By deeming these political food moments “the best,” we aren’t lauding each of these events, necessarily. Instead, we’re thinking about the fascinating role food plays in politics.
From candidates’ scrutinized dietary choices to food policy on the campaign trail, food is a vital part of our political system, and often the site where human emotion enters politics, from bipartisan bonding to embarrassing gaffes.
Bernie Gets His Own Ice Cream
Image of Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen by Andrew Burton/Getty
Is Bernie a foodie? The jury is still out, but he did get his own ice cream this year, courtesy of Ben Cohen, founder of Ben & Jerry’s. Though not affiliated with Ben & Jerry’s, Bernie’s Yearning inspired intense media interest, so Cohen created 40 pints and randomly gave them away in a drawing. The majority of the ice cream is mint, which is oppressively covered by a thick solid chocolate disk that represents the wealth of the one percent. In a move of economic redistribution, the eater smashes the disc and mixes it up with the other 99 percent. Bernie tried it for the first time on “The View” and loved it.
Home-Brewed Beer Unites Pubs and Dems
Photo by Lindsey Prowse CC BY
Republicans and Democrats may fight bitterly from across the aisle, but sudsy brews were able to bring them together this year as they competed to see who had the best homebrew. Brewers Association federal affairs manager Katie Marisic had heard enough staffers on Capitol Hill declare making beer their side hobby to net 14 political brewers, who created mostly Belgians and wheats, rather than the recent homebrewing trend of IPAs. The Hill Staff Homebrew Competition came down to a Dem who brewed a biere de garde and a Pub who created a double IPA. The IPA prevailed, but the real winner was bipartisan bonding over the world’s best bottled beverage.
GrubHub Shares Plummet After Trump Denouncement
Image of Matt Maloney and Mike Evans by Tech.Co CC BY-ND
The day after the election, food delivery service GrubHub’s CEO, Matt Maloney, aggravated Trump supporters in sending an email to his 1,000 employees saying: “I absolutely reject the nationalist, anti-immigrant and hateful politics of Donald Trump and will work to shield our community from this movement as best as I can… If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here. We do not tolerate hateful attitudes on our team.” Like a lot of published content, the media misconstrued what Maloney said and made it seem like he’d fire anyone who voted for Trump.
Maloney later reworded his stance: “I want to clarify that I did not ask for anyone to resign if they voted for Trump. I would never make such a demand. To the contrary, the message of the email is that we do not tolerate discriminatory activity or hateful commentary in the workplace, and that we will stand up for our employees. GrubHub welcomes and accepts employees with all political beliefs.” While it was good Maloney spoke out, it did cause some damage—GrubHub’s shares have since plummeted nine percent. (Garin Pirnia)
Clinton Visits Ravi Kapur’s San Francisco Hawaiian Joint
While Bernie chose to pop into San Francisco’s Sightglass for a coffee, Hilary visited still-hot restaurant Liho Liho Yacht Club. Liho chef and owner Ravi Kapur nabbed the first Chef of the Year award from the Golden Gate Restaurant Association’s Saucy award and was also one of 2016’s Food & Wine Best New Chefs. Kapur presents a multicultural approach to cuisine that evokes his cultural heritage (and San Francisco’s culinary approach right now) and was the perfect choice for Clinton. (Annelies Zijderveld)
Plate of the Union’s Political Food Truck Rolls Through Battleground States
The Plate of the Union food truck rolled across America this summer, out to change the country’s food systems one state at a time during the election season. Hitting up battleground states and bringing along farmers, activists and chefs (like none other than Tom Colicchio) for the ride, Plate of the Union advocated for food policies to benefit farmers, laborers, diners, and the environment. The truck rolled out events at the DNC and RNC and traveled through key states like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Iowa, Ohio and North Carolina. A collaborative project of the Food Policy Action Education Fund, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the HEAL Food Alliance, the truck delivered over 110,000 signatures to both Clinton and Trump’s Iowa campaign offices asking that the future president prioritize food systems reform. Post-election, the coalition has implored Trump to work on food reform during his incumbency.
