By Jim Woods
You can tell a lot about a man by the way he eats.
Some men like to sit down to a meal, take their time and savor each and every morsel of food and drink. People like this tend to be thoughtful, meticulous, confident and in many cases, hedonistic. How do I know this? Well, I’ve been known to spend more time than most getting through a multi-course, wine-paired meal.
Still, other men like to dig right into their prize, attacking the meal with fervor and a literal hunger for life that reveals their carpe-diem approach to the world. This type of person tends to be decisive, purposeful, driven and a born leader. My favorite example of this type of eater is my good friend, investment guru extraordinaire Doug Fabian.
But what do you say about a man who eats his meal in reverse order?
That thought has plagued me ever since I sat next to Sen. Joe Biden on a flight from Washington, D.C. to my hometown of Los Angeles, Calif. Sen. Biden was on his way to L.A. for an appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, while I was returning home from my annual pilgrimage to the nation’s capitol for a meeting with friends, publishers and some of my favorite think tanks.
After exchanging pleasantries with the senior Senator from Delaware, Biden wasted no time in digging right into his criticisms of the war in Iraq, and what he perceived to be the folly of the Bush administration. I expected nothing less from the Senator, as he’s known for his outspoken critiques and his shoot-from-the-hip commentary.
What I didn’t expect was a lesson in how to eat a meal backwards.
Now, since I had the benefit of first-class seating accommodations during this flight, the flight attendants were very attentive when it came to serving what was a surprisingly tasty meal. The first course was a salad with Italian dressing, which was followed by a main course of a plump, well-seasoned chicken breast and a side of rice. The best part of the meal for me was the dessert, which was a generous scoop of gourmet chocolate ice cream.
I ate my meal with my usual casualness, and in the aforementioned order. Sen. Biden, however, took a different path. Biden accepted the salad, but he put it aside and saved it for later. When the main course came, he politely rejected it. But when the ice cream came, Biden’s fervent personality really came out. He emphatically asked for a serving, although he had not yet eaten any food.
Biden ate his ice cream while we discussed Kevin Phillips’ book "American Theocracy," the then-latest critique of the Bush administration’s religious overtones. After eating the ice cream, Biden pulled out a hefty ham sandwich from his briefcase and consumed it in a deliberate and determined fashion. Once the sandwich disappeared, the Senator turned to the only remaining bit of food left on his tray table, the salad.
As I watched this reverse-order meal consumption, a thought occurred to me: Is this why the federal government is so screwed up? Is Sen. Biden’s backwards approach to a meal indicative of what’s wrong with Washington? Does this backwards eating pattern explain why the government does everything less efficiently and less effectively than the private sector?
Given my theories on discerning knowledge of a person based on how they eat, what was I to make of Sen. Biden’s meal habits? The only logical conclusion is that Biden looks at the world — shall we say — differently from the rest of us. And while there is nothing wrong with a little different perspective on things, I don’t think I want someone a heartbeat away from the presidency who eats his ice cream first.
The next thing you know is that person will advocate raising taxes to stimulate the economy, negotiating with our ideological enemies as a means of portraying strength, and railing against judges who think interpreting the constitution is the only proper function of the courts.
Wait a second… that’s what Biden wants? I knew there was a reason why he ate the ice cream first.
Jim Woods is a freelance financial journalist specializing in the economy and the markets. He welcomes your comments, and can be contacted at Woodsish@verizon.net