7 Awesomely Random Food Tips From the WikiLeaks Dump

John Podesta feels very strongly about the right way to make risotto.

Brendan Smialowski/DPA/ZUMA; gpointstudio/iStock

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Beginning last Friday, WikiLeaks has been releasing more leaked emails, this time from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. Among the tidbits reporters discovered was this shocking and highly controversial answer to Merrill Lynch financial advisor Peter Huffman’s earnest question on the evening of September 18, 2015:

Huffman: So I have been making a lot of risotto lately…and regardless of the recipe, I more/less adhere to every step you taught me. Question: why do I use a 1/4 or 1/2 a cup of stock at a time? Why can’t you just add 1 or 2 cups of stock at a time b/c the arborio rice will eventually absorb it anyway, right?

Podesta, who’s well-known for his culinary acumen, takes around 18 hours to respond. On September 19, he shoots back with:

Yes and no
Yes it [sic] with absorb the liquid, but no that’s not what you want to do. The slower add process and stirring causes the rice to give up it’s starch which gives the risotto it’s creamy consistency. You won’t get that if you dump all that liquid at once.

This widely-held assertion ruffled the feathers of MoJo CEO and European Victual Advisor Monika Bauerlein, who contends that pro risotto can easily be executed by dumping in all of the liquid at once. She’s not alone. As Food and Wine pointed out, respected cookbook author and chef J. Kenji López-Alt disagrees with Podesta’s claim.

Podesta might be one of the most powerful and influential figures in American politics right now. But López-Alt has science on his side. As he argues in his James Beard Award-winning magnum opus The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, cooking the dish in a wide, shallow pan on low heat enables the rice to spread out and heat evenly in the broth. He explains in a post on his blog Serious Eats:

By cooking rice in a wide skillet like this, I found that I could get perfect results by adding the rice and almost all of the liquid at once, covering, and cooking over very low heat until the rice was done, stirring just once during the process.

That’s not the only shocker to come out of the WikiLeaks emails. Here’s a round-up of some more food-related revelations:

“For some inexplicable reason, my MRE contained PB and tortillas,” wrote Podesta’s son.
  • As Politico points out, a large number of Podesta’s personal emails come from grocery store chain Safeway, revealing that Podesta and his wife Mary are—gasp—card-carrying Club Card Members.
  • One set of emails shows Stonyfield Yogurt overlord Gary Hirshberg pushing Podesta to urge Hillary Clinton to support mandatory GMO labeling. Tom Philpott has the story here.
  • Philpott also dug up an exchange between Podesta and “mpodesta,” presumably his wife Mary. In November 2015, Podesta suggests inviting Mark Bittman to their Christmas party. Of the former New York Times columnist, author of a gazillion cookbooks, and Union of Concerned Scientists fellow, Mary responds: “I don’t know who that is.”
  • In Feburary 2014, the Podestas’ son, Air Force Captain Gabriel Podesta, reports back to the fam about a recipe inspired by his time in the service: “For some inexplicable reason, my MRE contained PB and tortillas. Attached please find a photo of my first ever Peanut Butter Taco.” Note to Gabe: Don’t search that term in Urban Dictionary.
  • At a campaign stop in Maumee, Ohio in April of 2015, Hillary’s Chipotle burrito bowl order included chicken and black beans, guacamole, and an iced tea. Writes Clinton’s press secretary Nick Merrill: “No one noticed she was there, which made for an awkward encounter between me and the manager as I was taking aerial shots of HRC ordering. I think he thought I was from the health department.” A Hillary staffer later called a New York Times article analyzing the candidate’s burrito bowl choice as a “new low.”
  • In one exchange, philanthropist Amrita Mahbubani describes in mouthwatering detail the dinner she and husband Ashok planned to cook for John Podesta and his brother Tony. The meal would include tandoori chicken, lamb, and fish roasted in an outdoor pizza oven; freshly baked garlic naan; a yogurt sauce; and a Basmati rice pilaff with peas, saffron, and pine nuts. Dessert included vanilla ice cream with fresh berries or mango, drizzled with Amaretto. Tony responds: “Happy to shop and chop.” Ashok offers that Amrita would do the shopping at Costco, “where she knows where to find what she wants”—adding ammunition to Tom Philpott’s long-held suspicion that rich people love Costco.


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