Food is sometimes unwittingly dragged into political theater. Eight years ago, challenger Bruce Rauner’s office leveraged incumbent Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s dislike of garlic to contrast the two. No one is saying garlic made the difference between victory and defeat, but campaign managers are looking for anything to drum up attention and give their candidate an edge.
This makes a campaign video tweeted out Tuesday afternoon by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s campaign handle, somewhat intriguing. The sequel to “Let the Light In,” the motto she used in the 2019 campaign where she won her first term, appears to be “Lori Delivers.” Voters could cast their ballots for the first round of Chicago’s mayoral election on Tuesday, February 28.
The video starts with a couch conversation between two friends, with one touting Lightfoot’s alleged successes, including staying “cool” during the pandemic. Randomly, the doorbell rings and Lightfoot appears holding a pizza box.
“Hey, did you order thousands of new jobs — and a pepperoni?” Lightfoot asks.
The video is 30 seconds long, but leaves many questions.
The first is, what’s in the box? This dangerously treads into Chicago Pizza Debate 101. Not only are Chicagoans passionate about their favorite pizzerias, but even more importantly: Does the box contain a deep-dish or tavern-style pie? This isn’t White Sox versus Cubs, where real Chicagoans are forced to pick a single team to root for — true fandom isn’t fluid — but some feel they need to disparage one pizza style to prop up the other.
Also, what’s the deal with the pepperoni? It’s the most popular pizza topping in America and in most locales. But Chicago is known for its sausage blends. And while places around town increasingly serve pepperoni from Ezzo Sausage in Columbus, Ohio — a pepperoni that slightly cups and gets crispy when cooked— there is no Pepperoni King of Chicago. But then again, Lightfoot was born in Ohio.
Beyond pizza preferences, the real Pandora’s box is: Why attach the campaign to anything involving delivery in the first place? In August 2021 Chicago engaged in a pair of lawsuits against delivery giants DoorDash and Grubhub over alleged unfair labor practices including concerns about service fees and how some restaurants would see the third parties upload menus with false pricing onto their platforms.
At the time, restaurant owners cheered the lawsuits, feeling the city was attempting to protect them. More than a year later, beyond that surge of goodwill, where are the results? The city has kept quiet about the progress of the lawsuits. Perhaps voters forgot about them — at least until this campaign video popped up.
Six years ago, in an interview regarding the Chicago Pizza Summit, an event meant to unite pizzaiolos across the city, musician Andrew W.K. weighed in on a topic that’s caused locals to turn on each other. What’s Chicago’s signature pizza, deep dish or tavern-style?
W.K. is an advocate of “positive pizza partying,” a philosophy that ignores divisions, adhering to the mantra that begrudges partisan politics (after all, the only good party is a pizza party). He said that he “never really understood the debates over foods, personally, because I like all kinds. I’ve never had pizza I didn’t like.”
The summary of that interview: Pizza should not be a political pawn or tool for divisiveness. Perhaps that’s something that Lightfoot’s staff should have considered in sending their candidate to deliver Schrödinger’s pizza — or at least be considerate enough to direct her entourage to keep their SUV out of the bike lane during a dash for doughnuts.