The surest way for government leaders to make national news and ruin a promising career is to be photographed or filmed eating a Big Mac or a Kentucky Fried Chicken – and loving it!
Washingtonians rightfully expect (and even demand) that their leaders swear allegiance to the good life and that they prove it by what and where they eat. To the Washington establishment, good dining habits are of paramount importance for success; it lets everyone know that the leaders are ambitious. As a reward, they are received by green-book socialites with open arms and featured in popular magazines dining with playful Hollywood starlets and friendly interns for the public to envy.
The less fortunate, those diehard rednecks who still eat fast-food with their hands and belch after each meal, those men and women, on the other hand, are often rudely shunned. As a result, career-wise, they never amount to much. Unlike their savvy colleagues, the only news they make is on the back pages of some hometown tabloid, photographed devouring grilled foods like hot dogs and hamburgers at some county fair.
For them to be accepted by Washington power players, they would have to reinvent themselves and turn into something truly beautiful. Those who refuse or can’t, for whatever reason, are immediately identified as enemies of the establishment and turned over to the Culinary Police (CP).
Armed with smart phones, the CP has proven to be a highly professional and formidable group. Staffers are seen almost everywhere, disguised as waiters, bellboys and even tourists. Each one is fully trained at Snoop Academy in Virginia (SAV) to record and photograph slip ups as subtle as renting an apartment near a notorious all-night fast-food franchise to smuggling a Wendy Burger or a Domino Pizza in a Neiman Marcus or Dean and DeLuca bag into the Capitol Building. In Washington, where everyone’s business is everyone’s business, such behavior is taken very seriously by the CP, and it is thoroughly investigated.
Many promising careers in Washington have been ruined by fast-food addicts who insist on maintaining bad eating habits. To protect Washington’s impeccable image of good taste, the CP in serious cases has been known to resort to shock therapy to straighten those fast-food addicts out. This usually means compiling an incriminating dossier with salacious photos, designed to expose in nauseating detail an elected leader’s lack of dining decorum. Almost immediately after the dossier makes the news, the victims are publicly disgraced and in special cases turned into a joke for Saturday Night Live. Their only chance for recovery – for saving what’s left of a political career – is for them to make a full confession and seek immediate medical attention.
Once again the CP comes to the rescue. Its first task is to teach the addict to eat with utensils, ideally European style with a fork in the left, instead of the right hand. The next step is to turn them into a Pavlovian blue-blood trained to crave laboratory-perfected foods prepared to resemble haute or nouvelle cuisine. For the uninitiated, this is food that has been carefully tested to taste like fast-foods (to minimize withdrawal for the addicts). Its primary value to green-book socialites is that it resembles, when photographed, haute or nouvelle cuisine, especially in the right setting – like a black-tie dinner party on Capitol Hill or in Georgetown.
Those lucky ones who are meticulously groomed by the CP emerge from their addiction transformed from the dowdy to the glossy – dressed simply in a slit-to-the-hip black dress and a plastic pearl-like necklace or in a roomy dark suit and an illuminating rainbow-colored rayon tie. To the world, they epitomize the real thing. Within no time, they are mingling with the Georgetown and Capitol Hill crowd at gala dinner parties, where they can enjoy chemically altered foods to the point of satiety. In such a setting, with black-tie waiters weaving through the crowd, carrying silver-plated trays filled with elegant-looking and familiar-tasting foods like pastries stuffed with tuna or tartlets topped with corned beef hash, it can be said with certainty that they have arrived and made it to a gourmet’s paradise. Once initiated into this glitzy world of excess, many find it difficult to break away, and some have been known to overstay their welcome by gorging themselves until the paramedics arrive.
For many Americans, this view of the glamorous world of parties and high-end dining is all they really know about Washington. Many don’t realize there is another Washington, one off limits to most people, especially nosey reporters. It is headed by the movers and shakers. To uncover them, all you need to do is ask them what a Giant or Safeway is, or how did they ever develop such a cool chemical-free demeanor.
To rise to this level, a politician must have a CP security clearance and a record of excellent dining habits with world leaders. Unlike the flashy Georgetown and Capitol Hill crowd, the movers and shakers live a discrete life and are rarely seen in public. Their habitat is private 18th Century estates in Virginia and Maryland or private clubs so exclusive that only a few outsiders know the names.
Within their special circle, they are referred to as the Old Guard, a select group of men and women with access to some of the finest foods and recipes in the world. A mix of ages and races, this gilded group of insiders are united by their love for exotic foods, sprinkled gently with organic spices and herbs and heated to perfection by Cordon Bleu trained chefs.
Trendy international frozen-food companies who discover the Old Guard’s inner sanctum have been known to pay astronomical prices for just a few food scraps from the dinner table. Once obtained, those scraps are shipped to company labs where scientists carefully identify the magic flavors of the food and recreate them with genetically altered waste and unpronounceable chemicals for leading food emporiums like Costco and Walmart to sell to American food snobs.
Eager to enrich themselves, many Old Guard members negotiate deals with the industry, often as quickly as they can dial Moscow and order Vodka and caviar. In a few rare cases, an Old Guard member may experience guilt for their participation in this corrupt practice, and they will blow the whistle on the frozen-food industry. To prevent a major Washington scandal, the CP once again steps in and publicly disgraces the whistle blower – this time for “colluding with the Russians.”
Fortunately, this doesn’t occur often. The smart ones wisely avoid such scandals by accepting the financial incentives from the food industry and use the money for their gilded retirement.
Joe David is the author of numerous food-related articles that have appeared in such publications as Christian Science Monitor, U.S. Airways, Chile Pepper, and more. One of his six books, Gourmet Getaways, 50 Top Spots to Cook and Learn (Globe Pequot Press, 2009), takes the reader on a journey across America, where 50 of America’s finest chefs offer cooking classes in some of the most enchanting settings. For more information about the author and his writings, visit www.bfat.com.