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In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

Historical Insanity

Strange Food Habits of the US Presidents

America’s chief executives have had some strange food habits. Some presidents’ eating habits are legendary.

Odd eating habits of American presidents include:

George H. W. Bush’s Hatred of Broccoli

The 41st President’s hatred of broccoli was so legendary that it made headlines after his death. President George H. W. Bush (R-Texas) hated broccoli so much he became angry at the mention of the green vegetable’s name, The Washington Post reports.

“And I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli,” Bush once said at a press conference. Bush made the remark after banning broccoli from Air Force One.

Bush refused to serve broccoli even after farmers shipped 10 tons of the vegetable to Washington, D.C., in 1990. Bizarrely, broccoli did not attract presidential attention again for 23 years.

In 2013, President Barack Obama (D-Illinois) told a group of kids that his favorite food was broccoli, The Washington Post claims. However, Washington Post writer Tim Carman thinks Obama was telling the kids a white lie to encourage them to eat vegetables.

Ronald Reagan’s Jelly Beans

President Ronald Reagan’s (R-California) consumption of jelly beans was legendary.

In fact, there is a shrine to Reagan at the Jelly Belly jelly bean factory in Fairfield, California. The shrine is there because Reagan was Jelly Belly’s most famous customer.

During his 1966 campaign for governor of California, Reagan quit pipe smoking. Needing something besides a pipe to fill his time, Reagan began eating Jelly Beans.

Politics rather than health could have motivated Reagan’s decision to quit. To explain, in 1966, many people associated pipes with intellectuals and gays.

Reagan could have been afraid a pipe could have made him gay or intellectual on the campaign trail. In 1952 and 1956, Adlai Stevenson (D-Illinois) suffered enormous losses in presidential elections, partially because Republicans branded him an egghead (1950s slang for nerd). Unlike today, nerds were far from cool in the 1950s and 60s. Instead, tough guys such as Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Steve McQueen, Sean Connery, and James Dean were in vogue.

To help Reagan stay off the pipe, candy manufacturer Herman Goelitz began sending Reagan a monthly shipment of his Goelitz Mini Gourmet Jelly Beans. Reagan received a shipment of the beans each month served as California’s governor.

When Goeltz introduced the Jelly Belly® brand in 1976, his company began shipping those beans to Reagan. By 1978, Reagan was receiving only Jelly Belly Beans every month.

In 1981, Goeltz shipped three and a half of tons of red, white, and blue Jelly Bellies to Washington D.C. for Reagan’s Presidential inauguration. The Herman Goeltz Candy Company supplied the White House with Jelly Bellies for all eight years of Reagan’s presidency.

The company even commissioned a special Jelly Belly® jar with the Presidential Seal on it. They shipped the jars filled with jelly beans to Reagan at the White House. As president, Reagan often gave the special Jelly Belly ® jars to heads of state and other important guests.

Reagan’s favorite Jelly Belly flavor was licorice, which was not part of the red, white, and blue flag bean group.

George H. W. Bush’s Pork Rinds

The snack of choice for Reagan’s successor, George H. W. Bush (R-Texas) was a complete opposite: salty pork rinds.

In 1988, pork rind manufacturers named then Vice President and presidential candidate George H. W. Bush, “Skin Man of the Year.” The manufacturers loved Bush because pork rind sales skyrocketed after the media reported on his fondness for the crunchy skin.

Oddly, fondness for pork rinds could have had a political motivation. Writer Thomas Frank thinks the upper-class New Englander Bush was trying to appeal to working-class voters by eating a low-brow Southern snack. Frank told Micheal Moore he believes Bush’s legendary political strategist Lee Atwater manufactured the pork rind obsession as a publicity stunt.

The first Bush enlivened his pork rinds with a splash of Tobasco Sauce, Parade reports.

Donald J. Trump’s Ketchup on Steak

Outgoing President Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) publicly commits what many people consider a culinary sin. Trump publicly puts ketchup on his steaks.

