This might just be because I’m currently in the midst of what can only be described as an atrociously potent hangover, where my sole purpose in life is to consume as many carbohydrates as humanly possible (for those of you playing at home, I’m doing a bloody good job of it thus far. This guacamole is delicious). But this has got to be more than a coincidence. I keep seeing photos of politicians eating things.
It all started when the Guardian applauded Hillary Clinton’s “flawless” choice of a chicken burrito bowl from Mexican chain Chipotle while out on the campaign trail in Ohio. “It’s a fairly perfect order, when you think about it,” the article quoted. “You’re opting for chicken instead of beef, and don’t want that calorie-loaded flour tortilla, but you’re not so overly zealous as to get a salad.”
Upon Googling the topic further (it was clearly a very busy day for me), I soon discovered that not only had the Guardian considered the significance of Clinton’s burrito choice, but the Wall Street Journal too had commented on the “gastronomical symbolism” of Chipotle (deeming Taco Bell “more electorally savvy”), the New York Times analysed the calorie content of the meal, and CNN Money labelled the incognito lunchtime dash a “hip” symbol of her desire to “shed that outdated 1990s stigma.”
Do we really need to read that much into what a politician decides to shove down their gob for lunch? No. Unless you’re the next potential leader of the free world, perhaps, but even still, the discussion of Chipotle semiotics is surely about as useful to society as the release of Kris Jenner’s cookbook (aka, not at all. One of the reviewers on Amazon said they’d rather buy a book from ISIS). From that moment forth, photos of politicians smacking their lips seem to be everywhere.
Take, for example, the news that British Prime Minister David Cameron ate a hotdog with a knife and fork while schmoozing with supporters at a voter barbecue. As the Huffington Post observed, the “‘I’m just like you’ campaign trail stunt backfired somewhat predictably, with Twitter exploding in a cacophony of piss-taking after noting the Prime Minister’s choice of dining implements.” Poor ol’ Dave became a posh lamb to the social media slaughter.
But that was nothing compared to when incredibly unflattering photos of his opposition, Labour leader Ed Miliband, chomping on a bacon sandwich last year went viral. The image was so horrifically off-putting apparently even his advisors had to intervene after a few bites. Yes, Sandwich Gate is now so famous in his home country that the bacon sandwich incident has its own Wikipedia page. Apparently people do care what’s going into their guts (or at least what they look like when it happens).
There is something to be said for leading by example, which is why another group of people definitely care about what politicians munch on when out in the public eye. In May 2012, the Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed a petition to stop President Obama, his family, and members of his Cabinet, from eating unhealthy foods while staging official photo ops after seeing him with a burger one too many times. Yes, a quick search uncovered many an image of Obama chowing down on treats, be it a hot dog at the basketball with David Cameron (man, that dude loves his hot dogs), cheeseburgers with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, or a cheeky ice cream on the sly. Indeed, it appears Obama is pictured eating burgers so often there’s even a blog dedicated to it. In defence of the petition, posing with a Big Mac does seem to go against everything Michelle Obama has worked for as part of her “Let’s Move!” health and fitness initiative (even if POTUS maintains his favourite food is broccoli). But is it really that enormous an issue for him to eat it in public?
As much as many of us implore such fluffy stories polluting our media outlets, the reality is that with so many ready to pounce on and scrutinise a politician’s every move, you just can’t please everyone. People are always going to talk, particularly at a photo op. No doubt if Clinton was pictured sipping raw kale and chia seed smoothies everyday while out campaigning she’d be accused of being too healthy, or giving into the Paleo fad. But on the other hand, if Tony Abbott made a deal of ducking into Pizza Hut every couple of weeks (or, as he was recently, skolling beer in a pub), he’d be accused of making bad choices and promoting obesity. Still, it appears our political leaders would be wise to make a safe choice when in the presence of worldwide media, or at least save their junk food binge for the privacy of their own home. Oh, and perhaps steer clear of grotty bacon sandwiches, overly greasy burgers, or phallic-like foods, in the fear of viral internet memes or worse, sexual innuendo.
I think that image probably speaks for itself. *Drops mic*