You know what's a turnoff? Men who are picky eaters. I'm not saying it's fun in women, either, but I haven't had to live as intimately with women for a while now. So it was kind of shocking to learn that Barack Obama, our dashing president-crush-elect, is apparently rife with food neuroses. Since the campaign post-mortems started coming out last week, we've learned that the President-elect has weird aversions, hang-ups, odd pancake behaviors and a strong abstemious streak - none of which his wife, Michelle, seems to share. As a woman who's lived with picky men, I can relate. As a voter, I feel somewhat blindsided.We know from the AP (via the Times) that Obama dislikes beets - "I always avoid eating them." And everyone, after all, has specific peeves. However, while Obama let it be known that he has "a weakness for chips and salsa and tends to put hot sauce on everything," and there are scores of obligatory campaign pix of him chowing down cross-country, according to Newsweek's special post-election issue, in reality he's "abstemious" to the point of asceticism:
Most candidates gain the Campaign 10 (or 15)...Obama, by contrast, lost weight. He regularly ate the same dinner of salmon, rice and broccoli. At Schoop's Hamburgers, a diner in Portage, Ind., he munched a single french fry and ordered four hamburgers-to go. At the Copper Dome Restaurant, a pancake house in St. Paul, Minn., he ordered pancakes-to go. (An AP reporter wondered: who gets pancakes for the road?) A waiter reeled off a long list of richly topped flapjacks, but Obama went for the plain buttermilk, saying, "I'm kind of traditionalist." Reporters joked that if he ate a single bite of burger or pancake once the doors of his dark-tinted SUV closed, they'd eat their BlackBerrys.
Michelle, by contrast, seems to enjoy food, preferring, according to an appearance on Paula Deen's Food Party (where they cooked fried shrimp), to exercise to stay in shape. She reminiscences about cooking gumbo for Barack, and as we all know from The View, she enjoys bacon. This is, of course, wildly speculative. It's merely prudent to watch what one eats on the campaign trail where opportunities for exercise are rare; and, for all we know, Michelle actually counts every calorie. More to the point, it has nothing to do with Obama's ability to govern - if anything, such self-restraint augurs well. So why does the information that he's so careful about what he eats bother me? Am I projecting? Uh, yes. I love to cook and as an omnivore, it's been my misfortune to be cursed with a succession of picky romantic partners. My college boyfriend, while a food-lover by nature, was fanatically preoccupied with his weight, indulging in bouts of extreme abstemiousness and self-flagellation that took much of the pleasure from cooking and eating together. And my fiancé has a list of Don'ts so long - from imagined allergies (beef, fruit) to prejudices (peas, canned tuna, cucumbers, celery rye bread, cottage cheese, California dip) to expensive dogmas (he won't touch non-organic dairy or eggs or go anywhere that might use MSG) that meal-planning is a minefield. Perhaps worst of all, he refuses to eat the 5/$1 pork dumplings sold in Chinatown, one of the only things offsetting New York City's rents. I regard this as a major moral failing. From what Newsweek says, I have a bad feeling President-Elect Obama would get those dumplings to go and then toss them, rather than slathering them with the obligatory mixture of soy sauce, hot sauce and sugar and living off of them for the next month. I can know that perhaps this is a good thing for the country, but still feel the first pin-prick of reality intruding on my fantasy, perhaps not even conscious, of the president as a compendium of arbitrary virtues - just as other people will have theirs. Besides, let she who is without sins cast the first stones. When, earlier today, I mentioned what a turnoff male pickiness is, my fiancé retorted, "you know what else is a turnoff? Garlic vaginas." Touché, sir. Touché. Obama's Red Scare [New York Times] The Long Siege [Newsweek] Promo Video Of Michelle Obama On Paula Deen's "Food Party" [YouTube] The Obama's Are Bacon People!* Michelle Obama [YouTube]