Why Do We Care If First Ladies Can Cook?

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Back when there was still potential for the first spouse to be a man, Parents magazine asked the contenders to submit their favorite recipes for cookies.

Minor scandal ensued. Cindy McCain, revealed Wonkette, actually totally cut and pasted her tasty oatmeal butterscotch cookie recipe from the Hershey Corporation. Sure, she substituted “brown sugar” for “light brown sugar,” but (asked pundits) is that really enough of a change?

A better question is: Why do we ask presidential spouses to submit their baking ideas to the nation at all? Even before Hillary Clinton gave the world her 1992 recipe for chocolate chip cookies, presidential cooking contests were nothing new—and always a little forced. Martha Washington provided America with a recipe for mincemeat that likely only slaves had ever produced. Julia Grant offered a somewhat frightening recipe for veal olives. Even Jackie O sallied forth with a recipe for white rum cocktails.

But these days, when unofficial first lady bake-offs finally pit one high-powered corporate exec against another, can’t we at last drop the illusion this matters?

—Daniel Luzer

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