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Modern Parenthood

Barack Obama's love for broccoli: brave, noble, preposterous

Barack Obama told a child at the White House recently that his favorite food is broccoli. That can't be true. Broccoli is no one's favorite food. 

By Correpsondent / July 10, 2013

Barack Obama's favorite food is broccoli, or so he told a child at the White House Kids' "State Dinner" on Tuesday.

AP

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If there ever was a time for the chief executive to be dishonest, this might have been it: When asked at a White House event for children who had won a healthy recipe contest what his favorite food is, President Obama replied: "Broccoli."

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Contributing blogger

James Norton got his professional start at the Monitor as an online news producer, before moving over to edit international news during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Since leaving the Monitor in 2004, he has worked as a radio producer, author, and food blogger. 

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Broccoli is no one's favorite food unless it's covered in cheese, in which case "cheese" is really your favorite food. It's not particularly flavorful, even for a vegetable. Again, even among its kin, it's kind of dull. Most critically: it triggers exactly zero of the caveman-era pleasure centers in our brain, contributing no rare and precious fat, or sugar, or salt. Ask a vegan about his or her favorite food and you'd get a more plausible answer than "broccoli." Naturally, Twitter has gone absolutely bananas with tart skepticism.

That said, the president is a politician and a member of government, both positions that make the dispensing of absolute truth difficult, if not an outright liability. And it's plain to see the advantages of praising broccoli, particularly in these circumstances: Had he given any of the far, far more believable answers of "a Five Guys hamburger," or "chicken-fried steak," or "kringle," he'd be breaking the hearts of healthy recipe-concocting kids everywhere, not to mention undermining the First Lady's work to cultivate healthier eating habits among Americans everywhere.

More plausible but still productively dishonest answers might have included:

Any fruit – seriously, how hard would that have been? An apple, an orange, a banana – things that are good for us, and thanks to naturally occurring fructose, are also quite tasty. Go exotic and make some waves: kiwi, starfruit, even durian. In fact: try avoiding processed sugar for a week and come back to fruit with a re-sensitized palate. It's absolutely delicious!

On second thought, not durian, which smells and tastes like mango mixed with onions and the smell of feet.

Veggie burgers – a good bean-based veggie burger patty can be absolutely delicious, and you can perpetrate all manner of flummery on the bun and toppings to make it a truly balanced and healthy meal. By jamming the word "burger" into the title, you've helped sell your story, particularly to non-careful readers, which is to say a large percentage of the general public.

Sushi – Four years ago, this answer would have risked bringing down the wrath of anti-snob pseudo-populists on your head (and, indeed, some of the commentariat would still use this as an excuse to paint the chief executive as out of touch, probably just before keeping their lunch reservations at the precious little farm-to-table place downtown.) But their criticisms wouldn't resonate. Sushi is everywhere these days, and both its raw fish and vegetable-driven incarnations are light, intensely flavorful, and totally delicious. It'd be a bold move, but it could be sold.

Vegetarian chili – The beauty of chili is that it's essentially a medium that takes on the flavor of its herbs and spices – that medium doesn't have to be greasy meat, or meat at all, and it'll still taste absolutely delicious. (I'm a personal fan of vegan taco mix for this exact reason.)

Still, if the kids asked me what my favorite food is, I'd say: "A ribeye steak from Everett's, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled medium rare over lump charcoal on my Weber in my backyard." It's true, but then again I've got the luxury of being truthful: I'm not running for anything.

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