In a cookie contest traditionally entered by presidential candidate’s spouses, Bill Clinton’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies far exceed Melania Trump’s star cookies.
The year was 1992. The Cold War had officially ended, the space Shuttle Endeavor made its first flight, and Hillary Clinton said, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life,” in response to allegations of favoritism by the Democratic Party towards her law firm.
The allegations of favoritism would die down somewhat, but the “cookie” comment would continue to haunt Clinton. Rather than seeing it as an ambitious woman’s dedication to her career, significant parts of the nation interpreted it as a slight against stay-at-home mothers. Family Circle, a homemaking magazine, began running a cookie contest where the wives of presidential candidates submitted cookie recipes, and readers could send in their votes. Clinton submitted an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe, which won, and she submitted it again for another win in ‘96.
Fast forward 20 years, and the core conceits of the contest are being challenged. The contest used to be exclusively between wives, but the Clinton cookie was billed as being from the Clinton Family, and Hillary Clinton, who was forced into the contest by sexist backlash, now has a good chance to become the leader of the free world.
This year, Melania Trump submitted an ultra-plain star cutout sugar cookie, while the Clintons submitted the same recipe that Hillary won with twice. Despite Bill Clinton’s veganism, their recipe has eggs.
Melania Trump’s cookies are a cipher. The only ingredients are flour, baking soda, butter, confectioner’s sugar, eggs, and sour cream. There’s no salt, there’s no vanilla extract, and there’s nothing that I would traditionally think of as a “flavor.” Even the sour cream is apparently only there to provide moisture and activate the baking soda.
I fed them to several people, and got varied responses, but they were all around the theme of blandness. One person said that they tasted like animal crackers. Another said that they tasted like they should be dipped into something, likening them to Fun Dip dipsticks. I personally found that the ingredient that came through most strongly was the eggs, thanks to two egg yolks, giving the cookies a bit of an omelette-y taste.
The seemed to be mostly about texture. If you’re into reading way too much into recipes, like I am, then you could say that these cookies are a reflection of Trump’s willingness to change his platforms on a whim, based on the feeling he gets from a crowd or whatever gets him more retweets. You could also say that they represent the blandness behind the character of a rich businessman that he’s cultivated.
If you want to be more generous, you could say that they represent an willingness to provide a cookie that’s acceptable for everyone. An unwillingness to offend doesn’t seem to be very characteristic of Donald, but maybe it’s a message from Melania. Look, I know that these recipes were probably submitted by interns, but maybe Melania, by submitting a recipe that can’t possibly offend anyone, was sending Trump’s opposition a peace offering — or an apology.
The Clintons’ recipe is a much more traditional recipe. Cookie enthusiasts will see parallels to the iconic Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe, with shortening instead of butter, slightly different sugar proportions, and the the addition of rolled oats. The cookies were good, but not exceptional. They were crunchier than most chocolate chip cookie recipes, but a little dry as a consequence. In contrast to Trump’s cookies, they did have a rich depth of flavor, with brown sugar, oatmeal, vanilla extract, and chocolate all in evidence.
This recipe could be read multiple ways. Its similarity to the Tollhouse recipe could be seen as a cheap imitation — taking a classic, well-loved recipe and filing the serial numbers off. Alternatively, the recipe could be seen as a tribute to an American classic.
In an election where a major narrative of Clinton is her “inauthenticity,” maybe this is just a recipe that she loves, and she’s showing authenticity by insisting that her favorite cookie recipe be submitted, regardless of the response. Perhaps the Clintons are is submitting the same recipe three times in a row, in protest of the burst of sexism that began the contest.
Look, it should be pretty clear by now that I’m pretty much With Her, but I like to think that, in terms of cookie tasting, I can overcome that bias. Given that the Clintons currently have triple the votes that Melania has, it seems like most of Family Circle’s readers also prefer the Clinton’s cookies. The contest ends on October 4th, so as of press time, there will be one day to participate in the least important part of the presidential election. You can vote on Family Circle’s Facebook page.