There'ês a scene in the 1998 Mike Nichols'ê film Primary Colors in which the portly presidential candidate Jack Stanton (John Travolta portraying a thinly veiled Bill Clinton) sneaks off to a doughnut shop in the middle of the night. What'ês poignant isn'êt so much Stanton'ês childlike fixation on frosted doughnuts but his conversation under the neon glare with the shop'ês lone graveyard-shift employee, and his genuine concern for what the man has to say.
I miss those days when we revere a man who loves his people, as well as his people'ês food. I swooned, frankly, for the bulkier President Clinton back when he heard the siren call of every hot dog stand. And I have to wonder what'ês with last week's weirdly scolding screed in the New York Times, which took Mayor Michael Bloomberg to task last week for his love of fast food, meat, and processed snacks.
So the Big Apple'ês leader has a craving for Cheez-Its and burnt bacon! So he salts his pizza! So he orders the sommelier in New York City'ês finest restaurants to pour his damn wine without the pomp and circumstance of sniffing, swishing, and pronouncing the vintage good! Perhaps Bloomberg isn'êt your best marathon pick, but there'ês a humanizing element to his struggle. He'ês got crummy little bags of cheese crackers hidden in his briefcase and his belt is straining. He'ês got problems like the rest of us. Despite his millions and control of a major city, Mayor Bloomberg is every man.
This got me to wondering about Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn, the candidates for Seattle'ês mayor. Where do they stand vis-Ã -vis doughnut shops and junk food? Do they speak for the appetites of the citizenry? Do they speak for yours?
Well, that depends.
If you'êre an all-organic, hull-it-out-of-the-earth-with-your-own-two-hands type, then Mike McGinn is your guy. An avid bicyclist and ecology wonk, McGinn laments the fact that his vegetable garden has gone to hell during the campaign.
'êI put my name into Urban Garden Share but nobody'ês taken me up on it,'ê he says. 'êBut if someone wanted to come out here and work, they could take home whatever they wanted from my garden.'ê
Could be no one'ês quite up to the challenge. McGinn'ês personal plot includes tomatoes, potatoes, beans, winter squash, summer squash, garlic, swiss chard, and kale, as well as assorted herbs. So the veggies are languishing. Still, McGinn eats well —Â and often.
He grew up on Long Island, one of six children. His mother had a system, he says: teaching each of the kids to handle an escalating series of tasks culminating in preparing dinner for eight.
'êBy the time I was 16, Mom could sit in the living room with a glass of wine,'ê McGinn says. 'êI had it down. Dinner at 6:30 meant at 6:20 you turned on the water under the broccoli to boil.'ê
Back then he cooked pot roast, meatloaf, roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and roasted Brussels sprouts. He still does. But his favorite meal — the one he talks about in a tremulous, love-stricken tone of voice —Â is eggplant parmigiana.
'êGod, I miss the eggplant parmigiana grinders we had out east,'ê he says wistfully. 'êWhenever I travel back to New York, I have to have one of those.'ê
There'ês no deep dark secret in Mike McGinn'ês pantry, he says, no predilection for Cocoa Puffs, no Twizzlers in his desk drawer. But he'ês prone to enjoy a hefty plate of homemade pasta salad before bed on any given night.
'êI was born to eat,'ê says the 49-year-old candidate. 'êAnd I'êm a big guy, so that'ês dangerous. I play basketball and ultimate Frisbee. I worry about my weight all the time. I'êm sure I'êd be healthier if I weighed less. But for me, food is love.'ê
If, however, you'êre looking for a candidate with a few more gustatory foibles — someone who might understand your own predicament with Cheez Whiz, then Joe Mallahan just might be your man.
The 46-year-old Mallahan hasÂ historically been slightly sleeker than his opponent. But according to communications director Charla Newman (who fielded this inquiry, ironically, in order to preserve the candidate'ês dinner hour), Mallahan is quickly closing the gap; he'ês currently battling the dreaded 'êcampaign 15'ê and has started running in the morning before the day'ês nonstop appearances begin.
The problem, Newman says, is too many rubber chicken banquets, sometimes as many as four or five in a single night. Missed meals followed by the mindless munching of trail mix, lack of water, photo ops at fairs and restaurants, a dearth of family dinners. Given his druthers, Mallahan would choose fish and couscous or Greek food. But he rarely has that luxury these days. And the mayoral campaign already has had a decidedly poor impact on his health. So what'ês his dietary strategy?
Gallons of Diet Coke.
'êActually he drinks both Diet Coke and Coke,'ê Newman says. 'êHe switches off throughout the day. But we go through Diet Coke faster than anything else.'ê
However, that'ês not precisely true. It turns out there'ês one other thing Mallahan runs through like cases of, and staffers at the Mallahan campaign office have learned they simply must keep in stock: Annie'ês Chocolate Bunny Grahams.
'êThey'êre these chocolate bunny crackers,'ê Newman explains. 'êJoe goes through a big box like every other day. Sometimes he'êll buy a carton of milk and a box of bunny grahams and polish it all off at one sitting. He'ês just crazy for them.'ê
This information leaves me conflicted. As someone who is very high on roasted vegetables — both personally and philosophically — I am 90 percent in line with McGinn. I admire his lusty bounty-of-the-earth attitude and I like his food.
That said, I suspect Mallahan would better understand my frequent midnight runs for Erin'ês White Cheddar popcorn. We could share a furtive moment. He might even talk politics with me in the snack food aisle of Safeway under the glare of the neon lights.