On Politics and Pizzas

In Politics on December 2, 2011 at 11:13 pm

If nothing else, this past week has proven that politicians should not be responsible for deciding what we Americans eat; especially when it comes to pizza.

While discussing his preferences for pizza during a recent interview for GQ magazine, GOP candidate Herman Cain went so far as to describe vegetable pizza and those who eat it as, “sissy.” When questioned about what one could infer about someone’s personality based on the kind of toppings they enjoy, the often out-spoken Cain declared, “The more toppings a man has on his pizza, I believe the more manly he is.” The Georgia-based politician went a step further by saying, “A manly man don’t want it piled high with vegetables!” This of course is a tried and true method of getting kids, especially boys to eat their veggies — insinuate their femininity for doing so.

Funnily enough however, on the website of Godfather’s Pizza, the company Cain was the former CEO of, their veggie pizza is described as having, “gobs of flavor”– though I’m sure Cain would argue that the flavor is not living up to its full masculine potential. Now, poking fun at Cain’s expense may have perhaps become a bit trite over the past couple months and it may appear that I am just taking my turn of taking a hit at the guy, but, humor aside, I think this anecdote is worth mentioning if not only to show that something is a bit off in the way we are building up our nation’s ideals of healthy eating.

Perhaps even more ridiculous this past week was Congress’ decision to release legislation that would allow pizza to be considered a vegetable in school lunch programs. To the certain jubilation of 9 year-olds across the country, the new spending bill would block proposals made by the Obama administration and the Department of Agriculture which sought to limit the weekly serving of potatoes, place restrictions on sodium levels and promote the usage of whole grains. The legislation would also allow the tomato paste spread on frozen pizzas to be counted as a vegetable as long as it exceeds 2 tablespoons per serving. In a statement, the Department of Agriculture expressed its disappointment with Congress in bowing to the interests of large food companies like ConAgra, Coca-Cola and Schwan, the producer of frozen pizzas, which stood to lose much in the bill.  Many are drawing strong connections to the efforts made by the Reagan administration 30 years ago to classify ketchup as a vegetable to cut costs while still meeting the daily dietary requirements placed on government subsidsized school lunch programs. Amid all of this controversy, no one in Congress has realized that tomatoes are in fact, botanically speaking, fruits, not vegetables. Go figure.

Several of those involved in reshaping the school food system have been adamant in their belief of the injustice being done by this legislation. One such person is Robert Surles, a.k.a. Chef Bobo, who, over the past decade, not only has been a forerunner in the school food moment, but also a noted member of Michele Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, and the very person responsible for weaning my 3rd-grade self off chicken nuggets and french fries (for that I am forever grateful).

“I’m incensed and disturbed by their action,” Surles writes, “When they gave as one of the reasons, ‘we were worried that kids wouldn’t eat if they didn’t have the food they know,’ I think they insulted the kids of this country.  That is disingenuous and condescending.  For the future, at least one of two things has to happen.  Either kids have to refuse to eat the garbage they are being fed (like the kids in a high school in Chicago did last year) or parents are going to have to give more consideration to who they are voting on to send to Congress. The former would probably be the more reasonable option. If kids express their anger first, then their parents will probably get on board with pushing for change.  I heard Barney Frank being interviewed yesterday and his comment on people complaining about Congress was a quote from former House Speaker Tip O’Neill.  ‘No one has ever been privileged to serve in the US Congress without having been elected by the people.’  When parents get tired of these games being played, then perhaps there will be change brought on by them.”

In any case, let’s hope that America’s legislators stop these inane efforts to cut corners in feeding our children. The last thing we need is jelly beans being classified as legumes.

  1. Hiya there administrator, I clearly wanted to make a immediate remark to firmly say that in fact I relished your story. Thanks!

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