December 16, 2008

Eating other people's junk

Eco-friendly people delight in putting down the deep-fried, greasy, sugar-soaked convenience food that provides most of a lower class American's calories. If only we could open our minds to the simpler ways of the uncivilized world, we would enjoy the many benefits of living off of leaves, nuts, and berries.

Nevermind their words, though -- judge them by their actions. Just plop them in a foreign restaurant and see how their chosen foods compare to KFC, Whoppers, and glazed donuts. Without exception, they will be more deep-fried -- falafel, samosas -- more greasy and messy -- gyros -- and sugary -- gulab jamun, baklava. But don't forget: it's another culture's deep-fried, street-vendor junk food, so wolfing it down your piehole is not only OK -- it's enlightening.

Let's face it, though: some of your middle and upper class peers won't get it, so you'll need a little PR to keep them from asking too many annoying questions. For example, rather than describing the taste as "salty," go for "savory." And instead of "sugary," use "decadent." Nothing is "greasy" or "artery-clogging" -- it's "hearty." In place of "deep-fried," try "kettle cooked." Using this term in particular will score bonus points because of its sophisticated, wary view of technology. You see, an electricity-using deep fryer is too stained by the legacy of modernity, while a kettle harks back to the Eden of honest cooking when peasants huddled around a cauldron full of sludge at dinner, for want of tables.

What if the food doesn't have any taste at all? That's OK -- just call it "artisanal." By valuing the purity of the process rather than the yumminess of the result, you'll tap into your friends' views on everything from standardized testing to bad lovers. Indeed, how it got made is so important that many corporations include a mission statement on the container about how organically it got into your supermarket:

Our pupusas come from completely free-range, soy-fed Salvadoreans, 100% guaranteed to be free of growth hormones and antibiotics. Unlike corporate farmers, we place our consumers first: our artisans are carefully inspected for cholera and dysentery before hand-crafting your pupusas. Expect no less from Applebottom Valley Organic Farms.

You might naively think that the food of any old rural culture unspoiled by the dominant, mainstream culture would do -- but you would be mistaken at your next dinner party to serve the cuisine of West Virginia. The chow of Italian bumpkins is permissible, but you should really munch the slop of a dark-skinned community, just to be safe.


  1. "Crispy" is another common euphemism for deep-fried.

    One correction: "artisanal" does not usually mean "tasteless," but rather "obscenely overpriced."

  2. The problem with American fast food as opposed to ethnic food is the former is far more processed and refined using low-quality ingredients. There isn't anything wrong with sea salt, sourdough or sprouted bread, or butter. Refined salt, white "enriched" bread, and margarine are god-awful, both in terms of taste and health. A lot of the meat in fast food burgers isn't even meat! The part that is comes from factory farmed sickly corn-fed cows pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones.

    Take teens and 30something women. They're both female, but there's clearly a difference in quality.

  3. I try not to laugh out loud while reading online, but I couldn't help myself with this one:

    What if the food doesn't have any taste at all? That's OK -- just call it "artisanal."

    Hah, I will.

    If you'd written this post and others like it a few years ago, you'd probably be enjoying a six-figure book advance now.

  4. Great post. I, too, loved the "artisanal" line.

  5. Roissy-esque post Agnostic, and a quite good one. Very true stuff.

    You are an insightful young man.

  6. Have you actually seen restaurants try to pass off pupusas as fine cuisine here in the US?

    I've only found pupusas in one place in the US, and they were selling them out of a van.
    Like any good SWPL person, I've had real pupusas in El Salvador.

  7. In the DC area, I'm pretty sure Trader Joe's or Whole Foods carries them.


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