President Gerald Ford's Unfortunate Tamale Mishap

One thing every politician needs to nail is the dining customs of the places they're visiting. After all, committing the gaff of asking for your gazpacho soup to be warmed up isn't going to win you any friends in Spain. Yet goofy food mishaps are surprisingly common for bigwigs — and often when they're most trying to look like "your average Joe or Jane".

In fact, one of the oldest mishaps dates back to the 9th century. The story goes that King Alfred the Great was hiding out from vikings in Somerset, England, when he took shelter with a peasant woman who had no idea who he was. She asked him to keep an eye on some cakes baking on her fire, but Alfred got distracted, and the cakes burned. This didn't do much for his salt-of-the-earth credentials, per Historic UK.

Then there's the rumor that in the 1990s, leading British politician Peter Mandelson made a food ordering blunder in a Hartlepool fish and chip shop. Pointing to a thick green dip, he supposedly asked to try "the guacamole," which was actually traditional British mushy peas (via The Yorkshire Post). And in 2016, it was the turn of New Yorkers to be scandalized when prospective Republican presidential candidate, John Kasich, was spotted using a fork to eat pizza at Gino's in Queens, reports ABC News.

Yet one of the biggest blunders in the food faux pas hall of fame was actually committed by a sitting president.

Did this dining disaster cost Ford his presidency?

In 1976, Gerald Ford was running for a second presidential term in a neck-and-neck race. While on the campaign trail in San Antonio, Texas, he was offered a tamale, according to Vice. Instead of unwrapping the corn dough from the inedible corn husk, he bit right into the husk itself, supposedly nearly choking. Some claim it cost him the election, as it's hard to pass yourself off as a "man of the people" when your street food game isn't up to scratch.

And if you're not familiar with the tamale, it's a traditional South and Central American dish of corn dough (masa), with various stuffings like mole, meat, or vegetables, wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf (via The Spruce Eats). The corn husk or banana leaf is purely there to hold in the steam, not to enjoy as part of the dish.

Is there additional etiquette to eating tamales we should know? As explained by A Geek Outside, there are no hard and fast rules. Some people eat them with their hands, others prefer a knife and fork. Some slide their tamales out of the shell, others use the shell as a plate. In fact, if there's any "rule" at all, it's just to enjoy your tamale as much as possible — and avoid biting into that husk.