February 25, 2008
Food and double-standards on the campaign trail
Over the weekend I came across an interesting article in Slate titled either (depending on where you look) “What does Hillary Clinton eat?” or “How hungry is Hillary Clinton?” It’s kind of all over the place. It starts out with the idea that one’s eating habits can give others insight into one’s personality:
That food preferences are clues to personality was the firm belief of French gourmand and essayist Jean Antheleme Brillat-Savarin, who in his 1825 work, The Physiology of Taste, wrote, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.” In the absence of an interview with the lady herself, I have pieced together clues to Hillary’s eating habits from various reports, to try to determine whether she is tough and self-assured enough to function as president or is merely a food-fashion victim who opts for the flavor of the moment. Does she indulge wild, instinctive cravings with a hat-over-the-windmill bravado, or is she an abstemiously disciplined eater who can be counted on to make the sensibly healthful choice?
Naturally, though, it doesn’t focus simply on what she eats, or even on the psychological implications therein (evidently “people who love hot chilies are considered limited risk takers”). It gets into Clinton’s personal life, from quoting from “soul-searching letters” written to a high-school friend during her college years to — of course — alluding to Bill Clinton’s infidelity:
And if President Clinton was on his own for dinner, he invariably canceled the healthful meal that had been ordered for him and asked Scheib to dig into his secret stash of prime meat and grill a 24-ounce porterhouse steak with béarnaise sauce and fried onion rings, evidence that marital cheating can take many forms.
What gets to me most is that I like the idea of this article. Life on the campaign trail is interesting to me. I enjoy imagining what I would ask for if I had a personal chef (“baba ghanouj, hummus, and tahini” would be pretty high on my list, too). But I just can’t get past the notion that no one would write an article like this about a male candidate — something the author seems to acknowledge when she mentions that “Being a woman, Hillary is expected to cook, something that is rarely demanded of a male political candidate.”
And then the piece ended on a bit of a frustrating note, with the author apparently giving credence to Ann Althouse’s interpretation of the carrot sticks that replaced the onion rings in the Clinton campaign commercial that spoofed the final episode of the Sopranos. Even Freud conceded that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.