Really enjoyed the fried calamari with the...

"THE PRESIDENT

February 12, 1994

"THE PRESIDENT really enjoyed the fried calamari with the real good tomato sauce," enthused the owner of an Italian restaurant in D.C.'s swanky Georgetown, where President Clinton and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl engaged in an eating contest the other day.

"Maybe the myth of the french fries will be thrown out the window and the myth of calamari will begin."

Oh, how she wished.

Few better things can happen to a foodstuff than to be associated with our head of state, even if the president insists he hates it.

Broccoli consumption doubled, to three pounds per capita, in the year after George Bush let slip that he can't stand the stuff.

Broccoli growers attributed the jump in consumption in part to medical reports that the vegetable helps combat cancer, but also to the indefatigable publicity that followed President Bush's comment. (Marylanders, by the way, crave broccoli, at least according to Giant Food, which ranks it with lettuce as its top vegetable buys.)

President Clinton, meanwhile, continues to be identified with the golden arches -- not that McDonald's and its blue chip stock need the hype. Nevertheless, it can only boost business when the media and late-night talk show hosts routinely mention the president's love of your french fries.

Don't forget what Ronald Reagan did for jelly beans.

And although Jimmy Carter's affection for grits didn't extend the reach of that regional fare, he did a lot for peanuts.

You don't even necessarily have to attain the presidency to have folks want to identify you with their edible.

Political pundits, for instance, may consider Dan Quayle damaged goods, but the Super Bowl football ad in which he pitched a new potato chip -- the first ad ever featuring a vice president -- had some of the highest consumer recall following the game, according to market research reported afterward.

No wonder, then, that the owner of that Georgetown restaurant, Filomena's, gushed that she had an "incredible. . . warm feeling, sort of like when your children had been away a long time and came home," as she watched Messrs. Clinton and Kohl slurp down her pasta with a swarm of media hovering nearby.

* * *

MORE FROM the Clinton gastronomic watch. In Houston this week, the President went Mexican: chicken taco, chalupa and guacamole. In Shreveport, La., his tastes turned to Italian once more -- with a southern twist: Italian salad, fruit medley, crab claws, fried shrimp, Italian sausages, angel hair pasta, veal parmesan, fettuccine alfredo and some spumoni ice cream for dessert. All washed down with chardonnay and champagne.

Truly a president who knows how to devour a good meal when he sees one.

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