John King, USA

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September 7th, 2010
03:46 PM ET

John King – Getting the dish at diners across the USA

Food in the Field gives a sneak peek into what CNN's team is eating as they travel the globe. Today's contributor, John King is anchor of CNN’s 7 p.m. ET program, John King, USA, and CNN’s chief national correspondent.

I love diners and other casual community eateries because comfort food equals comfortable conversation, and when people are relaxed in a place that feels like home you learn more about them and what drives their politics.

Don’t get me wrong, I'm also in it for the food. I’m a fairly basic guy for breakfast, but can be enticed away from the usual scrambled eggs and homefries by a glimpse at a neighboring table's pancakes or the smell of beignets.

A diner menu can tell you a lot about where you are, from the huckleberry milkshakes of western Idaho to the pork-laden specials at most of the great diners of Iowa political travels.

To listen is to learn, and what better way to learn than over a good meal. In visiting all 50 states in 2009, we found in each one at least one place just to have a meal with a mix of locals.

Often they fiercely disagreed on the issues of the day, but without exception the conversations were respectful and civil. We learned from each other, and laughed with each other. Washington could learn a lesson or ten from the civil discourse and community spirit I encountered over more than my share of great comfort food.

Another lesson of those travels: most of the diners we visited were doing OK – even improving business – during the worst of the recession. When times were toughest, people look for value – more meal for their money. I suspect they also look for character, and community.

Work aside, it's just a treat to find the old photos and old menus in the diners that have fed generations and anchored their communities along the way.

Plus, where else can you get called "honey" every morning by a perfect stranger who brings hot coffee and somehow seems to know when to be nice, or when you need a little barking to put you in your place.

John King is teaming up with Gowalla, the location based mobile and web service, to share his experiences from the road. Last year, John visited all 50 states following President Barack Obama’s inauguration and sat down with residents in local diners to hear their stories and discuss important issues.

John has compiled his favorite diners for Gowalla and you can now visit them as well. To participate and see the trips John has created, Gowalla users should follow John by going to John King, USA’s Gowalla page and clicking the "follow John King, USA" button in the right column. You will then have access to John’s custom Trips at or on your smartphone via the Gowalla app.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. JP

    You guys do not ask the right questions and never get the right answers since the media is funded by big business (your customers). The problem is BIG (business in government). Coupled with BIG government nothing gets done except to serve the wealthy good ole boys. Wake up and get in the real world.

    September 7, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  2. JP

    By the way, how about you ask the question why are the BIG companies allowed to squander income in foreign tax havens so all the rest of us have to pay their taxes. I bet you do not get a good answer and perhaps are even afraid to ask. Get business in government (BIG) out of the political process and our problems would get solved. Ever thought of that?

    September 7, 2010 at 7:56 pm |