Entertainment & Arts

Cory Booker could be our first vegan president. How very 2020

Democratic Senator of New Jersey Cory Booker announced running for the 2020 Presidential elections, Union, USA - 04 Nov 2018
Sen. Cory Booker is running for the nation’s top office, and, if he wins, would be the first vegan U.S. president.
(Justin Lane / EPA-EFE/REX)

Sen. Cory Booker’s launch of his bid for the White House on Friday raises the possibility that the United States could see its first vegan president.

How very 2020.

For the record:
1:00 PM, Feb. 01, 2019 An earlier version of this story stated that Cory Booker could be the first bachelor president in the U.S. The first unmarried president was James Buchanan.

The 49-year-old Booker is the fourth Democratic senator and second black candidate to enter the race, in what’s shaping up to be an increasingly crowded field.

But it appears that the New Jersey senator’s philosophy of promoting “universal love” applies to his dietary choices, which — particularly against the backdrop of President Trump’s affinity for fast food — make him a standout amid the global rise of plant-based eating. Given this list of U.S. presidents’ favorite foods, Booker could be a dietary trailblazer in the White House.

Veganism, of course, is the practice of abstaining from animal products, mostly in the diet. Many apply the practice to clothing and other avenues as well. Some do it for the animals; some, for the planet and others, for personal health or beliefs.

“I find myself more and more rejoicing in the delicious simplicity of a whole food, plant based diet,” the politician wrote on Facebook last May, sharing a picture of lunch consisting of roasted cauliflower and other vegan items.

How will this play out in Iowa for Booker?

On “The View” Friday morning, Meghan McCain asked Booker, “What does a vegan eat at the Iowa State Fair?” Booker responded, “I won’t eat the pork chop on a stick, but there will be a lot of fried stuff.”

Indeed, Booker is a self-described “junk-food vegan,” but he’s trying to do better. He fasts intermittently and focuses on eating unprocessed food with simple ingredients, which have helped him lose weight and increase his energy. He also loves a good Impossible burger, he said.

Which reminds us that the senator once had a vegan burger named after him — at the vegan strip club Casa Diablo in Portland, Ore. Really. We wrote about it in 2013 after the then-mayor of Newark’s Twitter flirtation with a stripper at Casa Diablo. The ‘Booker Burger,’ added as a special, no longer seems to be on the menu. No word yet on whether the club will bring back the burger.

“Finding my way to optimal health is not a destination as much of a mindful journey,” Booker wrote of his veganism on Facebook. “This year has been less about guilt and more about good food, less about casting judgement on myself and more about finding joy in the goodness of a whole food, plant based, non processed diet. The journey continues. May we all be kinder, to others and to ourselves.”

He isn’t alone in his social-media posts bolstering the lifestyle. Veganism is on the rise and is being increasingly accepted, especially in the celebrity realm.

At the Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan in May 2017, former President Barack Obama urged the world to eat less meat. But he confirmed that he is not vegetarian, let alone vegan. His pals Beyoncé and Jay Z are, though. In fact, the music power couple partnered with the Greenprint Project this week to encourage people to switch to plant-based diets. Doing so could earn you free tickets to their shows for life.

Numerous celebrities have often shined a spotlight on the lifestyle. Recently, WWE star Daniel Bryant debuted a new vegan championship belt; comedian Ellen DeGeneres did a bit on trying out the diet on her Netflix special, “Relatable”; singer Miley Cyrus essentially food-shames meat eaters and actor Mena Massoud, who will play the titular role in Disney’s live-action “Aladdin,” launched a plant-based food travel show called “Evolving Vegan.” “Tickling Giants” star Bassem Youssef has also chronicled his plant-based journey.

Here in Los Angeles last year, City Councilman Paul Koretz wanted to require all concessionaires at city-owned properties, including all terminals at Los Angeles International Airport and the local Meals on Wheels program, to offer at least one vegan dish.

“It’s not unusual these days to be vegan, and everyone from Tom Brady, Kyrie Irving and various tennis stars and Formula One champions to Miley Cyrus, will.i.am and Beyoncé is choosing plant-based meals,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said in a statement to The Times on Friday.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, PETA is prohibited from participating in any political campaigns or endorsing or opposing a particular candidate or party. But, in the wake of Booker’s bid, the organization said it encourages people “to ask candidates on both sides of the aisle about their views on animals and specifically the role that animal agriculture plays in climate change.”

According to the U.K.-based Vegan Society, vegan-related Google search trends quadrupled between 2012 and 2017, gaining three times more interest than vegetarian and gluten-free searches. And, if the world went vegan, says the society, it could save 8 million human lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoid climate damages of $1.5 trillion.

The rate of people who identify as vegan has grown by 600% over the last three years, according to a 2018 study released by Global Data, and 6% of the total U.S. population now follows a vegan lifestyle.

Still unknown — whether Booker will work this information into his presidential platform.

Follow me: @NardineSaad


UPDATES:

1:03 p.m.: This story was updated with the information that in 2013 a Portland strip club named a vegan burger after Cory Booker.