In January, when the American government was in the depths of Donald Trump’s self-imposed government shutdown, the president found himself at the centre of a fiery food debate. As is tradition, Trump had invited the nation’s championship winning football team - The Clemson Tigers - to dine with him at the White House. However, staff shortages meant that the White House kitchen was unexpectedly closed. This left POTUS in a serious pickle.
Trump’s solution was to serve the champion athletes a buffet built from his favourite fast food menu items. Dishes included double cheese burgers, Big Macs, French fries and pizza. Images soon began to circulate of a smiling Donald, surrounded by junk, flanked by an austere Abraham Lincoln portrait. It was certainly an unorthodox way to entertain.
Predictably, the evening deeply divided the internet. Some praised Trump for reacting quickly to a crisis he himself had created, and for funding the fast food excess out of his own pocket. Others, for some reason, felt that the occasion somewhat denigrated the experience of dining in the White House. However, events this week prove that, for Trump, the evening was an unparalleled triumph.
On Monday, Donald Trump welcomed the North Dakota State Bison, seven-time NCAA Football Championship Subdivision winners, to join him for a meal, where he once again rolled out a selection of his favourite fast foods. Not content with the array of McDonald’s hamburgers provided previously, Trump decided to shake up the menu with options from Chick-fil-A. These seemed to include a selection of chicken sandwiches, nuggets and sauces.
Trump began the evening by welcoming the team as a group of “big, strong, powerful champions,” praising them for their achievements over the previous season. Addressing the media’s questions about the food, Trump declared, “We like American companies,” before adding, "We could have had chefs — we could have — but we got fast food. I know you people very well."
The Bison’s coach was reportedly less nationalistic about the evening. Speaking afterwards to the Grand Forks Herald, Matt Entz said, ““We addressed [politics]. This isn’t a political trip, this is a Bison trip and, personally, I sold it as two things: It’s one more opportunity for the 2018 team to be together, but also in my mind the start of the 2019 season and the things we’re going to do together.”
Once again, Trump’s entertaining habits have deeply divided the nation. One commentator on Twitter said, “I thought he only did this because of the government shut down...now we know he’s just crazy or cheap or both.” While some have criticised the president for providing what could be seen as a cheap alternative to “proper” food, others have enthusiastically praised him for sticking to his guns and serving up something that he obviously enjoys. Whether or not Trump’s dining habits mark a permanent shift in White House catering remains to be seen. However, it looks like, for the foreseeable future, presidential invitations should come with a small toy, or plastic cutlery, in anticipation of the evening ahead.