Heartland Recipes for Happiness in a Trumpian Summer

By Jamie Stiehm

August 14, 2019 5 min read

WASHINGTON — Seeking grace in a summer of Trumpian hate talk and mass violence, I dived into a homemade Blueberry buckle. Lots of eggs, sugar, butter, flour, fresh-picked blueberries dusted with cinnamon — and I added a dash of nutmeg on top.

I felt so much better. A simple pleasure. Some might say sinful. But, reader, this is no time to go gluten-free. I decided to look for more in my Wisconsin grandmother's recipe box. Surely, her fresh strawberry pie would do me good. Is there cornstarch in the cupboard?

Straight from the Village bake sale in Madison, Wisconsin, on the Fourth of July, a Blueberry buckle is a heartland recipe for happiness. Alan, the Shorewood Hills resident who shared his Grandma Walker's handwritten family heirloom, brings it every year to the fire station events. Every July, my knees buckle. This July, when I got home to Washington, I realized this is no ordinary time. I had to save my soul, where I live.

Let me explain.

So I opened my grandmother's recipe box, full of the richest dishes you could imagine: chocolate angel food cake, baked rhubarb dessert and, yes, peanut butter bonbons. Crunchy apple crisp. Ginger cookies with bacon dripping, sprinkled with sugar. My sisters and I baked these with Grandma Hicks over summers in her kitchen, where she canned raspberries Grandpa picked.

I was seeing her recipes with new eyes, not as period pieces. These would give me female shelter from the political maelstrom. The pursuit of happiness is still my right as an American, right?

Working as a Washington journalist puts you in the heart of the beast, the sound and fury gripping the nation. Reporters who report on each of President Trump's tweets: Call them war correspondents. They cover the wars at home. They wear emotional bulletproof vests, doing their jobs in public, but the toll it takes breaks through in really bad times, like when 31 people are murdered in cold blood in Ohio and Texas.

Covering President Trump ain't for the faint of heart, as he wages war against the press, "the enemy of the people." He bragged about it on his first day in office, at the CIA. True to form, he later insulted his spymasters for sport and fired his intelligence chief. Yes, just another day in the Oval Office.

Trump effectively fired the British ambassador, too, burying Kim Darroch in a sea of nastiness for a leaked cable he didn't fancy. I rather liked Sir Kim's cool reason.

A burn and boil that goes well with climate change afflicts us in the Fourth Estate. I concentrate on covering Congress. But the Capitol is stressed, too, with the Dome rising from the hot air and the bad blood between the Democratic House and Republican Senate. It's not pretty.

Witnessing bursts and bubbles of anger from the press gallery — say, during the House divide on whether to impeach Trump — causes concern. Is this a recipe for crisis in democracy? If Congress clashes on everything, are there any checks on presidential power? Trump treats Congress like trash, too.

But Trump's verbal assault on four congresswomen of color shocked even some Republicans in the House. Then came infamous words slashing Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., a respected black leader, and his city of Baltimore. That signaled to supporters the race war is on the march to 2020. (Was it ever off?)

All bets are off now. Trump's first war, on immigrants, is raging. Yet never forget the other fronts. Half of "we the people" are fair game in every tweet he makes. White House correspondents must be woke to the danger he poses to democracy, exhausting as he is to cover.

We have "a very good hater" in the White House, to borrow a phrase from an old English sage.

Let's be clear: Trump has broken every record on presidential speech — on race, immigrants, women, our allies, the press, government and constitutional institutions. Hate speech is hard to hear from the president.

When my grandmother Eleanor was born in Kansas, Teddy Roosevelt was the president. Cry me a Blueberry buckle. It's a one-woman piece of resistance.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the creators.com website.

Photo credit: congerdesign at Pixabay

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