Eight years ago, my kitchen was bleak. My pantry was empty and my life felt like it was in shambles. I needed to be able to cook a dish that would simply wow people, to prove that there was something bigger in my life. I asked — can I make a delicious, moist risotto?
The answer came back: Yes I Can.
But the last eight years were a disappointment. I made hundreds of risottos, and none of them were perfect. Some were too dry; others, too moist. I knew that I often stirred too much, but I couldn’t just sit there and watch my risotto stick to the pan without trying to doing something, even if it ended up making things worse.
Then, last month, after years of pent up frustration, I made another risotto. It was a mushroom eggplant risotto with parmesan. It was a little dry, but certainly edible.
And then Donald Trump tweeted:
The world was gloomy before I won — there was no hope. Now Josh Freedman made a terrific risotto. Thanks, Donald!
I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. The president of the United States just congratulated me on my risotto! All of that hard work had finally paid off. Yet I was also frustrated that he wanted to take credit. This was my risotto, not his. I’m the kind of guy that believes in personal responsibility: I got angry when President Obama said, “You Didn’t Build That!” when he ran against that rich, heartless guy in 2012. But this time I did, in fact, build that risotto — and now Donald Trump was trying to say that he built it.
At his Mar-a-Lago resort a few weeks ago, he doubled down:
Some people say that Josh Freedman’s risotto was due to eight years of steady progress and learning. But I say ‘NO WAY!’ Now that I’m here, we can MAKE RISOTTO GREAT AGAIN!”
I felt a pang of guilt; something wasn’t right about what he was saying. Sure, the risotto was a bit dry at times — but was it ever inedible? Donald Trump made it sound like we were talking about third-world risotto, where supermarkets don’t stock arborio rice and you can’t buy fresh produce at any time of year. My risotto was a bit disappointing, I know, but it wasn’t as bad as he said. I want to continue to make risotto better, but, to be honest, risotto is already great.
Reporters came flocking to my home. All of the media were there, wanting to taste my risotto. Was it as ‘terrific’ as Trump said? I was overwhelmed by the attention — just me, a simple guy who likes to make risotto.
I rushed to the kitchen to try to whip something up. But risotto takes hours to prepare, and I didn’t have any vegetables at home. I poured the broth and stirred the rice, but it simply wouldn’t cook any faster. I knew that if I poured too quickly the risotto would be ruined. You simply can’t rush a risotto; this, above all else, I had learned over the last eight years. The reporters sat in the living room, watching their phones as I toiled in the kitchen. I hoped they would understand that I was doing my best, regardless of the outcome.
All of a sudden, they jumped up in unison.
“Trump has tweeted something!” they cried. “He has taken credit for the beauty of the Northern Lights, while misspelling ‘aurora borealis’!” From the kitchen I could feel the collective shudder of hatred mixed with confusion. Without even saying goodbye, they rushed out of my living room. I stood alone in my kitchen, holding a large wooden spoon covered in globs of sticky, half-soaked arborio rice and staring at the empty apartment in which I stood.
I walked back into the kitchen. The world wouldn’t know, but I would go at it alone, just me and the risotto. I stirred that rice with renewed vigor and poured the broth with extra precision. Two hours later, I turned off the stove. The smell of freshly made risottofilled the apartment. It looked mouthwatering, like a truly great risotto should.
At the kitchen table, exhausted, I turned on my computer. Now, Donald Trump was taking credit for other people’s dinners as well. Mark Williams was going to send his baked ziti to an oven in Mexico. But I called him and he’s going to bake it right here in the USA! Trump tweeted. Given my own experience, I doubted that Mark Williams was really going to send his ziti to Mexico. But I felt powerless to try to tell the world the truth; I could only take solace in the bowl of risotto in front of me.
I took a big, anticipation-filled bite. My glorious risotto was a bit dry and pretty flavorless, given that there were no vegetables in it. It was basically just overcooked puffy rice. It was not great; it was decidedly unexceptional. All of that effort and all of those promises, and I was left with a bowl of steaming mediocrity.
I looked up at my computer and saw that Trump had tweeted again.
Just tasted that risotto that Josh Freedman made — DELICIOUS. But to be clear: I could make an even better one!