election night

So, What Are We Having For Dinner Tonight?

This election makes meal planning impossible.

Photo: PM Images/Getty Images
Photo: PM Images/Getty Images

It is Election Day, and for everyone who has already voted, there is only one decision left to make: What are we going to have for dinner?

In truth, I have thought of little else for weeks. Everytime I think about the election, which is always, I think about what I’m going to eat. You might imagine that dinner is a comparatively soothing question, but I assure you it is not: I am extremely anxious about this. The advantage, though, is that the panic is localized, and in theory what I eat tonight is mostly under my control. It will, at the very least, be resolved definitively before I go to bed. On the other hand, I don’t want to do it wrong. I have decided that it matters. This is history, and I want to eat the right thing.

I keep asking people, “What are you having for dinner on Election Night?” “Huh?” they tell me, as though they haven’t thought about it.

“I could make a pizza!” I suggested to my boyfriend, even though delivery would be better and faster. “Are you worried Election Night won’t be stressful enough?” he replied. I interpret this as a “no” vote for pizza.

Because it is going to be a long night — an endless night, perhaps — I want something that can be eaten slowly, over the course of many hours or days. I want it to taste good and be impossible to fuck up. This is not the time for new recipes or iffy restaurants. Going into tonight, I want at least one guarantee.

There are so many considerations. For a while, I thought I wanted something labor-intensive, to distract me from looking at the internet or TV, but then I decided the opposite: In the interest of realism, I should order takeout. Takeout is very festive, I think, unless it is depressing. Today feels much the same! It is impossible to plan a meal for an uncertain occasion. Usually, with dinner, you know what mood you’re trying to accommodate.

On previous Election Nights, I have been with other people, at the indoor social gatherings that were once known as parties. I partook in a tasting menu of chips and other chips and sometimes also dried-out baby carrots. I could do that alone in my living room, too, in theory — but in isolation, that menu seems a little grim. Also, I would still be hungry, and you can’t eat more “when you get home” if you’ve been home the whole time. Or maybe I will have no appetite at all. Perhaps I will never have an appetite again!

When political scientist Naunihal Singh posed a version of this question on Twitter, some people talked about comfort food and other people talked about bourbon. “Pizza!” people cried resoundingly. Other favorites: Tacos. Hot wings. Ice cream. Gin. “I’m making risotto with wild mushrooms, pancetta, and peas and topped with pecorino and grilled shrimp,” offered one aspirational outlier. I thought, Whoa.

Several people told me, after I pressed them repeatedly, they were considering macaroni and cheese, a quintessential comfort food ideal for celebration, sadness, and the month of November. I respect this, but I worry: Mac and cheese is heavy, and it feels important to remain spry. In case of what? I’m not sure. I guess in case I have to tweet something?

Drinks will be important. I would advise against Champagne, only because I am afraid of hope — and still traumatized by seeing all those unopened bottles in people’s fridges after 2016. Champagne is for Wednesday, January 20, optimistically. Tonight is for the soothing burn of mid-tier whiskey, the energizing thrill of seltzer, and then the solace of Sleepytime Classic by Celestial Seasonings tea.

Tonight, election dinner — if you can unclench your jaw enough to chew and swallow — is the one variable you can lock down. I think I have settled on hot and sour soup. It is, at the very least, a sure thing.

So, What Are We Having For Dinner Tonight?