The XX Factor

Ted Cruz’s Post-Honeymoon Stockpiling of Canned Soup Isn’t Weird. It’s Endearing.

Sen. Ted Cruz thinks hard about which soup to order at 3 Generations Bar & Grill on Jan. 29 in Ringsted, Iowa, with his wife, Heidi Cruz.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On Wednesday night, CNN hosted a town hall in New York City with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and his family. The event was alternately cute (his daughters love Taylor Swift!) and cringe-inducing. Here’s what Heidi Cruz said about the early days of their marriage:

When I married Ted, we got back from our honeymoon, and he went off to the store and came home by himself. And I was completely shocked to see that he arrived back at our apartment with literally 100 cans of Campbell’s Chunky soup. I never bought 100 of anything.

This was shocking to me, so we had a tough conversation about it. I said, “You don’t buy 100 of anything, much less canned soup. We can’t do this. I’ll be making things.” He said, “No, I know you. You won’t be making things.”

So the next morning, it was a weekend morning, I loaded up our car before he woke up and returned every single can. And when I got home, I called my mother just to make sure I’d done the right thing as a newlywed. And she emphatically disagreed with me. And so when Ted opened the pantry, I had to quickly tell him that I would go back and buy those cans again.

How you interpret this incident probably has to do with what you think about Ted Cruz. Was his soup investment a passive-aggressive jab at Heidi, an insult to her domestic dexterity? Was it proof that Cruz is something other than a normal human man?

I believe the correct reading is a more charitable one. Ted Cruz’s decision to buy 100 cans of Campbell’s Chunky soup upon returning from his honeymoon is not insulting. It’s endearing.

First of all, Ted Cruz loves canned soup. He told Us Weekly last month that a can of soup is his usual dinner when he is alone in Washington. So eating a steaming bowl of Hearty Pizza With Sausage & Pepperoni Soup for three months in a row is not a punishment for Ted Cruz. It is his default mode. If the man still prefers to heat up a $2 tin can of food rather than using Seamless in 2016, suffice to say he was not insulting his new wife by assuming the same plan back in 2001.

Second, buying 100 cans at a time is not out of line with Cruz’s modus operandi. According to that Us Weekly story, he currently has “dozens” of cans of soup in his pantry in Washington. Now, I eat a lot of black beans, but I rarely have more than five cans on hand. And maybe this is why I’m not cut out to be president. Why return to the store over and over like a chump when you can buy a whole cartful of Kickin’ Buffalo-Style Chicken Soup at one time? That’s the kind of efficiency we could use more of in the federal government!

But the real reason this doesn’t read to me as a passive-aggressive criticism of his new wife’s domestic abilities is that Cruz seems to have been totally supportive of Heidi’s ambitions from the start. When they met, she was enrolled at Harvard Business School and working as an economic policy adviser to the George W. Bush presidential campaign. After they married, she worked her way to a job at the National Security Council in D.C., while he returned to Texas and became solicitor general. After a year, she took a job in Texas—at Merrill Lynch in Houston, more than a two-hour drive away from her husband’s home.

Heidi Cruz told the New York Times that her husband fully supported the decision:

“He would just listen and give me a hug and say, ‘I want to do whatever you want to do,’ ” she recalled. “ ‘And if you want to live in Houston to be at an investment bank, it’ll be harder for me to not have you in Austin. But if that’s what you want, let’s do that.’ ”

Like the soup incident, I suppose you could read that as passive-aggressive if you’re so inclined. But Heidi didn’t go scurrying into her husband’s arms in Austin—she rose to become a managing director at Goldman Sachs in Houston just as Ted entered the U.S. Senate. When the couple had children, they employed nannies so that she could keep working.

With that in mind, Ted’s decision to stockpile soup in preparation for married life wasn’t insulting. It was just a tender gesture of realism. Cruz didn’t marry a woman who was going to be home at 5 p.m. every day to serve him dinner. He married an ambitious woman with a flourishing career, and he seems to have not only tolerated that about her, but valued it. Buying the soup said, “I don’t expect you to serve me.” It said, “I’m happy to take responsibility for dinner.” It said, in other words, “I love you.” Either that, or Heidi’s version of Beef Burrito Soup just couldn’t measure up to the real thing.