Election 2016 is making our groceries political. From pints of Ben and Jerry’s Bernie’s Yearning to classic Trump v. Corn memes, the 2016 presidential candidates have given us plenty of food-based political puns to play around with.
But what happens when there’s not enough grub to go around? Or when the powers that be try to dominate dinner a bit too much? Here are five times throughout history that hunger has had some serious political power:
1. Henry VIII and the Protestant Reformation
You know that that “only fish on Fridays” rule that lots of Catholics abide by? You can trace it back to good old King Henry VIII‘s insatiable appetite for new wives.
Long story short, the Catholic Church refused to let Henry split with his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and he was none too happy about it. With a “WTF do I have to lose?”, Henry went ahead and set up his own Anglican Church in protest. Besides using his shiny new religious supremacy to grant himself an annulment, Henry put a kibosh on all fish consumption (traditionally considered a “pope-ish” food). England followed this trend so well that by 1547, fish days had to be made a legal obligation in order to keep the fishing industry afloat.
Basically, Filet o’ Fish is a thing all because Henry VIII wasn’t awesome at long-term relationships.
2. The French Revolution
Carbs are BAE. How could anyone live without bread? In 18th century France, it wasn’t possible to live without it, so when harvests from 1788-89 were not superb and grain prices shot through the roof, the women of Paris were none too pleased. Armed with a HUGE list of political complaints (and pitchforks, don’t forget the pitchforks) THOUSANDS of women marched to the Palace of Versailles between October 5 and 6, 1789 to have a little chat with King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette.
While there is no proof of Marie actually saying “let them eat cake” to the Parisians during the October Days, the women marchers had a little somethin’ to show for their efforts – specifically, the eventual deaths of Louis, Marie, and France’s Ancien Regime.
3. WWI and Anti-German America
No discussion necessary – hotdogs are hands down the most ‘Murican food ever. Period. Or are they? Hotdogs (frankfurters) are named after the German city of Frankfurt. Unfortunately, during WWI, the U.S. and Germany weren’t the best of buds, but Americans weren’t about to give up their favorite meaty treats over the bad blood between the two nations. The solution? A re-naming. To keep both the fires of nationalism and the nation’s backyard grills alive, it was decided that this dish would be called a “liberty sausage.”
4. The Longest American Presidency and Prohibition
Thirsty Thursday might not leave you in peak physical condition, but neither do bathtub liquor or machine gun totin’ gangsters.
From 1919-1933, the Temperance Movement took hold of America and the sale and manufacturing of alcohol was made illegal with the 18th amendment, but people didn’t really care. While eliminating alcohol was supposed to stop social problems, it was actually increasing organized crime.
By the time 1932 rolled around, Prohibition had become such a significant problem that it was an issue in that year’s presidential election. FDR, a democrat running on an anti-Prohibition platform, was the people’s pick for that election (and the three after that).
The next year, FDR repealed Prohibition and celebrated with a dirty martini. Stay classy, Mr. President.
5. The 2014 Ukrainian Revolution
You probably remember the political crisis that went down in Ukraine in 2014, marked by the rocky turnover of political power, the devastation of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.
But the noodle decorating of a Russian consulate in the Ukraine? Not as well-publicized.
Why noodles? A little bit of vocab is helpful here. A common expression used by Russians and Ukrainians is “to hang noodles over one’s ears”. To “pull someone’s leg” would be the English equivalent. Ukrainians in Odessa plastered the consulate to make a statement about the not-quite-100%-all-around-accurate coverage of the Russian media.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that food has some serious political power. Who knows what political changes our appetites will cause next?