We the people seem to have an insatiable appetite to know everything about our presidential candidates — and that includes their eating habits.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are polar opposites not only in their politics, but in their culinary preferences.
The Republican nominee has been touting a love of fast food—but is he really munching on McDonald’s all day? And Clinton supposedly loves spicy food—but what else is she eating behind the scenes?
If the way to a voter’s heart is through the stomach, let the eating contest begin.
Now shake hands and start munching.
It’s easy for a fast food lover to feel somewhat embarrassed these days, when the buzzwords for food include grass-fed, cage-free, gluten-free, non-GMO and agave-laden. If you’ve just supersized a burger and fries, it’s best to eat them on the side of the road, alone in your car. And, obviously, if you’re looking for votes, you shouldn’t be advertising your fast food addiction on Facebook and Twitter.
On the other hand, maybe you should.
French fry-munching Trump has shown no shame in his game when it comes to having the diet of a couch potato. His social media posts look like a tour of shopping mall food courts. From posting a photo of his fingers crammed into a McDonald’s french-fry sleeve, to a photo of him using a fork and knife to eat his finger-lickin’ good KFC, to a shot of him eating a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo (with the caption, “The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grille. I love Hispanics!”), the gold-plated, jet-setting billionaire is clearly a gourmet of drive-thru fare.
But maybe he actually isn’t.
At a televised town hall, after he told Anderson Cooper that he likes to eat the “fish delight” from McDonald’s, fast food junkies decided he didn’t deserve a break that day. It would have been fine, they said, if McDonald’s actually served a “fish delight,” but Trump should have known he was eating a Filet-O-Fish.
In any event, Trump might want to take it easy on his “see-food” diet if what they say is true: You are what you eat. “Current research supports the fact that a poor diet results in physical and mental sluggishness,” says Jacqui Justice, a licensed nutritionist and director of NY Health and Wellness Nutrition.
“Simply put, garbage in equals garbage out. Clearly how the candidates eat will affect their decision-making ability and their overall performance as president of the United States.”
And if Trump doesn’t care to hear the advice of a nutritionist, maybe he’ll listen to his daughter, Ivanka, who told Barbara Walters, “I wish he would eat healthier and, you know, slow down.”
This brings us to the other side of this food fight, Hillary Clinton, who apparently understands that what she eats has consequences. In 2008 she told Katie Couric the secret to maintaining her stamina:
“I eat a lot of hot peppers. I for some reason started doing that in 1992, and I swear by it. I think it keeps my metabolism revved up and keeps me healthy.”
But does Clinton really down a shot of fiery peppers every morning? Or is she just saying that to persuade us that she is one tough mother of dragons, someone who would be a perfect commander in chief?
Clinton has said she tapped her vice presidential pick Tim Kaine for his executive and legislative experience-- but it seems his other job may be picking up some of the heavier-duty eating work for her. Last week, Senator Kaine was seen eating a pork chop on a stick at the Iowa State Fair and visiting Kansas City to munch of some of their world famous barbecue—all in the same day.
You can also be sure Kaine helped Clinton win the votes of Trekkies everywhere when he posted this photograph of him and a Star Trek Enterprise butter sculpture. “Put some butter on it and call it a win” should be these candidates' new slogan.
Political Analyst and Bold.com founder Carrie Sheffield agrees that both parties are using food to pander to the masses.
“That’s why both parties have so much negativity surrounding them, they are so out of touch. Trump [has] essentially created a character known as ‘The Blue Collar Billionaire’… it’s really all just manufactured,” says Sheffield “It’s a character he is playing and at times, like when he eats KFC with a knife and fork, his real self shines through and shows who he really is.”
And other say food itself can inherently be political.
“Even food polarizes Americans along party lines these days,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. “Democrats and Republicans disagree on donuts and bagels, KFC and Chick-fil-A, and even the merits of Olive Garden as quality authentic ethnic food.”
So how will Americans vote when one candidate has the appetite of a 12-year-old and the other has the palate of his mother? According to a poll PPC conducted three years ago, Americans have an overall negative opinion of fast food — 40 percent favorable to 49 percent unfavorable. If that affects how people vote, Trump might want to develop a taste for quinoa and kefir.
Clinton, meanwhile, seems aware of the relationship between gourmet food and votes. Last week her camp grabbed a piece of the pie by cooking up #ChefsforHillary, a Pinterest campaign where the candidate invites chefs to pin their recipes in support of her campaign. Mario Batali and Katie Lee are two of the many celebrity chefs sharing their recipes there in her support.
“Chefs are the new rock stars,” says gossip columnist and talk show host Rob Shuter. “Using them is a very good idea to reach your targeted audience. Eating is one of the few essential things that we all do.
“Good food crosses all segments of society. It’s one of the few areas in life that hasn’t been divisive in our culture. There is almost no greater trust than trusting someone to prepare food to put in your mouth. Very smart move by the Hillary campaign.”