Update: Re-posting this given Pawlenty’s official announcement today that he is entering the 2012 race.

Last May, So Good sat down for a 1/2 hour phone interview with Minnesota Governor, and 2012 Republican Presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty.

“The biggest sandwich I ever ate? Probably about this big”

No matter what your politics, anytime you get a prospective Presidential candidate to sit down and talk to you exclusively on a subject matter like  food it’s going to make for an enjoyable conversation. This interview was no exception. Gov. Pawlenty was friendly, engaging and very open and candid about his eating preferences and preferred food policies.

In perhaps the funniest moment of the interview, I quizzed the Governor on what food(s) his wife wishes he ate less of. Expecting an answer based on health – i.e. not so many salty snacks, red meat, etc. I was holding back the laughter when he explained:

“It’s not so much what I eat, it’s sometimes the disgusting manner in which I eat it.”

Providing context, Pawlenty explains:

“She gets mad at me when… if I eat peanut butter – and if I eat it out of the jar that disgusts her – you know? I’ll take a spoon and eat some stuff out of the jar. She doesn’t like that at all, for understandable reasons…”

So Good also inquired about the popularity of Michelle Obama’s organic vegetable garden, quizzing Pawlenty on if  he would keep it were he to become President. Expressing a preference for a garden on the White House grounds, he explains he has maintained a garden of his own in the past and finds incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into cooking “a real joy.” But when asked if he would keep the garden organic?

“As to organic, I’m not real hung up on the organic vs. chemical thing. I’ve always used fertilizer, I use fertilizer on my lawn, I’ve used fertilizer on my garden, so I would not require it to be organic.”

Keep reading for Pawlenty’s thoughts on food politics & policy, his fast food preferences while on the road, his love of spam and the So Good “quickfire” round.

Knowing it can be hard to eat healthy  on the campaign trail, So Good asked about Pawlenty’s strategy for doing so. Admitting he has “no particular strategy” he says he tries to eat healthy and watch his fat and salt intake on the road…but it never works out that way, adding, “it gets to be disgusting.”

“We have become, unfortunately, during the campaign season, fast food aficionados. It’s unhealthy, but I have to say, I do like it.  We were at Arby’s this afternoon and had the super potato cakes…not bad.”

Asked his favorite fast food to eat while on the road, Pawlenty mentions three different chains that made the Elite 8 of So Good’s Fast Food Bracket.  A few years ago his answer would have definitely been Taco Bell, but lately he’s been most enjoying eating at Arby’s, even giving a sure-to-rapidly-increase-business-immediately shout-out for its “Five-for-Five” deal.  I guess I need to move to middle America and find these quality Arby’s locations, because Arby’s Final Four finish in the Fast Food Bracket and the Governor’s ringing endorsement flies in the face of my long and storied disgust for Arby’s.  Not to forget another road food he enjoys, he also threw in a shout-out for KFC’s chicken strips with honey mustard. Mmmmm…..honey mustard.

Our conversation  included an in-depth discussion about a Minnesota institution and a food that Gov. Pawlenty loves to rep: Spam.  The Spam museum is located in Austin, MN and is a place you “absolutely should visit.” For Pawlenty, the delectable meat is at its finest when, “cooked on a really hot grill or frying pan with lots of butter. Flash fry it until it gets a buttery brown outside and then serve it as a sandwich on a good sourdough or Texas toast.”

Proving his knowledge of Spam is no talking point, I pressed him on what this  “mystery meat” contains and how it’s made. He didn’t hesitate to declare that it is not, as many people think, made with “leftover parts.” Spam, he asserts, is made from “pork shoulder, ground and crushed up with some spices.” Much to my amazement, Spam is actually packed into its can, THEN cooked, while still in its final packaging.  Hmmm…that kind of sounds the opposite of appealing. But hey, at least I’m learning something.

So Good also asked the Governor to make some quick, on his feet judgment calls about his food preferences and food policy positions in the So Good Quickfire Round:

  • What do you call it, sub, hero, hoagie or grinder? Sub
  • Coke or Pepsi? Coke
  • PB&J or grilled cheese? PB&J
  • Ketchup or mustard? Ketchup
  • Lemonade or Iced Tea? Lemonade
  • Doughnuts or Bagels? Dougnuts
  • Favorite Foods? Pasta, Mediterranean
  • Favorite or best dish you cook? Spaghetti Carbonara
  • Weirdest food eaten at MN state fair? Bacon dipped in chocolate
  • Soda/junk food tax? Oppose
  • Mandatory nutritional menu labeling in restaurants? Oppose

On the topic of obesity, Pawlenty  “applauds anyone” who makes an effort to educate people about eating healthier and exercising, but opposes “government mandates” and “micromanaging” of people’s lifestyle decisions, adding that we don’t need a “nanny state” on the subject of food.  In short, Pawlenty wants more information in the hands of consumers and supports voluntary efforts to do so, but opposes any sort of soda tax or menu labeling.  He defends this position by noting that OF COURSE consumers know sugar is bad for you, fat is bad for you and that a double bacon cheeseburger is bad for you.  However,  people are going to eat these things even when they are aware they are unhealthy simply because they taste good.

Well So Good readers, what do you think of Gov. Pawlenty’s thoughts on food, food policy and eating on the road? More importantly, did you enjoy this interview, and if so, would you like to see So Good attempt to start a series of candid interviews with prospective 2012 Presidential candidates?

10 Responses

  1. Ben

    wants more information in the hands of consumers but opposes menu labeling? hmmm…

    I do like his spam enthusiasm

  2. tim

    i think the interview series would be great. transcripts included along with the summaries would be nice though, albeit I’m sure a lot of work on your part.

  3. ben

    Should have asked if he likes fish sticks… and then, if the answer was yes, if he is a gay fish (of course).

  4. Dan

    This was good. Keep up these interviews..

    and as for Ben’s comment, I think the Governor was clear that he supports voluntary measures rather than over reaching government mandates.

    I like to eat healthy but the idea of mandating things of that nature through governmental channels is idiotic. I disagree with Pawlenty on many things but he hit this one on the head.

    Also, just so everyone is aware, Michelle Obama’s White House garden is NOT organic. Look it up.

  5. Cynthia

    Loved this, please so more with others. And he sounded refreshingly open about his food opinions, more than we can say for most other interviews with any politico. Good job.

  6. Jennifer

    I’d vote for him just for liking Arby’s, but I also would agree about voluntary measures over mandated ones.

  7. Lorne Marr

    But his opinions about marijuana has stirred a lot of controversy and he will most certainly be attacked by liberal politicians when the debate about this issue begins.


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