Connections: Food, Glorious Food

The question is why any of us should be interested in what presidents eat

President Reagan was said to have called ketchup a vegetable. And Nixon was said to have put ketchup on his cottage cheese. (I tried it, and shouldn’t have.) Reagan loved mac and cheese and favored a particular method of its preparation. And his fondness for jellybeans was known to the world. 

According to a website called The Daily Meal, President Obama’s personal chef said he snacked on exactly seven almonds every evening. “Michelle and I would always joke: not six, not eight,” the chef quoted Mr. Obama as telling The New York Times. But the president demurred, saying he had only been kidding, although he did admit to keeping a stash of healthy nuts around. 

The question is why any of us should be interested in what presidents eat and, in particular, President Trump’s preference for fast foods — a hamburger, a side of “deep-fried” macaroni and cheese, and a Diet Coke, for example. His is a true-blue big man’s diet, I suppose, so we shouldn’t begrudge his choices, although I have never seen nor heard of deep-frying mac and cheese.

President Trump is also said to favor only one flavor of ice cream, cherry vanilla, and to ask for two scoops when it is served at banquets while others at his table get only one. He also apparently likes his ice cream served alongside chocolate cream pie, but I couldn’t find out whether anyone else at the table gets some pie. As for President Obama’s almonds, Mr. Trump is reported to have replaced them with Lay’s potato chips. 

Many people, especially those who are faulted for being so-called elites, were shocked when Mr. Trump won the 2016 presidential election. Perhaps they wouldn’t have been if they had been paying more attention to what he was eating, which apparently was what middle-class white Americans usually have in their daily diets. The foods Mr. Trump enjoys might have presented an accurate clue to how the election was going to turn out.

Meanwhile, the foods we eat here on the East End of Long Island tell a cultural rather than a political story. Everyone, regardless of economic status, has the good luck to be able to have foods that are “locally sourced” — whether from land or sea — as foods are now often touted to be. Those who can afford it are also likely to obtain fine foods from all over the Western world in specialty markets.

We are taught not to judge character by anyone’s appearance. So far, so good. I’m afraid, however, that I’ve been tripped up by judging people’s beliefs by the foods they eat. I just have to remind myself that President Nixon’s place in American history has nothing to do with ketchup on his cottage cheese.