What Should Candidates Eat on the Campaign Trail?

Oversized beef ribs or a humble combo plate?

By Becky FogelFebruary 26, 2016 2:10 pm

Business man Nelson Rockefeller – former New York Governor and 41st Vice President – once waxed philosophical on the power of the hot dog. “No candidate for any office can hope to get elected in this country,” he said, “without being photographed eating a hot dog.”

Think about it. Self-aware public consumption of this basic American staple can have a certain political dimension. With the presidential candidates stalking Texas at this hour, what and where should a politician get caught chowing down?

We asked a modest sampler of food writers from around the state to weigh in.

Eric Sandler, food editor for Culture Map in Houston:

“Visually, the barbecue dish that’s maybe the most impressive is those bone-in beef ribs. They look like something that came out of a dinosaur, so anyone who picked that whole thing up and just chomped down on it would certainly impress people. Bernie Sanders is from Vermont – we think of them as kind of hippie vegetarians. So I think he should definitely tuck into a big beef rib or maybe an overloaded barbecue sandwich. If Donald Trump wanted to combat the idea that he’s anti-immigrant, maybe he should head to a taco truck or maybe chow down on some pho.”

Edmund Tijerina, food writer and restaurant critic at San Antonio Express-News:

“What they need to do is go to a taqueria on the west side and just get a combo plate. You’ve got your classic cheese enchiladas with chili gravy, you have your rice, beans, probably a chalupa, maybe a tamale… The one thing you want to make sure you don’t do is avoid what Gerald Ford did way back in the day when he ate a tamale in front of the Alamo but he didn’t know to take off the husk.”

J.C. Reid, barbecue columnist for the Houston Chronicle:

“The penultimate barbecue joint in Texas now is Franklin Barbecue. About a year ago, the President went there and he actually cut in line, went to the very front of the line, ended up paying for some of the lunches for some of the people in line. I think, the staff at Franklin Barbecue ended up saying, You know what, only the President of the United States can cut in line here. But I’m not sure that actually qualifies for candidates for President of the United States. But I would recommend they go to Franklin. If they could maybe get to the front of the line and get some barbecue, that would probably be their best photo opportunity.”

Adrienne Whitehorse, freelance food writer for the Austin Chronicle:

“I think seeing a politician in line at a food truck would just show that they’re in tune with our food culture and our food truck scene.”