vote for him but question what he's accomplished for the commonwealth, Patrick says it doesn't bother him as much as he sees it as a challenge.

"I think one of the biggest challenges I have found in this job is being heard over all the folks who stand on the sidelines and root for failure," he says.

"I also think there is a part of this job, the bragging part of the job, which is absolutely essential if you want people to know what you've accomplished, but is not my comfort zone. I mentioned this to the president, about that and the fact that I don't like asking people for money, and he said, 'Get over it.' "

As far as how often he speaks with President Obama, Patrick says it's intermittent.

"He's the leader of the free world, so I'm reluctant to call him up to chat," he says.

When it comes to being governor, Patrick says there is no such thing as a typical day, but that's what makes it fun.

An Average Day For The Governor

"My day starts about 5 or 5:30. I take a quick look at stuff online and at my e-mail, get some exercise a couple days a week, and I'm usually out of the house not too long after that, about 7, 7:30, something like that. And then I'm just moving around."

Patrick says after the last event of the evening, generally about 9:30, he has a conference call with some of his administration, particularly his chief of staff. After that, he goes to bed about 11.

"It sounds like the only part of your day that you really have some control over is very early in the morning, is that right?" I ask.

"Yeah. Before the demands of the day," Patrick says. "The job is a gas. Even on a dark day, on a difficult day, we've had to make so many painful decisions in order to be fiscally responsible."

The kitchen seems like a refuge from those painful decisions. The daylight filters through the rhododendrons wrapping the house.

Diane Patrick comes downstairs, and it's thanks to her that I finally get to see the governor in action in the kitchen. She asks him to whip up an omelet for her.

"I'll have one of those fresh tomatoes with it, Deval," she says.

Here in his kitchen, Deval Patrick is the master. Then, it's out to the rest of the world, where he'll spend the rest of the day campaigning to keep his day job.

This program aired on September 2, 2010.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.


+Join the discussion

Support the news