I Survived the First Year of the Trump Presidency By Becoming Obsessed with French Food
Every time Trump signed a discriminatory executive order, I opened up one of my recipe books and found something to cook.
Photo via Flickr user Stacy. All other photos by the author.
After Trump won the election, I—like many Americans—went into a tailspin. The United States had just elected the most vulgar, uncouth, egotistical, and misogynistic man imaginable to the most powerful position in the world. Trump’s campaign speeches and rallies were chaotic spectacles full of classless chants and vitriol. But if I had thought Trump’s campaign was insufferable, his presidency was enough to send me over the edge. I needed an escape, something to get my mind off of the dramatic shift I saw in what my country represented.
Cooking slowly became my retreat from the daily shitshow. But I couldn’t just cook the same old things I’ve been making since my twenties; meatloaf, spaghetti, and fried chicken weren’t going to cut it with this administration. I needed a much bigger distraction. It took a few weeks to decide what direction I was going to go, but then it came to me: French cuisine.
Why France? Not only did the French hate Donald Trump, but I saw French culture as the anti-Trump. France is one of Europe’s most diverse countries, with a clear appreciation for history, art, style, progressive values, and, of course, a world-renowned cuisine. Traditionally, the French have valued the intellectual and embraced etiquette. And besides that, it doesn’t hurt that two of the backbones of their cuisine are butter and wine; how can anyone object to extravagant amounts of both? (Well, my doctor does, but screw him. He voted for Trump.)
Thus started my French cuisine journey. I bought French cookbooks, French lifestyle books, and watched French cooking shows. I became that obnoxious person comparing everything to how the French do it.
My love for dark meat and red wine made coq au vin a no-brainer for the first dish I’d try out. I had spent every Christmas with my wife’s extended family since we started dating four years ago, but knowing that many of her relatives had voted for Trump, there was no way I could spend time with them so soon after the election. Instead, I was solo, and couldn’t have been happier about it.
WATCH: How to Make a Croque-Madame with Kris Morningstar
The recipe I used was a more modern version of Julia Child’s famous coq au vin; I paired it with an inexpensive pinot noir and spent the evening watching Blue Is the Warmest Color––a French independent film about a lesbian love affair. I couldn’t think of a more French way to flip off the then President-elect.
The second French classic I eventually mastered was quiche, prepared while high off of adrenaline from the Women’s March on January 22. Instead of my usual habit of flipping back and forth between Meet The Press, This Week, and CBS Sunday Morning, I made a cup of French-pressed coffee and made my first quiche with broccoli, peppers, mushrooms and chèvre. And after a few Sundays of quiche, I switched to crêpes.
Soon after, France also had a very contentious presidential election, where citizens had to choose between a populist, far-right challenger to the establishment and a governing centrist who is socially liberal. (Sound familiar?) But France didn’t make the same mistake we did.
To celebrate their rejection of extremism, I made duck confit.
Even when I wasn’t cooking, I made sure to eat French food as much as possible. On my wedding anniversary with my wife, we celebrated at a local French restaurant. (And yes, France did achieve marriage equality before the US.)
Every time Trump signed a discriminatory executive order, I opened up one of my recipe books and found something to cook. When he decided that trans Americans shouldn’t serve in the military, I made beef bourguignon. I didn’t nail this dish the first time I tried it, but Trump’s incessant tweeting motivated me to perfect it.
However, when Trump called some neo-Nazis in Charlottesville “very fine people,” I couldn’t muster up the energy to cook. Instead, I cried over a French cheese board and a bottle of Champagne.
Throughout the past year, I have made onion soup, steak au poivre, croques madames, and countless other traditional French dishes. It’s been a year since the election, with no end to Trump mania in sight. My more direct resistance to this administration has included participating in marches and boycotts, as well as making donations to Planned Parenthood and raising awareness whenever possible.
But my self-care has been indulging in exquisite French cuisine as—pardon my French—the best fuck-you I can give to Trump.