Sunday, January 18, 2009

Presidential Foodies: What Recent POTUSA Liked... and Didn't

President-elect Obama and his crew made a stop in Baltimore yesterday where he made a stirring speech to a crowd of people who stood in below-freezing temps to hear him. Me? I sat home and watched on TV with my daughter – it's not like he was handing out tuna sandwiches or something.

What's that? You're not familiar with Obama (or "Bama" as Ryan likes to call him) and his recipe for Tuna Salad Sandwiches?

It all started last year when Steve Croft and 60 Minutes did a profile on the candidate and part of his "I'm just a regular guy running for the most powerful office in the free world" pitch included hanging with the family in the kitchen, talking food and making tuna sandwiches for his two daughters. (You can watch the video here.)

A recent post over at SlashFood that tweaked the Prez-elect's recipe got me thinking about the foods we most associate with our recent Commanders in Chief. (I will not be discussing the foodie preferences of our Vice Presidents because I'm afraid I'll find secret footage of Dick Cheney eating infants and drinking the blood of virgins to keep his black heart pumping.)

George W. Bush: Hands down it has to the pretzel that got lodged in his throat and almost accomplished what a team of terrorists armed with commercial airliners could not.

Bill Clinton: While the Monica Lewinsky scandal will probably be the ignominious incident for which Clinton is always remembered, I prefer to think of the sax-playing, fun-loving, french-fry-chomping caricature that emerged during his time in office. And I say "probably" because I figure Bill still has a scandal or two up his sleeve before he leaves us. I miss Phil Hartman and I miss having Bill Clinton in the White House. Not necessarily for political reasons but the comedic potential was just so great. Enjoy both these great men in this clip...

George H. W. Bush: The elder Bush never nearly choked to death on a snack food but he did famously throw up during a state dinner in Japan. But the foodstuff I'll always associate with Bush is broccoli, thanks to his famous, petulant proclamation that "I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli." What is it with this family and providing ammunition for other countries to goof on us with?

Ronald Reagan: Once a sweet snack relegated to the Easter candy ghetto, the jelly bean experienced a full-blown resurgence in popularity thanks to Ronald Reagan. Reagan, who took up eating the candy when he quit smoking in the 1960s, received a jar on his first day as California governor which began a long-standing tradition for the actor-turned-politician. According to published reports, guests at parties celebrating his inauguration in 1981 consumed 40 million jelly beans. When Reagan died in 2004 the Jelly Belly Candy Co. affixed black ribbons to their jelly bean portraits of Reagan and wife Nancy. Sadly, there are no videos of Reagan enjoying jelly beans but here's a link to a Flickr photo of the aforementioned jelly bean portrait.

Jimmy Carter: I'd venture that Carter was probably President at a good time. It was the 1970s, we only had three networks, the country was coming off the shame of Watergate and the goofing that accompanied the Ford administration, there was no internet, blogs, YouTube or Twitter. I say this because looking back on his one term as Commander in Chief this guy was a treasure trove of oddballness. From his "I've looked on a lot of women with lust" quote to his reported UFO sighting in 1969 or the incident in which a possibly berserk rabbit tried to board his boat during a fishing trip, one wonders what went unreported during his brief stay in the White House.

That said, there are two things – from a food & drink perspective – I'll always associate with Carter: peanuts and Billy Beer. Roadside America brings us the story of the Jimmy Carter Peanut, a 13-foot-tall peanut statue with a toothy grin reminiscent of our 39th President, a former Georgia peanut farmer.

Unlike the useful and delicious peanut, Billy Beer was a fad beer released in the late 70s to capitalize on the folksy, "aw shucks" drunken Southern boy image of Carter's brother Billy. (Who later sought treatment for his alcoholism.) Though people still labor under the misconception that cans of the beer have any value, millions of cans were made during its thankfully brief run and they're basically worthless. In case you don't go to flea markets and yard sales, here's a chance to get an up close look at the cans for this Southern swill...

For more on food products and the Presidential bump they can experience check out this November article from USA Today.

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