You’ve seen the photo. Donald Trump, with a portrait of Abraham Lincoln looming over him, posing for a photo op in the White House, its polished mahogany tables piled high with fast food. A buffet of the best to offer from McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King. Hamburgers and fries, their oils and fats cooling and congealing as they sit on their silver serving trays. All for the Clemson University football team, invited to the White House to celebrate its national championship.
And this is what they get. Big Macs. Or “hamberders,” as Trump called them in a tweet. One of the players said he thought it was a joke when he heard they would be served fast food during their visit to the White House. Another was caught on tape murmuring, “Our nutritionist must be having a fit.”
Also this week, My Friend Mike posted a link to a story on Rochester’s culinary signature, The Garbage Plate. Yet another story, written with a wink and a snicker, about the city’s alleged love affair with a plate piled with various combos of macaroni salad, home fries, baked beans, meat sauce, diced onions and hamburger patties or hots. Doused liberally with mustard or Frank’s hot sauce.
It’s not elitist to dismiss the Big Mac and the Garbage Plate as lesser cuisine. They have their purpose: At the 3 a.m. intersection of desperation and alcohol. But this otherwise overwhelming American infatuation with mediocrity is alarming. Why do we set the bar laughably low, yet still manage to trip over it?
In restaurants, supermarkets and banks, I see Americans wearing sweatpants. Not expensive-looking workout clothes, but baggy sweatpants with stains on them. I see people drinking cheap wine and smoking cigars rolled in tarpaper. People reading Fifty Shades of Grey and lining up for Adam Sandler movies. Garth Brooks bleating from rolled-down truck windows.
We can do better. Tapas 177, Rocco and Cure, those are restaurants worth seeking out. Rochester will get its first restaurant led by a Michelin-star chef when Richard Reddington opens Redd at the former 2 Vine in April. It’s not about the pretense. It’s about the search for excellence. The Cowboy Candy taco at The Silver Iguana on Winton Road. I’ll take a breakfast sandwich straight off the grill at Scott’s or Zimmerman’s at the Rochester Public Market over the Denny’s Lumberjack Slam.
How did we get here, to a point where we accept the uninspired? Look at Trump, with his Big Macs, Filet-O-Fish sandwiches and cold fries. He is a loud, arrogant, mean, ignorant, poor-spelling hypocritical lying man-child of entitlement. Racist, sexist, xenophobic and corrupt beyond measure. Creating policies that separate immigrants from their children, endorsing what Vladimir Putin tells him rather than believing his own intelligence agencies, shutting down the government that he’s supposed to manage. Going to war with the two institutions that threaten to expose him, the justice department and the media. Closing his eyes and ears to science and fact. Refusing to take responsibility for his own actions. It’s a Garbage Plate of public policy. You want small fries with that hamberder? Cooked up by the most hideous of Ugly Americans.
Is it the unanswerable question of what came first, the Kentucky Fried Chicken or the egg? Not really. If we had held ourselves to a higher standard yesterday, we wouldn’t be in this mess today.
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