The two women are competing in the Family Circle Presidential Cookie Bake-Off. And yes, the wives of presidential candidates still do that. It’s only been 20 years since Family Circle magazine introduced its quadrennial bake-off. That’s when Hillary Clinton got in the kitchen to compete with Barbara Bush in the First Lady Cookie contest.
Hillary infamously said, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.”
Laura Bush also found victory a few presidential cycles later with her Texas Governor’s Mansion Cowboy Cookies.
In fact, cookies are the edible Ohio of presidential politics; every winner of the contest has gone on to live in the White House except one – Cindy McCain. (Ohioans have correctly picked the winner in the last 11 presidential contests, but chose Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy in 1960.)
According to Family Circle, Mrs. McCain faced some controversy in the cookie contest when some accused her that the recipe was a copy.
The magazine responded, “Controversy aside, readers’ taste buds spoke and Mrs. McCain’s cookies received 54% of the vote.”
Michelle Obama’s entry is Mama Kaye’s White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies. The description to her cookie makes sure to mention healthy eating as to stem her critics: “Every evening the President, the First Lady and their daughters sit down for a family dinner with good conversation and healthy food. If they want to splurge, they enjoy these White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies created by the girls’ godmother. It’s the Obamas’ idea of the perfect treat.”
Ann Romney focuses her recipe on M&M’s. “The Romneys love spending time with their children and grandchildren,” the description reads. “Whenever they’re together, they mix up a batch of their favorite M&M’s Cookies.”
Ann says, “They smell delicious coming out of the oven—our grandkids can’t resist them!”
Is Ann trying to get one up on Michelle by ever so slyly mentioning her grandmother status? Very clever, Ann.
Of course, the cookie contest is perfect for addicts of Pinterest, the popular social media site where women search for recipes and decorating tips.
Ann was on Pinterest before Michelle. She often posts pictures of patriotic decorating and recipes. On Monday, she pinned a series of July 4th recipes. That section of her Pinterest already had more than 7,000 followers on Tuesday. The recipes included peppercorn-crusted strip steaks with seasoned butter, red, white and blue potato salad and a burger with French onions.
One fan commented, “You really must try letting your burgers finish in beef stock.” Ann surely took note of that tip.
In another picture under “Recipes,” Ann mixes up her M&M cookie dough while standing in a made-for-TV kitchen.
Michelle’s Pinterest board isn’t nearly as active as Ann’s. She has pictures of the White House garden, only three recipes total – and gasp! – no Fourth of July recipes.
However, her black and white cookies are featured.
Wives in the kitchen baking cookies may seem archaic, a flashback to the 1950s Donna Reed and June Cleaver days. But in fact, 21st century domesticity – baking, canning, gardening – is highly retro-chic, hence Pinterest’s popularity. Considering that, Michelle and Ann’s recipes may woo voters more than ever.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker