Is Barack Obama the foodiest president ever? It was shocking enough that on his visit to Minneapolis he stopped at Matt’s Bar—home since 1954 of our iconic burger, the cheese-on-the-inside Jucy Lucy—but after that he went to our most locavore indie food store Golden Fig, and stocked up on small batch artisanal Minnesota treats!
Here’s how it happened:
“My husband laughs at me because I’m always telling people about my good ideas when they never asked,” Laurie McCann Crowell told me from the floor of her tiny St. Paul store. “I emailed Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and I said, 'You know what you should do? Redo everything to be exactly like it was when Sinatra was there, with period costumes, period cocktails—I would totally come and spend my money to see that.' They emailed me back, 'It was nice of you to share your thoughts; we get that a lot.' Anyway, I signed up for the White House newsletter a while ago. It came this week, it said, 'We’re coming to Minnesota, and then the usual rah-rah stuff.' I replied, 'When you’re in town, you should really stop by my small business. I sell all domestically produced products, all from small businesses, I’m a small business.' I got an auto reply. I thought: No one’s ever going to see it.”
But someone did!
Because at around 3 p.m., McCann Crowell was running errands and about to go through the carwash, when she got a call from her store’s manager, who had been working at Golden Fig for all of a month. “She said, 'You need to come here right away.' I said, 'Why?' She said, 'You just need to come here right away.' She wasn’t allowed to say anything. I drove my still-dirty car towards my store: There were bomb sniffing dogs, a helicopter so close over the store I could see the pilot!”
She figured out what was going on right away. And when she opened the door to her store, there he was. Barack Obama. Barack Obama!
So Laurie McCann Crowell did the thing she is famous for doing: she led him through the store and showed him all her local products. He purchased:
>Mademoiselle Miel smoked scotch honey and regular honey Honey chocolate bon bons, made in St. Paul.
>Memas Caramels, of St. Paul
>Eden Apples Apple Chips, from Eden Prairie
>Whole Grain Milling corn chips
>Heath Glen raspberry jams from Forest Lake
>Golden Fig’s own basil balsamic vinegar, from, of course, St. Paul’s Golden Fig
And some more stuff! Laurie McCann Crowell reports that all of the chocolates and caramels went into one gift box (for Michelle?) and the other stuff went into another bag (to eat on Airforce One?). Then he paid in cash, $82.55, using a couple $20s and a $50. “I thought twice because we don’t take $100s or $50s,” Laurie told me, “But then I figured it was probably good so I didn’t say anything about it. I asked him if he wanted his receipt, if he could write it off, and everybody laughed and laughed.”
Laurie guesses that he might always have to pay in cash, because all ordinary communication in and out of the shop was blocked—her credit card machine stopped working, she imagines with some sort of jammer. Once it was happening she couldn’t call and tell her husband or anyone, it was just happening.
Needless to say, she didn’t have time to change her clothes or fix up her hair: “There was a point I was just looking at Barack Obama and thinking: 'Of freaking course I didn’t wash my hair today. Goddammit.' But he was so nice, everyone with him was so nice, I forgot about my hair.” She said she and Obama talked about tax paperwork quite a bit, and he said he might have someone follow up to get her perspective on small businesses and tax paperwork.
All in all? “He was here for a half an hour, and he was more awesome than I thought he’d be,” Laurie said. “The giant black SUV limo thing that you see in movies with Presidential flags all over it, it was really here. My dad was like, 'Is that really him?' Yes Dad, they weren’t tricking me. It was really him. Then he went down the street—to Wild Onion and Grand Ole Creamery. They better give me a free ice-cream cone for getting him onto the block, for one thing.” And now what will Laurie do? “Now I can’t wait to get home and show my little boys—guess what happened to mom at work today? I kind of want to die, I kind of want a drink, I kind of want to show my kids my phone. I’m all over the place.”
And somewhere, somewhere the leader of the free world just might be eating—and gifting—as well as Minnesota’s most locavore foodies do.