The first Harkin steak fry was held in 1972 when Tom Harkin was in his initial race for the House. Just 20 people showed up to talk politics.

About 10 years later, the steak fry became a regular political extravaganza, serving up beef and potential presidential candidates in what has become a required stop leading to the Iowa presidential caucuses. In 1991, Harkin used it to announce his own (short-lived) candidacy.

And over the weekend, Vice President Biden showed up at the 36th steak fry, raising well-orchestrated expectations that he will run for president in 2016.

But about that name. While it suggests the steaks are fried, our Rebecca Berg noticed that the cooking team actually uses gas grills, not fryers.

Even Harkin confessed that he doesn’t know why his signature event is called a steak fry.

“Welcome to the 36th Harkin steak fry,” said Harkin on Sunday. Then: “I don't know where the heck that name ever came from.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at