Guest Blog: Dispatch from the Obama Campaign

My Dad is a cameraman and has been covering the Obama campaign the last few weeks. Here's his impression of food on the campaign trail. :)

Campaign coverage can definitely be hazardous to your health. Last evening, a member of the member of the traveling press protective pool (read that: "Death-watch") that follows the candidate wherever he goes, tripped over a fire hose and broke her shoulder as we we sprinting from the motorcade to cover the victory speech at Grant Park.

I saw her this morning in the hotel lobby, grimly clutching her laptop case and holding a starbucks latte in her slung hand.

Not the least of the hazards come from the food. Twenty hour days, a different hotel every day and constant stress makes for a hungry press corp and the campaign staff obliges by feeding us at every chance they get. Meet in the hotel lobby at 6am: coffee and doughnuts, get on the bus to go the the airport: bacon and egg sandwiches, get on the plane and fly to the next town: full breakfast, back on the bus: snacks, event site: local catering including buffet tables and white tablecloths, back on the bus: more snacks...and on and on til you burst. You get fed an average of six times a day and that number is reflected in bulging waistlines and an average of one heart attack per campaign. My personal method is to eat every other time and never on planes, and I usually manage to lose a few pounds due to the constant running around associated with being a cameraman.

In the past, both republican and democratic campaigns used very similar catering. All the food looked about the same; if you were in the South, it had to be barbeque and mac and cheese and pecan pie, the Midwest meant beef and potatoes, the Southwest was Tex-Mex of course and no trip to Wisconsin or Michigan was complete without beer and sausages. The campaign staff researches the local restaurants and tries to come up wit the best hot dog in Cincinnati, the best burger in Denver, etc etc. The very few vegetarians who travel in the press corp usually get by okay on the side dishes and salads, but its definitely a meat-oriented world.
(I am an omnivore, but the have a vegetarian daughter with proselytizing tendencies.)
So imagine my surprise the other day as I was covering the last week of the Obama Campaign and we come rolling into the press tent to find a complete Thai buffet with curry tofu and pad Thai from a local restaurant in some town I have lost track of.

Next day in Desmoines, Iowa they had contracted with the Ritual Cafe to feed us some awesome red roasted hummus and veggie sandwiches on whole wheat and great fair trade coffee. The choice was salad, veggie chili or sandwiches with cool black cat cookies for Halloween and I didn't hear even one complaint about any lack of meat. And trust me, this is one group that doesn't scrimp on the complaining.

I actually got into a press van in Indiana and found it stocked with raw food from Whole foods, including raw pumpkin bars and something called a spirulina energy bar that actually perked me up a little, no small feat after since we averaged about two hours of sleep a night on the last days of the sprint to the finish.

Now I am not taking sides here, as a journalist that would be wrong, but as the pundits look back on what worked what didn't work in turns of campaign strategies, is it possible a healthier, happier press corp contributed to Obamas' victory? Who knows, its a small thing, but emblematic I think of the campaign's tendency to look forward instead of back.


jessy said...

what a great guest post! i love it! i never would have thought about food on the campaign trail!

seems like it might be tough to stay pretty healthy when you're at the mercy of everyone else supplying the food - but i like the rule that you've got of never eating on a plane and eating every other time food's offered. you've got more restraint than i have! :)

super yum on the veggie & hummus platter - and thai foods?! mmmmmmm! spirulina's great if it's kinda "hidden" (mixed up) in things - i tried mixing some in with a smoothie once and i couldn't really taste the spirulina (yay!), but when mixed it in a little soy yogurt once - well, it wasn't that great (it tasted kinda bitter). but it's good for energy - and good for you in other ways, too! that's great that you got to try a spirulina bar - and a raw pumpkin bar!

i'd also like to say: hooray for Obama!

thanks again for the guest post! (tell your dad he rocks!)

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

What a great and fascinating guest post. You learn something new everyday - who knew being in the press was so dangerous - I hope that woman's shoulder was alright.

And wahoo for the healthy food, I wonder if that DID have something to do with the victory. ;-)

Anardana said...

Interesting! Thanks for the post! Also, YAY OBAMA!

Tami (Vegan Appetite) said...

It's so awesome to hear that there was a different edge to the food rather than the usual fare. Yet another thing that is giving me hope.

I can't even begin to imagine the stress eating that has to go on in this kind of situation.

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Awesome post! I loved it!

Bianca said...

What a sweet job your dad has! I'm a print journalist at a weekly paper in Memphis, but I'd much rather have been a camerawoman on the Obama trail. And how freakin' cool that he feeds his peeps healthy stuff...perhaps that's why Obama's such a trim hottie. I have a little crush, and this post just made it made it worse...but in a good way. :-)

jd said...

Can I just say: JD = insanely jealous of your Dad! What an awesome job, getting to travel around with Mr. President-Elect himself!

Thanks for the guest post, it was really cool. Oh, and I love your dad's description of you as being a "vegetarian daughter with proselytizing tendencies." Too funny!