Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is just regular guy. He likes baseball. He likes inflation-targeting. And he likes Hot Pockets sandwiches.
Or at least he did. For the most part, Ben Bernanke’s just-published memoir, Courage to Act, recounts the saga of the US financial crisis and economic crunch, all from the eye of the storm as head of the US central bank.
And while Bernanke has proven more than willing to be adventurous when it comes to unconventional monetary policy, the oblique gastronomic references sprinkled throughout the narrative suggest that Bernanke’s appetite has a strong conventional streak.
Before the crisis, Bernanke took a leave from Princeton University to serve as a governor in the Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan. During that period, he split his time between his family home in New Jersey and work in Washington, D.C, noting that his “apartment in Georgetown was close to a couple of Vietnamese restaurants that I frequented. When I didn’t go out, I would microwave a Hot Pockets sandwich and eat it in front of a Seinfeld rerun.”
Later on, after becoming chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, Bernanke noted, “My staff and I frequently worked late into the evening, dining on take-out meals from a nearby Subway.”
Once he was ensconced in the top job at the Fed, he bonded with Hank Paulson, then US Secretary of the Treasury: “Hank and I continued the weekly Fed-Treasury breakfasts, sharing among other things an affinity for oatmeal.”
Breakfast fare seemed a slight source of tension between Bernanke and Paulson’s eventual successor, former New York Fed president Tim Geithner. “His metabolism seemed supercharged. At FOMC meeting breaks he would inhale doughnuts, but nevertheless remained slim.”
Throughout the book, the image of Bernanke as a trencherman recurs, the kind of guy who doesn’t shy away from a doughnut.
But in the end there is something of a twist, in a section noting how supportive his wife Anna was throughout the crisis period, Bernanke writes: “At her suggestion and after consulting a doctor, I eliminated gluten from my diet, and digestive issues that bothered me early in the crisis eased.”