by John McCormick
INDEPENDENCE, Iowa -- After addressing a question over his decision years ago to stop wearing an American flag pin on his suit lapel, Sen. Barack Obama revisited the topic of arugula during a campaign stop here Thursday.
His first mention of the leafy green came during the summer as part of his first high-profile visit to an Iowa farm. Then, he posed the following question:
"Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?" he asked. "I mean, they're charging a lot of money for this stuff."
That comment came despite the fact that Iowa does not have any Whole Foods stores, nor do most of its farmers typically grow any arugula.
The point the Illinois Democrat and presidential candidate was trying to make then, he said Thursday, was that farm subsidies should not just go to traditional commodities like corn and cotton.
"Eating habits are changing," he said.
Then, he explained that he had been "teased" for previously mentioning arugula.
"All the national press, they said, 'Oh, look at Obama. He's talking about arugula in Iowa. People in Iowa don't know what arugula is,'" he said. "People in Iowa know what arugula is. They may not eat it, but you know what it is."
A highly unscientific survey of three Iowans who listened to Obama's speech suggested at least some in the crowd were a little confused by the leafy green.
"I've heard of it, but I don't know what it is," said Richard Newton, a laborer and volunteer firefighter from Independence. "But I understood what he was talking about."
Kay Hoffman, a hospital clinic assistant from nearby Aurora, Iowa, said she had never heard of it before, suspecting it might have something to do with Obama's Hawaiian upbringing.
"I don't know what it is," she said. "Maybe it's a Hawaiian thing."
James Sink, a retired manufacturing worker from Cedar Falls, Iowa, said he had no clue. "I had no idea what it is," he said.
Obama also mentioned almonds as a growing cash crop. Those come from inside candy bars, right?