Food & Culture

Dan Pfeiffer: how I eat

The "Pod Save America" podcaster and ex-Obama staffer on coffee addiction, dumplings for breakfast and life in the White House.

By Lee Tran Lam
You lived in Brazil and Japan as a child. How did you find the food?
I was quite young when I lived in Brazil, but my family ate at a churrascaria almost every weekend and I fell in love with Brazilian food. In Japan, I would take the train to school and would eat the udon and ramen at the train station most days. I loved living in Tokyo and getting to experience life in the big city. My family ate Japanese food as often as possible and it remains one of my favourites.
In your book, Yes We (Still) Can, you said you planned to "go to law school, become a lawyer, probably hate my life". Why the move into politics?
I kept signing up for more campaigns and delaying law school, because I didn't want to go out on a loss. I believed the candidate I was waiting for was right around the corner. And he was.
During your interview with Barack Obama in 2006, he asked, "How often do you get to put your shoulder against the wheel of history and push?" Did you know then and there you wanted to help him become President?
It was in that first interview that I saw he was different from any politician I had met before, and I knew deep down that this was the campaign – and the candidate – I'd been waiting for.
Your tasks as a political intern included "getting coffee for the people who get coffee for other people…"
I actually made it all the way through several campaigns and six years in the White House without drinking coffee. It wasn't until I visited Vietnam after I left the White House that I started drinking coffee – getting addicted to the very sweet Vietnamese coffee.
In the campaign's early days, you worked above a Subway sandwich shop. What's it like walking past one now?
I hold my nose – the smell still makes me nauseous.
What are some highlights from your time working for Obama?
There were so many – being there on the night bin Laden was killed, the passage of Obama's healthcare bill, and visiting the pyramids, Stonehenge, Petra and Buckingham Palace with him.
On your podcast, Pod Save America, you have a very up-front way of speaking about politics. Why?
Too much political analysis and punditry is filled with jargon, stale talking points and risk aversion. We want to make it approachable and fun – if you can believe it.
We hear you love dumplings.
When I lived in Japan, we often visited Hong Kong. I discovered you can have dumplings for breakfast, which is amazing.
Why is inspiring young people to engage with politics important to you?
As you may have heard, politics in America is in a particularly dark place. The bright lights are the young people fighting to improve the country. They are our only hope.
What's the food like in the White House?
You usually eat it standing up, and you rarely have time to digest.
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