Hillary Clinton at a King Taco Restaurant on the campaign trail in 2008. Photograph: Danny Moloshok/Reuters/Corbis
Hillary Clinton’s visit to Chipotle was a masterly move. She was captured on security cameras this week queueing incognito for a perfectly sensible and easy-to-eat combination of chicken, rice and guacamole. Ed ‘bacon sandwich of doom’ Miliband could learn a lot.
It was a lesson in how to do food if you’re a politician: queue for it yourself, order something delicious but not deep-fried and avoid unflattering or ridiculous photographs as you devour it. British politicians have a lot to learn from Hillary Clinton’s flawless trip to Chipotle for a chicken burrito bowl.
For a start, Clinton reportedly went incognito. This was seemingly not a trip for the cameras, but the thing those photo opportunities never sensibly recreate: an ordinary woman having an ordinary bite to eat.
That may be why the presidential candidate’s food stop-off went so well. But while her choice of food – rice, beans, grilled chicken, guacamole, salsa, sour cream – doesn’t appear to have been stage-managed, it is politically pretty smart: a healthy-ish choice, not impossible to eat, involving the king of all ingredients, the avocado. (Although possibly not if you are Peter Mandelson mistaking mushy peas for guacamole in a chippy.)
“It’s a fairly perfect order, when you think about it,” says food site Eater. “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.”
Meanwhile, on the British election trail … politicians seem genuinely scared of food and yet irresistably drawn to it. Ever since Ed Milliband and the Bacon Sandwich of Doom, they know that even the most humble butty has massive potential to trip them up. Somehow the bacon sandwich, that heavenly Sunday morning treat, has become a food so dangerous that Samantha Cameron, when faced with one last week, seemed to largely ignore it in the hope that it would go away. (Admirable willpower in evidence there: the lure of a bacon and egg butty when you’ve spent all morning schlepping between photo ops must be strong.)
David, meanwhile, handed her a knife and fork with which to eat it. Acceptable, I think when faced with a very nice dress and a hidden egg yolk that might at any moment spurt forth. And a great deal less ridiculous than Cameron’s own cutlery-assisted encounter with a hot dog over Easter.
Because, while politicians cannot resist the “one of us” potential of food photo ops, it only ever seems to make them look the opposite – think of George Osborne’s attempts to look normal by tweeting his burger, only for it to be revealed as a (delicious) expensive number from Byron. All of Cameron’s good work in sitting down for a barbecue with real people in their actual back garden, was undone by his misguided use of a knife and fork to tackle a sausage in a bun. Never mind the delicious-looking Greek salad, or the Easter sunshine – if there was ever a way to prove that politicians live in a different world, this was it. Cameron might as well have had a massive neon arrow with POSH written on it pointing at its head. (We do know that Cameron can eat a hot dog with his hands, like a normal person – maybe he was just copying President Obama).
Anyway, it was back to more cutlery-friendly items last week when the Tory leader tucked into a breakfast of fried bread, fried egg and haggis in Edinburgh. Which to be honest, does not sound like much of a vote-winner: I’m pretty sure Scottish people are not going to flock to Cameron on the basis of him eating haggis, and I’d question meals in which everything is fried. Not least because Cameron has already been told off for eating them in public.
In more hilariously transparent attempts to eat national foodstuffs, the Conservative leader followed up his Scottish breakfast with Welsh cakes in Cardiff – presumably they were all out of leeks – made and ate some pies, had a drink of Welsh stout, and then, according to the Times, headed off to Cornwall, where he “sauntered off into the Cornish sunset in search of ‘fish and chips and a pint of Doom Bar’”.
God knows what that diet says of the electorate. Apparently the way to our (unhealthy) hearts is through fried things and booze – no fruit or vegetables required. And you can be sure that somebody, somewhere, has thought about all those messages: as fans of HBO political comedy Veep will know, even the flavour of frozen yoghurt a politician chooses to eat is of utmost importance.
Even when nobody is there to see you gnawing, you can still come unstuck. Witness David Cameron’s troubles with a Cornish pasty he remembered buying from Leeds station – although what he was doing buying Cornish pasties in Leeds, when he seems to regularly be on holiday in Cornwall, I’m still not sure – or Ed Miliband’s and Ed Balls’s unseemly sprinting for Greggs’ sausage rolls in riposte.
Nobody benefits from all this public chomping – save the Facebook pages and Tumblrs dedicated to politicians eating things in really weird ways. It’s time to drop the fake political meals before we’re all put off our food.