Cancel OK

Broccoli and the fourth Beatle

aarp ringo

The products celebrities endorse and the products they actually use can be two quite different things.

The 2021 film Being the Ricardos, which starred Nicole Kidman as the beloved comedienne Lucille Ball, informed us that although I Love Lucy was sponsored by Chesterfield cigarettes, Lucy herself smoked a different brand.

Even so, we must accept that celebrity endorsements do at times converge with reality.

Headshot of Richard Smoley

With that in mind, let me suggest to the broccoli industry that they engage the sponsorship of Ringo Starr. AARP—which, as the magazine of the American Association of Retired Persons, has one of the largest circulations of any publication in the country—recently put the fourth Beatle on its cover (he is, after all, 83).

In an interview, Ringo was asked, “You’re a big advocate of broccoli. What percent broccoli are you at this point?” He replied, “I’m 99 percent broccoli. The kids now have posters in the audience: ‘Peace, Love, Broccoli.’ I recommend broccoli to your readers.”

The Beatle contrasts in this (as in many other) respects with George H.W. Bush, who drew national attention to himself in March 1990 by saying, partly in jest, “I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!”

On this point he appeared to differ with his First Lady. At a state dinner, Barbara Bush was asked if she liked the vegetable. She replied, “You’re darn right I do. I love broccoli. We’re going to have broccoli soup, broccoli main dish, broccoli salad, and broccoli ice cream.”

“Yet even in the early 1990s, Bush was the one increasingly out of step with his fellow Americans, who were consuming more broccoli than ever,” says the Washington Post. “In a March 1994 story for the New York Times, the respected food writer Molly O’Neill noted that Bush, in denouncing broccoli, was ‘dismissing the taste of the incumbent generation.’”

In the end, Americans appear to have found the president’s aversion to the crucifer rather endearing.

Over 20 years later, Barack Obama—being of the opposite party and therefore taking the opposite stance—told students that broccoli was his favorite vegetable.

Although Obama’s statement aroused some distrust among those believing that it was merely an attempt to support his wife’s campaign against childhood obesity, he remained adamant about his position. “Me and broccoli,” he said. “I don’t know. We’ve got a thing going.”

All of which raises the dismaying prospect of broccoli being categorized as a blue-state vegetable. Which may not be as daft a possibility as it sounds.

In any event, I suggest that the broccoli industry reach out to Starr. He is already an advocate. And don’t worry that you can’t afford him. He doesn’t need the money.


Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.