Obama’s Dijon Problem: Or, Thank God It’s Friday


Last month, Republicans latched on to Barack Obama’s request for some Dijon mustard. (Sean Hannity: “I hope you enjoyed that fancy burger, Mr. President.”)

Obama should have known better. In 1997—before he was a U. S. Senator, before he was even a father—Obama spent a week in southern Illinois, meeting rural voters. On the drive down, he and Dan Shomon, his former (and likely to stay that way) aide, stopped at a T. G. I. Friday’s for burgers. Obama describes what happened next in The Audacity of Hope:

When the waitress brought the food I asked her if she had any Dijon mustard. Dan shook his head.

“He doesn’t want Dijon,” he insisted, waiving the waitress off. “Here”–he shoved a yellow bottle of French’s mustard in my direction–“here’s some mustard right here.”

Then as now, Obama stuck by his Dijon. But if this story reveals something about the POTUS, it also reveals something about Friday’s. Where else could Obama eat in an Illinois countryside “replete with strip malls and Wal-Marts”? And yet, since 2000, Friday’s has been foundering. I try to get at some of the reasons why in my new entry in Salon’s “Brand Graveyard” series.

(NOTE: If you need a refresher on the chain’s maximalist aesthetic, check out Friday’s Web site, which, incidentally, should be looped in that special section of Hell reserved for Flash developers.)

About Craig Fehrman

Craig Fehrman is a Ph.D. student in Yale’s English department and a freelance writer. He's working on a book about presidents and their books [more] . . .
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