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This tamale looks harmless, right? (Definitely delicious!)
But for President Gerald Ford campaigning for reelection in Texas in 1976 (top photo), it was a public relations nightmare.
Ford took a huge bite of that tamale -- husk and all -- and the media had a field day lampooning the president who didn't know how to eat a tamale.
Ford lost the election that year, and "The Great Tamale Incident" went down in presidential campaign food history.
"Every newscast in Texas all weekend long...show[ed] Gerald Ford not knowing how to eat a tamale," says former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who was living in Texas at the time. "I am convinced that it was that gaffe with the tamale that cost [Ford] the state of Texas."
This week on The Sporkful, we're exploring the role food plays in American presidential campaigns.
It’s an election year, and politicians across the country are on the campaign trail, stopping at restaurants and luncheons, small town diners and big fundraising dinners, county and state fairs.
With every bite they take, candidates have a chance to win over voters -- or lose them.
As Huckabee, a two-time presidential candidate, warns:
"Remember, everything you do can and will be used against you in a campaign."
We’ll hear behind-the-scenes stories from three former presidential candidates: former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and former Colorado Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder.
What's the best way to eat in front of a scrum of cameras or turn down food without offending anyone?
"In some cases it depends on how politically connected [the cook] is," Vilsack says. "If she's the chair of the party, by golly you're gonna take that spoonful and you're gonna like it."
And how do you survive a grueling day of campaigning packed with three breakfasts, five luncheons, and two dinners?
"My dream when I was a candidate on the trail was to have a designated eater," says Schroeder. "They could eat everything for me while I talked and if it were good, they could save some for the car."
"[Mitt] picked that sucker up and threw it back on the grill, and I said, 'You can’t do that!'" says Dana "Spanky" Wanken (below left, at the Iowa Pork Tent in 2010). "I jerked it off the grill and threw it in the garbage."
Listen in to the full episode to find out why, when it comes to eating on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump may have something in common, after all.
Plus, we'll reveal the one food that no politician should EVER eat in public. (It's a heart-warming moment of bipartisan agreement!)
Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:
- "Mars Casino" by Leisure Birds
- "Worldly Endeavors" by Cullen Fitzpatrick
- "Out To Lunch" by Chris Bierden
- "New Old" by JT Bates