over easy

I Made Donald Trump’s Favorite Meat Loaf and Now All My Colleagues Hate Me

To the women of the Cut: I’m sorry. Photo: Emily Sundberg

Over Easy is a weekly food column by a 20-something woman who can barely cook an egg and just wants to learn how to throw together an elegant three-course meal for her friends.

Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” But what does it take to force a co-worker to sit down and eat?

This is the existential question I find myself considering every time I think about the time Trump forced former New Jersey governor Chris Christie to eat meat loaf (which is at least once a day, sometimes more). Christie recounted the chilling incident in a February 2017 interview on the Boomer and Carton sports radio show.

“This is what it’s like to be with Trump,” Christie said. “He says, ‘There’s the menu, you guys order whatever you want.’ And then he says, ‘Chris, you and I are going to have the meat loaf.’”

“He tells you what you’re eating?” asked co-host Craig Carton.

“Yeah, and I said, ‘We’re going to have the meat loaf?’” Christie answered. “And he said, ‘I’m telling you, the meat loaf is fabulous.’”

Trump really loves meat loaf, and not just as a tool for bullying people. He and Melania once appeared on the Martha Stewart Show to make meat-loaf sandwiches together (“Donald’s favorite sandwich, according to Melania,” Martha says). And according to a 2017 CNN video called “Trump’s love affair with meat loaf,” Mar-a-Lago’s menu includes meat loaf based on Trump’s mother’s recipe. Because what could be more appetizing on a warm, humid Florida evening than some hot, dense baked meat?

Photo: Madeleine Aggeler

I found the recipe CNN cited, and it looked easy enough. Essentially, you just cut up some garlic, tomatoes, onion, and peppers (more on those later!), cook until they’re mushy, let cool, and then mix in a bowl with ground beef, bread crumbs, and two eggs. When that’s ready, you form the mixture into a log, smother it in tomato sauce, and bake it at 350 degrees for 50 minutes (or, if you’re like me and terrified about poisoning your whole office with listeria, 80 minutes). It will absolutely not surprise you to know that besides a little salt and pepper, there are no spices or seasonings in Trump’s meat loaf.

Unlike most Trump-related content I consume, the meat loaf did not make me feel ill or unclean. It tasted like a middle-of-the road burger you eat on a road trip, one you take three bites of and then say, “I should have gotten the club sandwich.” The key to succeeding in Trump’s meat loaf, though, is not the idiot-proof preparation or the bland taste — it’s seeing how many people you can strong-arm into eating it.

Turns out, there’s no casual way to cajole your colleagues into tasting greasy meat in the middle of the workday. You just have to plow courageously forward, knowing full well that you are placing a potentially unbearable strain on your professional relationships from which they may never recover. Still, things started off … okay. One co-worker said, “I would probably eat it if my grandma made it,” and then gagged when she got to the tomato sauce, but only a little bit. Another said it “smelled very meaty” and that it “tasted like it smelled.” The most effusive response came from one editor who took not only one tiny bite, but two!

Unfortunately, while I was busy writing blogs and getting people’s thoughts on my midday meat loaf, the loaf ended up sitting uncovered on my desk for a couple of hours, and uh, let me tell you, it did not age well — think less Helen Mirren, more Keith Richards. Exposed to the elements, the meat congealed until it looked like the stuff plastic surgeons drain out of people’s thighs during a liposuction. By the time the Cut’s Stella Bugbee wandered by my desk and I offered her some, her response was “That is so gross,” “No way,” and “Absolutely not.”

Clearly, my meat loaf did not help me win friends or influence people. If anything, it did very much the opposite. The experience wasn’t entirely worthless, though. I learned meat should be properly stored, especially in an office setting, and while preparing the red and green peppers, I learned that dicing is not the same thing as chopping, something I somehow missed despite all my years of loyal Top Chef viewership and the fact that they are two different words. My peppers were supposed to be diced, which is cutting food into cubes of a specific size, and not chopped, which is cutting food into small, but irregular pieces. They ended up being not much of either, because as I soon realized, all of the knives in my apartment were too pathetically dull to dice or chop anything. I might as well have been cutting my vegetables with a wooden spoon, or a folded-up utilities bill.

(This did, however, inspire me to buy a knife sharpener. A lot of people argue you should leave knife sharpening to the professionals, but I like doing it myself because (1) my knives are cheap trash I just need to tide myself over until I get real ones and (2) doing it myself makes me feel like the type of person who rides a motorcycle and probably does the middle finger a lot, and says awesome things like “I have to sharpen my knives.”)

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned was that appearing at people’s desks and demanding they eat unidentifiable meat is not the best way to serve a meal, and to never again take hosting advice from this guy.

My report card
Preparation: B+
Taste: B
Strong-arming technique: B

My Overall Performance: B

I Made Trump’s Favorite Meat Loaf, Now My Colleagues Hate Me