Incredibly, Trump put ketchup on a $54 28-day-aged new York Strip at the posh BLT Prime by David Burke steakhouse in 2017, Eater claims. Steak connoisseurs and gourmets consider ketchup on a steak a sin, because they it is wrong to eat good steaks with sauce.

Unlike Bush’s pork rinds, Trump’s use of ketchup probably has no political overtones. Working-class barbecue masters are just as offended by ketchup on steaks as wealthy gourmets. Putting ketchup on a steak is reputedly a hanging offense in Texas, a rock-ribbed Republican state Trump needs for electoral victory.

Trump probably hates the taste of beef, so he tries to destroy it by ordering well-done steaks and pouring ketchup on them. Trump being a macho man fears people will think he is gay if he admits he hates steak. Instead, Trump tries to make steaks palatable to his taste with ketchup.

Clinton and Trump’s love of McDonald’s

Trump and his predecessor Bill Clinton (D-Arkansas) have one populist food choice in common. Both men advertised their love of McDonald’s.

On 10 July 1992, Clinton and his running mate Al Gore (D-Tennessee) jogged into McDonald’s for a snack during their campaign, CBS reports. Clinton used his McDonald’s stops to offset his upper-class exercise habit of daily jogs. Clinton’s love of McDonald’s was so legendary that Saturday Night Live parodied it.

Ironically, many of Clinton’s successors in the Democratic Party now attack McDonald’s (MCD) as an emblem of corporate greed, Real Clear Politics reports. U.S. Senator and then-presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-California) took part in a protest against McDonald’s low wages in Las Vegas in 2019, Real Clear Politics claims. Notably, Harris is now the vice president-elect.

Strangely, self-proclaimed billionaire and lover of luxury Donald J. Trump is also a McDonald’s fan. Business Insider reports that Trump’s favorite Mickey D’s menu items include Big Macs, Fillet-o-Fish sandwiches, and chocolate shacks.

Bizarrely, a fear of poison and germs motivates Trump’s McDonald’s cravings, Business Insider claims. Trump eats at McDonald’s because he fears enemies will poison his regular food author Michael Wolf claims in Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. To elaborate, Trump could believe eating at random food restaurants could make a poisoner’s job harder.

I think Trump’s food-safety logic is questionable because bad guys are more likely to poison food made by low-paid fast food workers. My suspicion is that food a highly paid chef prepares will be safer. Remember, a fast-food worker who makes $7 an hour has a powerful motivation to pour something into Trump’s shake for a $100 bill.

Another problem with Trump’s logic is that modern assassins prefer guns and bombs, which are easier to control and more effective to poison. Notably, assassins have killed four presidents of the United States with guns. However, no president has been poisoned.

Although there is a disproved theory that poison killed President Zachary Taylor (W-Louisiana) in 1850. Taylor died suddenly after a Fourth of July picnic leading to theories that wealthy slave owners had poisoned his food. The theory was that slave owners wanted Taylor, a slave owner, dead because he opposed their efforts to expand slavery to California.

Trump also loves to claim that McDonald’s is cleaner than other restaurants. To elaborate, Trump has a legendary fear of germs. Trump demanded visitors wash their hands before coming near him long before coronavirus, for example.

However, Trump has imitated Clinton’s tactic of using his McDonald’s habit to embellish his populist credentials. For example, Trump allowed news photographers to take pictures of his consumption of McDonald’s fries on his private jet during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Whether Trump’s McDonald’s love attracts votes is open to debate. After all, many ordinary people will wonder, “what sort of idiot eats at McDonald’s when he can afford better stuff?” Others will think the President’s McDonald’s consumption is a hoax.

Some observers such as Quartz editor Annaliese Griffin think Trump’s fast-food obsession is a brilliant populist tactic. However, Trump’s eating habits did not help him win a second term.

Even strange Presidential food eating habits can have political significance.