First Lady Cookie Bake-Off

Some people have Superbowl parties.  Others have March Madness parties.  We have a presidential election party.  We love politics.  We love to talk about debates, polls, and pollsters.  We roll our eyes at the crazy that is Fox News (and we’re swimming in it in this deeply red part of the country in which we live).  We scratch our heads when people suggest that it’s inappropriate to talk about politics “in polite company.”  Say whah?  My friend Stephen recently posted the following on Facebook:  “Oh, I’m sorry.  My politics posts are bothering you?  I just figured choosing the next leader of our country was worth a little discussion. By all means, show me another picture of your dinner.”  When I saw that, I wished for a “LOVE” button.

Since the election is about a month away, we’re starting to think about our party.  Who should we invite?  Do we try to invite Romney and Obama supporters?  Or should we just stick to the few Obama peeps that we know in our small backwoods East Texas town?  Even more important than the guest list, however, is getting ready for the cookie bake-off.

For many years, Family Circle magazine has asked the wives of the U.S. presidential contenders to submit their favorite cookie recipe.  Family Circle readers are supposed to bake the cookies and then send in their vote for the best cookie.  Supposedly, the cookie bake-off winner’s husband has won the race every election since 1992.

In 2004, we baked Laura Bush’s Giant Cowboy Cookies and Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Pumpkin Spice cookie.  We chuckled at the recipes submitted because they seemed to say so much about the candidates.  I mean, really—the pumpkin spice cookies were delicious, but they oozed New England elitism (as did John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry).  Laura Bush’s cookies were definitely the best—they were BIG (like Texas!) and they had all sorts of delicious mix-ins. 

In 2008, we baked Cindy McCain’s chocolate chip cookies.  Her grandmother’s secret recipe was later rumored to be a very commonly available internet recipe for chocolate chip cookies (oops).  We baked Michelle Obama’s shortbread cookies (minus the fruitcake bits, WTH?).  They were delicious!  And we baked Bill Clinton’s oatmeal cookies.  Yes, they asked Bill to submit a recipe because at that point, Hillary Clinton was still in the running to be the Democratic nominee.

And this year, we’ll be making Michelle Obama’s award winning (woot, woot, her recipe won the contest!) White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies and Ann Romney’s M & M Cookies. 

I realize the sexism inherent in a first lady cookie bake-off.  In 2008, one of our party guests implied that I had lost some of my feminist cred by participating in such a heinously stereotypical tradition.  I felt a bit deflated by the critique since it’s something we’ve had so much fun doing over the last 3 presidential elections.  For me, it’s a way of involving my kids in the election.  They can’t vote, right?  They were 1, 4, and 7 when we started this tradition.  But they have fun making the cookies and then they make ballots so all the party guests can choose the best cookie.  They enjoy collecting the ballots and tallying the votes.  Last time, they made signs—without any prompting—that included a donkey on Michelle Obama’s recipe and an elephant on Cindy McCain’s.  I loved that they knew about those symbols!  I loved that they were getting into the spirit of the election—even if it was via an activity that perpetuates very stereotypically gendered behaviors. 

So when I saw this Jezebel piece last week called “Why the hell are we still holding first lady bake-offs?  Stop it right now,” I wanted to be incredulous (as I am wont to be) and say, “Yes!  Let’s stop this sexist nonsense right now!”  But then I thought, Aw, man . . . but it’s so much fun.

So, it’s on.  November 6.  Election party.  Cookie bake-off.  Submitted by the wives of the two male presidential contenders.  I get it.  It’s sexist.  Women don’t have to bake cookies.  Trust me, I know. 

May the best (wo)man win.