The XX Factor

Shut Up, Pundits. You Like Broccoli.


Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, President Obama showed up at a kid’s lunch event at the White House hosted by Michelle Obama and praised broccoli, naming the humble vegetable when asked about his favorite food. An innocuous moment, but for some reason, it caused the political geek-o-sphere to temporarily go full Limbaugh, accusing Obama of lying in order to trick real America into touching vegetable matter. Yahoo put together a slideshow of pictures of Obama not eating broccoli. (Do you eat your favorite food at every meal? What is this exactly supposed to be evidence of?) Comedy Central went for the easy “lying” joke. Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post lightheartedly called for Obama’s impeachment. Ari Fleischer got downright weird about it, though it seems his main point was to alarm red-blooded Americans that the president eats at least two kinds of vegetables, clearly marking him as Not One Of Us:

I have two words for you, joke-making political geeks: Try harder. Not only are your broccoli “jokes” not funny, but also your fronting like you’re down with “middle America” by pretending that only elitists like vegetables is fooling no one. The parties you go to are far more likely to feature a broccoli-based amuse bouche than, say, cheeseburgers.

That’s because, despite your protestations, the president is right. Broccoli tastes good. People like it. Sarah Kliff brought some chart-heavy sense to the pages of the Washington Post, demonstrating that per capita broccoli consumption has tripled in the U.S. since 1980, so that your average American eats 5.6 pounds of broccoli a year. Of course, common sense would tell you that people love broccoli. I’ve never understood why they don’t just make vegetable dip platters half broccoli, since it disappears by far the fastest, leaving cauliflower and carrots to simply sit there looking lost and unwanted. 

The weirdest part of all this is that although the president may or may not have been telling a little white lie in the context of heavy talk about vegetables, he did so in service of a greater truth that we really should be conveying to children: Your palate does (or at least should) mature as you age. It may seem inconceivable to kids that they will one day prefer a plate of steamed broccoli to hot dogs cut up in macaroni and cheese, but that transition will happen for most of them. And we should hope it does. Subtly implying that a good way to seem more grown-up is to eat grown-up food is a reasonably effective tactic to use on kids. Why so many hi-larious pundits would prefer kids to think broccoli is gross is beyond me.