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Dennis Kucinich is hungry for the nation's biggest job and a plate of kidney beans.
At the moment, the kidney beans are more realistic. He walks into his favorite Capitol Hill restaurant -- Taverna the Greek Islands -- and orders the beans. They arrive in a few minutes, along with Kucinich's usual plate of hummus with wheat pita bread, sliced zucchini sauteed in olive oil, a tomato and onion relish and a Greek salad without feta cheese.
This is comfort food for the long-shot Democratic presidential candidate. He has spent a long day of campaigning in New Hampshire followed by a flurry of votes in Congress. He is, in all likelihood, the first major party vegan to run for president. He ingests no beef, poultry, fish, dairy or animal products. Kucinich also eschews processed foods, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. Does he indulge any vices? "Yes," he says, "I'm a member of Congress."
Not for long, if all goes according to Kucinich's plan. He envisions waking up in the White House on Jan. 21, 2005.
Is red-meat America ready to elect a vegan president who is Dennis Kucinich, 57, a figure whose long-shot status in the presidential race is a result of many factors besides his diet. He is little-known nationally, barely shows up in polls and his signature political experience -- mayor of Cleveland in the 1970s -- landed the city in financial ruin.
Yes, he says, America is ready for a vegan president. He doesn't bring up the subject of his diet and voters never ask him about it.
Today, he weighs 135 pounds, which is down from a top weight of 158. He has more energy, requires less sleep (five hours a night) and almost never gets sick -- all of which are essential to surviving the grind of a campaign. "I've ended up with a level of energy and health and clarity that goes beyond anything I've ever had in my life," says Kucinich.
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