Al Gore Took Part In This Food Contest As A US Senator

If David Attenborough were to produce a nature documentary on the species of human known as the politician, most shots would probably involve the eating of hot dogs and other such food-based activities.

"I was in the Senate, so the point of it was not necessarily to win the contest but to meet all the people who came by," Al Gore, the former vice president and presidential candidate, said on the podcast River Cafe Table.

The contest in question was a barbecue contest held in Memphis, Tennessee. Specifically, it was the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, which promotes itself on its website as the most prestigious barbecue contest out there. When Gore competed, he was representing the state of Tennessee in Congress.

In fact, his attendance was something he continued even after he became the Vice President, as seen in a Washington Post article from 1994. "The secret is to remain stiff and wooden throughout the cooking process," he joked when asked for tips. Nothing speaks to Tennessee like barbecue. So, it was an event Gore felt he could never miss.

Why do politicians appear around food so much?

Al Gore's regular attendance at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest raises the question of why politicians seem to spend so much time being photographed around food.

Eater suggests that it's due to the public wanting a representative who is savvy, but not "phony." Any politician should be able to appear sincere when nodding sagely to complaints raised by their community. What's more difficult, however, is to remain placid when biting through mounds of meat — and it's so often meat. Apparently, vegetarians don't vote.

This ties into how food is one of the few universally relatable things out there. No matter who you are, you have to eat. "It is one of the ways politicians try to illustrate that they are just like the rest of us," John Street, professor of politics at the University of East Anglia, told the BBC. He clarifies this point by saying what is eaten depends on who you're trying to impress. "On the one hand, [food choice] is used for proving a politician's street credentials and on the other to impress during international relations," Street adds. That Al Gore chose to wade in amongst the best barbecuers in the country probably did impress a constituency that considered the art a touchstone to their culture.