10 May 2008

A Food Op

Sen. Barack Obama visits Luis' Taqueria in Woodburn for a campaign stop and a fast combo plate Friday. To his left is Abel Valladares. Photograph by Michael Lloyd/The Oregonian

It must be a tiring life to be a presidential candidate. Traveling around the country, a whirlwind of planes and buses. If it weren't for the tough questions, unlimited stops and critics, the lifestyle might seem a bit rock and roll. I'm sure after months on the trail and months of being tailed, it's a lifestyle that would hardly be envied.

But even presidential candidates have to do the things all the rest of us do every day, such as grabbing a quick bite to eat. The big difference is that instead of eating while driving, like most of us, they're probably sitting in the back of a darkly-tinted bus for chow time.

Although I can't say for sure, I think that's what Barack Obama was doing Friday. Elephants catered a lunch out to the software company he visited in Beaverton. The meal for the candidate and his entourage was set up on his tour bus. Some grilled chicken and steamed broccollini along with a tray of sandwiches. Judging by the candidate's trim frame, I'm guessing he's the grilled chicken guy. The meal was set up in time for the bus to roll out of Beaverton about noon and headed for Albany, the next stop on the campaign trail.

Headed south on Interstate 5, the bus made a pit-stop. In Woodburn, a town known for it's Latino population and great Mexican foods, the crew stopped in at Luis' Taqueria around 1 p.m. A picture in today's Oregonian shows Barack enjoying a combo taco plate in the crowded restaurant. He looks happy, mid-laugh, his smile genuine. Maybe it's the tacos; maybe it's the company.

As I said before, I don't know whether Barack ate his catered lunch. It's just my job to make sure food gets to the right place at the right time. What happens after that is of little concern to me. But when I saw the picture in the paper today, it made me laugh.

I read something once that said some huge percentage of life's social interactions happen over food and drink. I believe that's true. We visit over dinner, chat about our impending day's work over breakfast and share celebratory moments over a beer with friends. We eat after weddings, we eat after funerals and we eat after Sunday church. Sure, it feeds a basic human need, but that's not what drives these events. We eat to relax and enjoy the company. Meals are a reason to gather, a reason to talk to another person. In every culture, food connects people.

I don't blame Barack for possibly downing two lunches on Friday. I'd chalk it up to a job hazard. The lunch on the bus was meant to keep the man nourished on a long day's work. The stop at Luis' Taqueria was business.

I wouldn't be surprised, though, if he felt more satisfied after the combo taco plate. The company, the energy and the moment were likely what he craved, work or not.