Monday, July 09, 2018


David Brooks once chided the "elites" for socially exclusionary eating habits:
Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

American upper-middle-class culture (where the opportunities are) is now laced with cultural signifiers that are completely illegible unless you happen to have grown up in this class. They play on the normal human fear of humiliation and exclusion. Their chief message is, “You are not welcome here.”
Brooks didn't mention Donald Trump in this column, but other pundits believe that Trump's election was a revolt against "elitists" and their contempt for ordinary citizens, folks who eat down-home food in old-fashioned rural diners.

So as we read stories about Americans confronting Trump administration officials, I wonder why so little attention is being paid to the dining habits of those who advise the so-called Blue-Collar Billionaire.

Today The Washington Post reports on hostile confrontations between Trump aides and the public. This anecdote is getting the most attention:
One night, after [Trump adviser Stephen] Miller ordered $80 of takeout sushi from a restaurant near his apartment, a bartender followed him into the street and shouted, “Stephen!” When Miller turned around, the bartender raised both middle fingers and cursed at him, according to an account Miller has shared with White House colleagues.

Outraged, Miller threw the sushi away, he later told his colleagues.
By now, sushi isn't considered particularly exotic in much of America -- but out in rural West Virginia or Pennsylvania, I bet the most fervent Trumpers would still recoil in disgust if you offered them some. And Miller threw out $80 worth? Nobody in Bugtussle can afford to throw out $80 worth of food, even if it that disgusting raw fish. Throwing out that much food is something an elitist would do!

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia. The Red Hen is a "farm-to-table" restaurant -- what could be more elitist than that? When Sanders was asked to leave, she and her party were eating cheese boards. Do rural diners have cheese boards? Isn't this how Democrats eat?

And the woman who asked Scott Pruitt to resign last week did so at Teaism, where menu items include buckwheat and hempheart pancakes, cabbage butts stir-fried in gochujang, and seared salmon belly with collard stems pickled in a brine of herb trimming. (I think the friend David Brooks brought to lunch would have required hospitalization after one look at the Teaism menu.)

I know that the typical Trump voter wasn't actually working-class, but even many of the financially comfortable Trumpers claim to hate the "elites." So how come this food is okay with them, while they recoiled in horror when President Obama put Dijon mustard on a burger?

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