With the midterms now in the rearview mirror, it’s time for America to come together, quit acting like we’re on the brink of civil war, and get back to some semblance of normality—namely by putting every family’s onesie-wearing, cocoa-drinking, Democratic Socialist-voting millennial at the same table as grumpy, #MAGA-hat wearing old Uncle Wilbur, to nominally bond over roast meat replete with heavy doses of tryptophan.
But there’s a problem.
In 2018, when politics seems to have come to dominate so many aspects of our lives, even food has become “ideological.” And that’s not merely at the Thanksgiving table when family members are discussing politics and who likes which liberal or conservative celebrity of the moment. Simple meal-planning itself, it seems, is now a political battle. Happy freaking Thanksgiving everyone.
Last week, Politico reporter Rachael Bade reported that House Democrats had rejected “ideological food” for their first caucus meeting. What constitutes “ideological food” you ask? Apparently, Chick-fil-A, those infamous fried chicken sandwiches whose purveyors keep restaurants shut on Sundays and provide financial and rhetorical succor to opponents of gay marriage.
The fast-food chain has become the meal of choice for some conservatives, including the Heritage Foundation whose blogger briefings used to be exclusively Chick-fil-A zones. And now Pelosi and co. are apparently countering making their own stand by taking a hard pass on tasty chicken, buttered buns and (if you’re a proper Chick-fil-A connoisseur) pickles with a good dose of mayo.
#Resist… yummy chicken sandwiches.
But it’s not just the left that is fighting political wars by altering food consumption patterns. Remember in 2016 when that Donald Trump surrogate took to cable news to announce that if Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, there would be a taco truck on every corner? Set aside that that dude presented probably the best-ever argument for electing Hillary president. Clearly, hardcore Trumpers had already decided that more tasty corn tortillas filled with delicious meat, cilantro and onions coming onto the food market would be the end of America as we know it.
That was a rise in hostilities from the days when then-candidate Obama was pilloried for his lack of awareness that there were no Whole Foods stores in Iowa at which one could buy arugula. Or when Sarah Palin flaunted her Big Gulp during a speech at CPAC to ridicule Michael Bloomberg for his patronizing anti-sugary drinks initiatives in New York City.
Indeed, the food wars are getting worse. Over the weekend, a new front opened on Twitter. Nate Silver’s @FiveThirtyEight Twitter account announced a new analysis of “what side dishes” “America’s regions” eat with their Thanksgiving turkey. Apparently, if you live anywhere in the Rocky Mountain West, in the Pacific Coast states, Alaska or Hawaii (and everywhere in between), the most “disproportionately common” side dish you eat as part of Thanksgiving dinner is… salad.
Set aside that this single piece of data analysis might call into question Silver’s number-crunching abilities more than anything else he’s ever put out there, the tweet elicited plenty of tongue-in-cheek—but also revealing—attacks by conservatives on their coastal elite, salad-munching brethren.
Chris Barron, a vigorously pro-Trump conservative strategist greeted @FiveThirtyEight’s survey data by declaring that, “Everyone who thinks salad is a thanksgiving side dish should be deported.” Right-of-center Hot Air blogger Jazz Shaw countered that deportation would be “unfair and unconstitutional if they are citizens. They should simply be imprisoned.” In turn, one of his followers offered that deportation was the appropriate remedy; another demanded the imprisonment come “without parole.” But one of Chris’ followers, a self-described Trump girl, offered that salad was okay “only if it’s Waldorf salad.” Clearly, she’s intent on letting the terrorists win.
Knowing and liking Chris and Jazz personally as I do, this is obviously jokey, humorous stuff. And yet, the responses to Silver’s data do serve to underline the basic point: Even food has now become a line of demarcation with regard to politics—or perhaps more accurately, politics as an extension of culture. You can see this also with the bevy of responses from apparently liberal Californians defending their salads in reply to the original tweet, or the disagreement among what appear to be mainly African-American Southerners and white Southerners about the acceptability of macaroni and cheese as a Thanksgiving side.
Check your privilege, macaroni skeptics.
The upshot here is that America is truly divided and, apparently, the battle lines aren’t just over “Medicare for All” or trade policy, but rather totally non-policy-related cultural allegiances. Do you feel more “sympatico” with the Duck Dynasty guy or Lena Dunham? But more importantly, for this week anyway, do you like Christian-ish fried chicken sandwiches and mashed potatoes or tacos and salad and cheesy pasta?
Here’s a suggestion, at least with regard to the great food debate: How about accepting that “all of the above” are great American food items and we should be grateful to live in a country where our cuisine is so varied, awesome, and, frankly, plentiful?
Politicians and pundits: Stop ruining our love affair with our delicious food by politicizing our meal choices. Just let us eat ourselves into a coma in peace, thank you very much.