Ben & Jerry’s Creates an Ice Cream for Voting Rights
Photo courtesy of Ben & Jerry’s
Ben & Jerry’s may not endorse any particular politician, but they do endorse equal voting rights, which were gutted in 2014, so they created a peppermint ice cream for the election year called Empower Mint, the proceeds of which benefit the NAACP.
“We think democracy only works when it works for everyone. But since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights law, a number of states have passed unacceptable voting access laws that make it harder for people vote — particularly Black people and their allies in the rising new majority such as young people, students, and other people of color,” the Ben & Jerry’s website declared. “That’s why we must stand together and call on our leaders to not only reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, but to fight back against new laws that undermine our freedom to vote, ensuring a democracy that works for everyone.”
Morgan Spurlock Goes Adbusters
Documentarian Morgan Spurlock almost threw his hat into the restaurant ring, when in November he opened a chicken sandwich pop-up in Columbus, Ohio, called Holy Chicken. He advertised selling chickens that were better than fast food poultry in being 100-percent natural free-range chickens, and said that he had carefully taste-tested the chicken. He charged $7.50 per sandwich, and people literally ate it up, with a line out the door.
That is, until it was revealed Holy Chicken was a marketing stunt. Spurlock hung green signage and orange signage to make people feel better about their experience—which is something a lot of restaurants do to psyche people out. The truth is, the chicken was exactly like fast food chicken. “Every year these chains continue to sell us the same tired food that they always have, but now with improved marketing and spin,” Spurlock told The Columbus Dispatch.
The experiment, despite proving a point, seemed a bit mean-spirited in duping Columbus citizens; perhaps Spurlock could have tried the experiment in New York or San Francisco instead, since it most likely would’ve worked just as well, if not better, in the organic-mad, locavore metropolises. Spurlock filmed at the event, so it’s unknown if it was for a future project. He did, however, have customers sign releases. (Garin Pirnia)
Taco Trucks Blockade Trump Hotel
Photo by Joe Mabel CC BY-SA
When Trump stated he wanted to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out, he caught the ire of everyone—including food truck owners. Commenting on Trump’s questionable plan, Marco Gutierrez, founder of Latinos for Trump, went on MSNBC in September and said: “My culture is a very dominant culture, and it’s imposing and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.”
A flood of #TacoTrucksonEveryCorner memes resulted, and in October, a few weeks before the election, a group of taco trucks formed a delicious barrier outside of Trump’s Las Vegas hotel, in protest of Trump’s and Gutierrez’s statements — and to voice their disagreement with Trump’s refusal to accept union-negotiated contracts at his hotel. Of course all the protesters received tacos, and one person held a sign that said “Tacos Trump Hate.” And would it really be a terrible thing if taco trucks ruled the nation? Make America Delicious Again … with tacos. (Garin Pirnia)
Trump Mocks Marco Rubio’s Water Addiction
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty
Marco Rubio, the young would-be Republican presidential candidate of the 2016 race, is known for his unquenchable thirst for, well, water. He can be seen throughout the years giving many speeches and reliably reaching for a glass or bottle of H20. In 2013, he was lampooned for his tick, but he took it in stride, with his Super PAC selling Marco Rubio water bottles for a profit of $125,000. In a moment of our President-Elect channeling his “showman” moments, he mocked his fellow candidate’s need for hydration, with many sketches and memes following suit. (Madina Papadopoulos)
Bernie Folds His Pizza
Upon learning on talk show “The View” that New York mayor Bill de Blasio ate his pizza with a fork, Sanders exclaimed, “A fork? No, no, no. That’s these California people.” The co-hosts offered Sanders a slice, and Brooklyn-born Sanders, knowing that any Brooklynite worth his salt would fold the slim slices of the metropolis, took a triumphant bite.
Trump Tweets His Way to #TacoBowlGate
Photo by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA
As if it wasn’t offensive enough to food lovers that the Donald likes his steak well-done, in May he tweeted a photo of himself eating a taco bowl from one of his restaurants, along with the caption, “Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!” Oy. Besides the fact that taco bowls aren’t really a Latin invention, the tweet rang false, especially after the public has heard Trump’s claims that most Mexicans crossing the border were bad hombres and rapists. But the meme factory and Twitter did have fun with this one. We can only imagine what the coming four years will bring in political food gaffes.