WM: One of the things that strikes me about food and politics is that the presidential candidates spend a lot of the time traveling. Do they get exposed to the regional cuisines of the areas they travel to?
CK: My guess is that they very rarely come across real local home-cooked food. Most of it is going to be fast food or restaurant food or banquet food or dinner at the local Marriott. Once in a while, in the early states like Iowa and New Hampshire, they might get some home cooking, but I think most of it is still chicken kiev.
CK: Well, politicians have to eat things that are easily catered and last a long time, and rubber chicken probably has as much staying power as anything.
CK: There’s a lot of historical context to that. Back in the nineteenth century, barbecue was the one dish that was cross-cultural. Poor people showed up, rich people showed up. It actually became the food of choice for politicians because when they wanted to stand up and talk for two hours and answer people’s questions, they would serve barbecue, because it would draw a crowd. You’d get people from both sides of the crowd, from both parties, or all three parties depending on the time. Barbecue was the ultimate political food.
CK: Yeah, the fact that we’ve gone from free barbecue for the everyman, the average guy, to the $10,000-a-plate fund-raiser for Hillary or Barack, it tells you a lot about where politics has gone. In the Lincoln-Douglas debates, people stood up for hours, talked in the hot sun, and gave away free food to attract a crowd. It was real retail politics.