When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney decided to deliver a major address on U.S. foreign policy last fall, he chose a logical location: The Citadel in South Carolina. This week, Rick Santorum chose to hold forth on international affairs from a decidedly less conventional setting: the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, California.
Why, you ask, has Santorum decided to discuss weighty geopolitical issues from the place that brought you Tutti-Fruitti, Sizzling Cinnamon, and this guy? Is the Republican candidate unveiling some kind of Jelly Belly Doctrine -- a belabored metaphor about a diverse international system starring Iran as Sour Cherry and Cuba as Island Punch?
Not exactly. For starters, Santorum is no stranger to candy. In the Senate, he was in charge of stocking the "candy desk" for a decade. And he represented a state -- Pennsylvania -- that's home to the makers of Hershey bars and Mike and Ikes.
The Los Angeles Times also notes that Santorum may be trying to associate himself with Ronald Reagan, who loved jelly beans so much that a blueberry flavor was specially created so that the president could serve three tons of red, white, and blue beans at his inauguration in 1981 (yes, the portrait of Reagan above is made out of jelly beans). Two years later, Reagan surprised astronauts on the Challenger shuttle with the first jelly beans to travel in outer space.
On Thursday night in Fairfield, Santorum compared himself to the Gipper by declaring that Ronald Reagan didn't "whisper to Gorbachev, 'Give me some flexibility'" (unlike Obama) or "say one thing in front of one group and something else in front of another" (unlike Romney).
The Jelly Belly Candy Co. is active in Republican politics as well. Federal Election Commission reports show that Chairman Herman Rowland donated $2,500 to both Romney and former presidential candidate Rick Perry, and $1,000 to Newt Gingrich (he claims he also cut a check for Santorum on Thursday). The company said it would discuss "sugar reform" with the Republican candidate during his visit.
However unusual, Santorum's Jelly Belly gambit highlights a larger truth on vivid display over the past year: Food isn't just food. It's also highly political -- from pasties in Britain to mooncakes in China.
David Paul Morris/Getty Images