The Pure American Banality of Donald Trump’s White House Fast-Food Banquet

The presidential seal on the paper cups had hapless aides carrying piles of anonymous-looking salads and wrappers, along with a few dozen fries, King Burger and pizzas, McNuggets, Quarter Pounders, and Filet-o-Fishes. Behind a mahogany dining table, Trump began rolling out photos of his grinning self, with trays of silver bearing stacked boxes of food. It was a small surprise on Monday night when a mild gust of wind could have just blown it all away. Despite Trump’s many promises, it was a surprise that the celebration for Clemson University’s Tigers’ victory in this year’s N.C.A.A. Football championship was planned at the White House’s banquet. In a Monday morning interview, Donald Trump told the press that “we’ll see what happens. So, I think their favorite food would be McDonald’s. That’s really interesting. It will be really mean I think.” So, we’re going to serve McDonald’s that night. That’s what I think.

They show up at your event, slinging fresh burgers and if you hire Shake Shack and In-N-Out to cater, they will definitely impress. The chicken, fried to perfection, only gets more delicious as it cools. These culinary pleasures are real, but they are presented as a novelty in the fast food world. Invited guests are treated to a pantomime of class-based elements, as they indulge in designer burgers. There are many occasions where this fast food dress-up is fitting. In-N-Out has served its burgers to the powerful and gorgeous throngs at events like the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, proving that it is more than just a novelty. If you’re looking to add a festive touch to a Pinterest-worthy wedding or a centerpiece dinner party, consider a tray of nuggets from Chick-fil-A or a few dozen thighs and wings from Popeyes. In fact, serving a fast food meal at a fancy gathering can be wonderful. Don’t ask me to defend any of Trump’s choices, but serving a fast food meal at a fancy gathering is not a bad idea.

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Once upon a time, in the land of fast food, there existed a sandwich called the Filet-o-Fish. Each Filet-o-Fish had a precise half slice of American cheese on a hardened, flavorless rectangle of yellow. The buns of the burger were soggy, mealy, and cold. As customers made their way through the French fries, they would pick up their plates of porcelain with their Sunday shoes and navy blazers, feeling like the greatest collegiate football players in America. However, once the coldness of the Burger King or McDonald’s meal had gone, a particular awfulness would emerge. There, behind the quick-serve table, flinging his arms out, was Lincoln’s portrait centered beneath a gilded candelabra. Then, Trump came to shoot a photo, in a gesture of equal parts invitation and ownership. The poor sandwiches, steaming limply inside their cardboard boxes, were imagined to be arranged on silver platters, piled high in silver gravy boats, and sorted by type with various sauces. One could only imagine the fuss that went on during this dinner. Trump was fighting against the odds, with the bulk of the dinner on one hand and Abraham Lincoln’s portrait beneath the properly lit gilded candelabra on the other.

According to a report from Politico, Trump reportedly had a preference for a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with cheese (with lots of ketchup and no pickles) while in office, as stated by the White House kitchen staff. Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, mentioned in his book “Let Trump Be Trump” that his boss would often order two Big Macs, two Filet-o-Fishes, and a chocolate milkshake from McDonald’s. Lewandowski also revealed that McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza, and Diet Coke were the main food choices on Trump Force One. Trump himself would frequently indulge in value meals while on his private plane, often posing with fast food items in Instagram photos. In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Trump expressed his enjoyment of the Filet-o-Fish, referring to it as a “fish delight” during his campaign trail. Trump’s fondness for fast food has been well-documented since the beginning of his public life, with commercials for Pizza Hut and McDonald’s being filmed by him in the nineties and early two-thousands.

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Many French fries, three hamburgers. Lots of pizza, lots of hamburgers. In 1869, Alexander Peter George Healy painted a brooding portrait of Abraham Lincoln with a grin beneath his fast-food-loving face, which was praised by Lincoln’s eldest son as the greatest likeness ever captured. Before a gathered group of reporters, Trump boasted, “We ordered American fast food and went out. I paid for it myself.” As a testament to his presidential power, Trump could consume more Quarter Pounders and Filet-o-Fishes than one’s body possibly could. He filled a gilded hall with griddled and fried patties, fulfilling his straightforward desires for fast food. However, this opportunistic attempt to bring a feast to a drive-through also raises the question of whether there is something more pure in his decision – something that we might wonder about in the history books. It is a big deal that Trump paid for his own fast food out of his own pocket. As a billionaire, he made a deal out of the fact that he paid for fast food, leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees, including kitchen staff at the White House, furloughed as a result of his inevitable government shutdown. Ultimately, his opponents blamed him for this typical form of political spinning, which catered to his own elective shutdown.

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