Burrata May Not Save the Country, But I’m Going to Keep Acting Like it Might
Since Donald Trump was elected President in November of 2016, I’ve ordered burrata off of a menu at least 72 times.
But let’s back it up. If you don’t know what burrata is, A) my soul weeps for you and B) I urge you to go fix that by purchasing and consuming some immediately. Burrata is a gooey, buttery cheese made from a mozzarella shell stuffed with stracciatella and cream. It is the richest cheese I’ve ever tasted, and second to the Pizookie(™) is the only food item I value before my own life.
The account that’s about to follow is part love letter, part manifesto, and best appreciated by non-vegans.
I can’t speak for the rest of the population, but in New York it’s seemed like Burrata has been on every other menu since 2015. You have burrata with tomatoes and bread, bruschetta style, burrata atop pizza, burrata served with peaches and figs. Warm burrata, chilled burrata, truffled burrata, burrata with cracked black pepper and olive oil. Never have I met a more versatile food that felt so complete, so equally idyllic no matter how it was prepared. Burrata is the elixir of [my] life. When the Greeks spoke of Ambrosia, they meant burrata.
I loved burrata before the election, but I had not fully embraced its healing powers until the U.S. was turned on top of its head. Now, I know I’m hardly the first person to talk about stress eating in the wake of Trump, but at a time when the higher powers of government are crumbling—nay, combusting—all around you, suddenly the power of a homey comfort food quadruples.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, he attributes much of the success of the world’s most powerful people to timing. Timing also allowed for my one-sided love affair with burrata. I graduated college in 2015, the same year that the goopy miracle cheese began regularly cropping up in NYC’s Italian and farm-to-table eateries. After graduating I really began to get over my obsessive eating habits, thus allowing myself to finally eat full servings of cheese. In 2015 and 2016 I dipped my toe lightly into the pool of burrata offerings, testing out the temperature. And mark my words, it was like a Caribbean ocean every time. New York’s booming burrata scene meant that restaurants were trying to outdo each other when it came to taste, inventiveness, and presentation of the cheese, and there I was, caught in the middle of the most delicious competition known to humankind. I also suffer from classic millennial money spending habits—like spending too much dough on avocado toast to ever be able to afford a house. Replace avo toast with burrata and no foreseeable reason to seriously settle down in the future (I’m a freelance writer-actor-cellist terrified of being tied to one city for the rest of my life, why would I ever need to own a house?) and voila, my lifestyle was essentially written for me.
Then comes election night 2016. I began the night, like so many others, hopeful and preemptively celebratory. The friend who hosted me for the event broke out the champagne fountain from her wedding, ready to be loaded with a bottle of bubbly once the glass ceiling was shattered. As the results rolled in, we became increasingly anxious and relocated to a Greenpoint bar that was serving cocktails called NeverTrump and Madame President, thinking that being around other people would reassure us that a Trump victory couldn’t be real. The bartenders would convince us that this is just what happens—the results skew in the red direction for dramatic effect before bouncing back to blue.
But then came Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina, and when people in the bar kept asking each other if they were seeing the map correctly, no one knew what to say. I tearfully ate pierogies from the food truck in the bar’s garden where a group of Russian students told me it wasn’t going to be that bad.
The election was a political wakeup call for me, as it was for so many other coastal millennials. Before Trump I cared about politics theoretically, sure—I knew how I felt about the big issues, I was registered Democrat, and I knew I should know more about my local officials. But I had come of age during the Obama era. I’d had the classiest President and First Lady role models a teenager could hope for. The worst thing I’d heard a candidate say was “binders full of women.” I felt safe in the system because even if the scale tipped red after eight Democratic Obama years, it was never going to go that red. Trump was a joke, and as infuriated as I became listening to his debates, I held onto a naive faith that even the most frustrated, looked over rural voters would see through the massive pile of bullshit that was his campaign.
After the election I became furious at the antiquity of the electoral college. I joined protests, I called and wrote to and even faxed my representatives. I made customized jewelry and donated all of the proceeds to human and environmental rights organizations. I tried to engage in productive conversations with a few Trump voters, and realized there was so much about America that I didn’t understand.
As much as I could try to do to affect change, there was still the matter of existing day-to-day in a country whose leader condones sexual assault, issues racist, homophobic, and transphobic comments and policies, and whose total lack of competence is enough to send someone into cardiac arrest. I could and would fight, but when I put down my sword I needed something to make everyday existence enjoyable.
In came burrata.
My first post-election burrata was courtesy of my favorite local pizza restaurant, Milkflower, in Astoria, Queens. It remains a regular staple. Then came the Women’s March in D.C, followed by the gooey appetizer at Frank. The Muslim travel bans and JFK protests graced our country but a week later, and R’a’R bar put the cheesy wonder on the menu. And so it continued. Trump’s paper towel throwing and lack of action after Puerto Rico: Burrata eaten alone (though Andrew Rannells was sitting noticeably close by) at Aria Wine Bar. “Shithole countries,” a fried burrata special at Westville. Trying to keep transgender folks out of the military. Murray’s Cheese Bar. Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement. Nytorget 6 (I was in Stockholm, and found burrata amongst the meatballs). The repeal of DACA. Obicà. His limpness in the wake of gun tragedies. La Bionda. Healthcare. Bar Primi. Taxes. Supper. I could go on. I hate that I could go on.
Thankfully for my waistline, I’ve never followed him on Twitter.
When actions feel like they’re not enough, I remember the 2018 Senate elections. They’re coming so soon, and hopefully they’ll make an impact. I make recurrig contributions to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and Everytown for Gun Safety. I read Lauren Duca’s column.
No, the country was not immediately nuked by North Korea when Trump was elected. And my life, on the whole, was not drastically affected. I am cisgendered and white. I am not an immigrant. I am young, I am able-bodied, I am still on my parents’ healthcare plan. I do not depend on government welfare. I can afford to eat the occasional disaster burrata thanks to my two jobs + freelancing.
But too many people’s lives were altered and shattered by Trump’s policies. And for those of us still standing, the fact remains that an abhorrent human whose critical faculties are wanting, to say the least, who says cruel, inexcusable things, who cheated on his pregnant wife with a porn star, who is disarmingly unqualified holds what used to be the most prestigious position in American government. He may not be the worst or cruelest leader the world has ever seen, but he’s the most unacceptable leader America has ever had.
America will regroup after Trump. The White House will be restaffed. Bills will be passed and policies will be altered. We may not have the first female President for many years to come, but we will, at least, award the seat in the Oval Office to competent politicians. We hope.
Until then, we have random acts of kindness. We have dogs. We have books and a free press and national parks. We have our communities, we have our voices, we have art. And we have sinfully decadent dairy-based dishes.