Food History

Politically-Inspired Food From Earl Grey to Americone Dream

March 15, 2016

The recent spate of politician-adorned foods—Bernie Sanders-inspired Feel the Bern hot sauce, an attempt to bring failed Donald Drumpf—er, Trump—Steaks back to life—got us thinking on what foods in recent history have had a political bent. It's one thing to talk about how a politician loves hamburgers and another craves bananas—but wholly different when a candidate's name is on emblazoned on or inspires something edible.

Are you feeling the Bern? This is the sauce for you. Photo by Courtesy Tango Chile Sauce

And while minimalist, design-y packaging may be a recent phenomenon, the likeness of politicians (and sometimes pundits) have been popping up on food products for centuries on this side of the pond and beyond. With the help of librarians at New York Public Library's Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History, and Genealogy in researching this civic pocket of food history, we uncovered some highlights—a few more famous than others—from the annals.

2008: Obama O's and Cap'n McCain Crunch

Photo by Dom Sagolla via Flickr

In 2008, the then-fledgling homestay website Airbnb launched a campaign to support volunteers traveling for the presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain. Hosts could purchase the limited edition boxes to serve to guests, even though it was just repackaged Quaker Puffs and Honey O’s. Would you rather "Hope in Every Bowl" or "A Maverick in Every Bite"?

2007: Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream from Ben & Jerry's

Live the Americone Dream with Stephen Colbert. Photo by Courtesy Time Magazine

Ben & Jerry's has a history of involvement in politics, from environmental causes to rocking the vote. In addition to naming ice cream after rock legends, they introduced Americone Dream in 2007, inspired by pundit and current Late Show host Stephen Colbert. This pint of vanilla ice cream is swirled with fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and caramel and "contains 1776% of your recommended daily allowance of freedom."

1980s: Presidential Seal jars of Jelly Belly jelly beans for Ronald Reagan

Photo by Courtesy Reagan Foundation

It was no secret that Reagan had an affinity for Jelly Belly jelly beans—enjoying them in meetings in the Cabinet room, gifting them to White House newbies, even emblazoning the Presidential seal on glass jars to give to heads of state and diplomats. No other type of jelly bean would do for President Reagan—he was a Jelly Belly diehard and it's reported that his favorite flavor was licorice.

1960s (or 70s, or 80s...): Kennedy Fried Chicken founded, supposedly named after John F. Kennedy

Photo by Mike Goren via Flickr

Kennedy Fried Chicken, an Afghani-run fried chicken restaurant chain not to be confused with another K.F.C., has mysterious name origins, supposedly drawn from late President Kennedy, just because "Afghans were fond of him." Others say the original owner just enjoyed the Southern dish. The first location also has a dubious opening date: Some say it was the late '60s, and some say it was as late as 1985. What we do know is that it's on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, and the business proliferated over the years to the rest of New York and beyond (they're still around, if you're wondering).


1940s: Woolton pie, named for Frederick Marquis, First Earl of Woolton

Photo by Linda Xiao

Lord Woolton was named the British Minister of Food in 1940 in the midst of World War II. During the war, he was well-known for his system of rationing to deal with food shortages. What has outlived him, though, is the recipe for Woolton pie. Meat was a scarce commodity at this time, and the dish was created to drive people to eat more vegetables. The pot pie-esque meal consisted of root vegetables, oatmeal (?), and gravy encased in a pastry or potato crust.

1930s: "The Liberal" cocktail from Boothby's World Drinks and How to Mix Them

Affectionally referred to by some bartenders as Boothby's Cocktail Bible, World Drinks and How to Mix Them included a drink called The Liberal, a sort of bittersweet Manhattan made with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, amaro, and orange bitters. There was no complementary Conservative cocktail, which might be attributed to the time in which it was published—during Franklin D. Roosevelt's first term.

Late 1920s: "Big Hearted" Al candy bar, named for Al Smith, 42nd Governor of New York

After World War 1, American soldiers returned home with a new taste for chocolate thanks to big chocolate makers' donation of bars to the U.S. government. Williamsom Candy Company created the Big-Hearted "Al" bar for Al Smith, the 1928 Democratic presidential nominee.

Early 1920s: Baby Ruth candy bar, supposedly named for Grover Cleveland's eldest daughter

Baby Ruth, not Babe Ruth. Photo by Courtesy Veterans Scribe

In 1920, the Baby Ruth candy bar made its debut from the Curtiss Candy Company. While there's been many instances of confusion regarding the origin of the name, the company asserted it was named for Grover Cleveland's eldest daughter Ruth (who only lived to be a teenager) and not for popular slugger Babe Ruth.

Early 1800s: Earl Grey tea, named for British Prime Minister Charles Grey

Tea time! Photo by Mark Weinberg

While the naming of Earl Grey tea is not reputed to be named for the British Prime Minister Charles Grey—how the blend became associated with him is unclear. Many versions of the story exist, from a shipping accident in China or an improvement on bad tea to a tea that was specifically blended for the Earl.

1700s: Beef Wellington, named for Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and British military hero

What do you get for defeating Napoleon and being prime minister twice? Naming rights for rain boots and beef en croûte, apparently.

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This is only a selection—favorite foods named for politicians: Go! (In the comments below, please.)

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