Daily Meme: The Worst Moments in American History, Food Edition

  • Although we are less than two weeks into 2014, the scandal that will dominate the rest of the year, nay the century, is obvious. What in hell inspired Bill de Blasio to eat pizza, that cheesy communion wafer with which New Yorkers worship their city, with a fork?
  • As terrifying as this incident was, it was a minor entry in the long and torrid annals of political food scandals. Below, we recount some of these graver moments in American history.
  • Politicians are most at risk to offend the masses through questionable ingestion on the campaign trail As Jack Hitt said in 2004, "Food on the campaign trail is a lot like the nominee's body language or a spouse's performance in public. It seems inconsequential, yet the wizards in touch with the dark arts of internal polling know it is crucial in some primordial and awesome way. A candidate's relationship to democratic food is all about authenticity, about being one of us even as we elevate him beyond us: similar yet different. Food is to the modern candidate what a childhood spent in a log cabin was to 19th-century politicians—a metaphor for being in touch with the life of the common voter. Every politician needs to find a way to portray himself as comfortable around democratic food."
  • Or, as a former White House chef puts it, “There are few things more personal than eating, and if you reject someone’s food, you kind of reject them.”
  • And if you do accept the food, you will probably be ridiculed, like John Kerry when he ordered a cheesesteak with—gasp—swiss cheese. Or when Gerald Ford ate a tamale still wrapped in the corn husk while visiting the Alamo. Or when Mitt Romney summed up his campaign trip in Mississippi and Alabama thusly: "I'm learning to say 'y'all' and I like grits."
  • Our current president freely confessed that broccolinot dogwas his favorite food earlier this year, six years after failing to rally a group of Iowa farmers over arugula prices at Whole Foods. Michael Dukakis ran into a similar problem in Iowa 20 years earlier, when he advised a few residents to start growing Belgian endive
  • While we're in Iowa, let's talk about the Great Midwestern's Presidential Ice Cream Poll. "Flavors were renamed to reflect the candidates' traits—Bush’s Preppymint, Kemp’s Quarterback Crunch, Gephardt’s St. Louis Bluesberry, and Simon’s BowTie Brickle to name a few. For the candidate who dropped out of the race because of an extramarital affair, there was Hart’s Donna Rice Cream ... Dukakis' Massachewy Chocolate won the Democratic poll and Dole’s Top Banana won the Republican." Given the dessert's Dick Morris-esque prognostication skills, the poll was retired. 
  • In 2000, GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer fell off a stage while trying to flip a pancake at a New Hampshire campaign event. "His griddle pan was bent, but Bauer was unhurt. Aides rushed to help him climb back through the curtain onto the low stage, and his second attempt at flipping and catching a pancake was successful."
  • International politicians also face difficulty when trying to chart the choppy waves of eating while in office. The Sarkozys faced some criticism when they failed to go to Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C. in a timeframe when they'd be sure to see regulars—right before dawn. 
  • Winning elections doesn't save you from needing a food fixer. In 1992, people pointed and laughed when George H.W. Bush walked around a grocery store like it was Disney Land. Ten years later, his son passed out in the White House after choking on a pretzel. 
  • Urban legend insists, despite frequent debunking, that JFK told Berlin that he was a jelly donut.
  • In 1909, President Taft was determined to take down the teddy bear with his own sequel, the billy possum. Eating the cute, furry creature may have not been the best way to introduce the rodent to America's heart. 
  • Taft also made news when he didn't eat, as revealed by the headline, "Taft Eats Three Meals Now."
  • And then, there is the only president to have died during a food gaffe, Zachary Taylor. Or did he?
  • What's a politician to do after they've committed such a serious sin of sustenance? Maybe Bill de Blasio should take Andrew Jackson's advice and compel New Yorkers to make their own scandal by inviting them to Gracie Mansion and getting them plastered. That should even the score a bit. 

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