The Candidates Cookbook: Dennis Sobin

Dennis Sobin at Kennedy Center

Editors’ Note: While our first love here at ES is unquestionably food, we have to admit we get nearly as riled up about another favorite topic — politics. We’re always on the lookout for ways to combine the two, which brings us to our newest series, The Candidates’ Cookbook, in which DC-based correspondent Britannia interviews the 2010 Washington, D.C. mayoral candidates. He’ll ask each one to share their opinions on nutrition, obesity and of course, where and what they eat. All DC Mayoral candidates were invited to participates, so look for a new interview in this space each week.

Dennis Sobin is certainly one of the more colorful Democratic characters running for Mayor, and in a D.C. election, that says a lot. At a recent debate, instead of handing out leaflets promoting his campaign, Sobin handed out flowers, which he believes generated a greater impact on attendees. It’s also safe to say he’s the only candidate who was imprisoned as recently as 2009, which he credits for curing him of an illness. But enough with that — let’s hear what he has to say about food.

The Food Police
I asked Sobin if he would consider introducing bans on trans fats, as New York has done. He stressed that education, not legislation, is the key. “Educate the consumer and then let them choose what to eat. I’m not for putting the food police in restaurants, weighing people before and after they eat.”

“The head of a city has to lead by example, showcasing one’s easting habits, maintaining a good shape—exercise, home-cook and grocery shop carefully,” continued Sobin, who also talked of a personal habit he picked up from none other than my favorite Girl, Betty White.

“A good eating tip I got from reading about Betty White—she weighs herself every morning and if she weighs more than she did the day before she alters what she eats for the day. ” AMAZING! Sobin acknowledges that Mayor Fenty is indeed healthy and a good role model in that respect, but he believes it doesn’t compensate for the Mayor’s “corrupt and over-privileged government,” something Sobin hopes to eradicate should he be elected.

Food in the Schools
On nutritional standards in DC public schools, Dennis tells me that “good eating habits begin at an early age—you go to school to improve your mind so it doesn’t do much good if children leave with a bad body.” I asked whether he believes schools or the government should impose calorie limitations in school meals, and Sobin explained that he was a consultant for the USDA and appreciates the work they do, so he doesn’t see a problem with schools setting their own calorie limits, as long as they use the national standard and don’t over-legislate.

About that Prison Food…Dennis Sobin speaks freely of his time in prison, for what he calls political activism (he mentions being inspired by meeting MLK). He’s had a few stints in prison—once for producing a clothing-optional movie, which he calls being a “supporter of consensual-sex”—you can read more in his autobiography.

I asked Sobin what he thought of prison food and the meal system. “Many negative things have been said about prison food; it is very similar to food served in the armed services. It is plain but balanced, so you are forced to eat a balanced and not over-portioned diet, but it is boring.” He goes on to explain how during his last incarceration—this time in prison was for violating a stay-away order issued by his son—he suffered from irritable bowl syndrome, but during his time in prison the diet he was forced to eat cured him of his problem. It wasn’t until he left prison that it returned, which is when he discovered his love of peanuts were the problem. He now eats cashews.

Favorite Foods
Before letting Sobin go I asked him the most important question — what he eats! Italian on his Mother’s side and Jewish on his Father’s, Sobin talks fondly of growing up in a household where his grandmother used to cook classic Italian recipes. After his grandmother passed the family would still eat her meals up to a year after her death—the beauty of freezers! Sobin’s wife is Brazilian so they eat at a lot of Brazilian restaurants when dining out, but Sobin mentions Clyde’s of Chinatown as one of his favorite restaurants for fish, and he is not opposed to grabbing a quick bite at McDonald’s from time to time.

What do you think DC ES-ers? Does Sobin have your vote?

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