If you think having the presidential candidates’ wives compete in a cookie baking competition sounds like a relic of pre-women’s liberation, you’re both right and wrong. Family Circle Magazine’s tradition of spouses baking cookies for America does feel remarkably antiquated and certainly doesn’t account for the first female nominee of a major political party having a husband (let alone the possibility of a male nominee with a husband). But that is the case now, and Bill Clinton and Melania Trump are putting up their best cookie recipes for America to choose from.
This “tradition” actually only dates back to 1992, when then-Arkansas governor Bill Clinton’s candidacy brought something different to the campaign: an accomplished, career-driven woman as future first lady. Mrs. Clinton was (and forever would be) a lightning rod of controversy. When questioned about her law career at the time, Hillary sparked outrage (yes, outrage did exist pre-Internet) by saying she “could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.”
Sure, in retrospect the remark is a little dismissive of home bakers and tea drinkers considering how careful Secretary Clinton has been about appealing to any and all facets of the electorate this past year. But to Family Circle, the future First Lady’s explanation of her lack of homemaking interest seemed like the perfect opportunity to shove her back in the kitchen. The magazine decided the only way to handle the decades-old, yet somehow shocking sentiments would best be allayed by pitting Clinton in a cookie bake-off with incumbent First Lady Barbara Bush. Despite being the catalyst for the cutesy/sexist idea, Clinton took the contest in stride and her chocolate chip oatmeal cookies won the day.
Cut to 2016, and once again we find ourselves in a decidedly non-traditional race, which Family Circle intends to cram into their box of nouveau tradition. Now, with results decided simply by an online reader poll, the cookie bake-off has been reduced to a recipe showdown between a former president and a former model. I can’t speaker either of them, but I’m pretty confident neither of them were pining to enter this year’s matchup. Melania Trump’s Star Cookies are a pretty basic sugar cookie recipe, but shaped as stars because, you know, classy. Bill Clinton phoned his in by resubmitting the twice-winning recipe Mrs. Clinton used in ’92 and ’96, rebranding it as the Clinton Family’s Chocolate Chip Cookies.
If this is the kind of thing you’d rather vote for than an actual president, you can cast your ballot via Family Circle’s Pinterest. Given the new lows this campaign season has sunk to, that seems about right.