Uniquely American?

This article (via Insty) lists the top 5 restaurants that define America, and quite frankly, it made me gloomy. Here’s why.

Two of the restaurant chains (Taco Bell and Domino’s) are basically watered-down bastardizations of another country’s food type.  Taco Bell is barely Mexican, and Domino’s is barely Italian — much as is the case with Spaghetti Warehouse and Olive Garden.  (I do take issue with the author’s lionization of made-in-Italy pizza, by the way.  I think you get better pizza in New Jersey and Chicago than anything made in Rome, for instance.)  That both Domino’s and Taco Bell are so popular — despite their tenuous relationship with their specific ethnic origins — is fine, I guess;  but it does point to the homogenization of the American diet, which is not so good.

Then there’s this about Starbucks:

When Howard Schultz conceptualized Starbucks, he wanted the coffee shop to be a “third place” for people. He knew that most people spent the majority of their time at home and at work. He hoped Starbucks would fill in any gaps that existed and become the place where people went when they were in between home and the office. And he succeeded.

That this defines America is a huge tell — because in almost every other Western country in the world, the “third place” is not a coffee bar but a pub.  That we prefer coffee to alcohol in our “third place” is unsurprising, because we Americans (your Humble Narrator very much excluded) have a peculiar attitude towards booze in that we’re constantly at war with it (e.g. Prohibition) while at the same time we’re in love with it.  Just as unfortunately, Americans prefer to consume booze to get drunk (e.g. shots, chasers and keggers) instead of using booze moderately, as a social lubricant.  Worst of all, American bars have totally fucked things up either by playing loud, horrible music inside as though they’re dance clubs, or else by mounting giant TV screens on the walls to screen sporting contests (likewise played at earsplitting volume, to create the “live” atmosphere).  Being deafened by rap or rock music or having one’s conversation destroyed by screaming sports fans is not supportive of socializing — which, by the way, is one thing that Starbucks did get right, by not succumbing to the bar ethic.  The other thing that Starbucks got right — even though I disagree with it — is that by pricing their product so high, they’ve made coffee equivalent to booze (a Starbucks coffee costs about the same as a beer and is only marginally cheaper than, say, a daiquiri).

As for the other restaurant chains named, I find little to disagree with (except for his dig at Wendy’s).  And thank goodness we have Dunkin’ Donuts, America’s answer to Britain’s Greggs chain.  Maybe there is hope for us after all;  but I still wish we had more of a pub culture Over Here, if for no other reason than to lessen the influence of the dreadful Starbucks.

Heresy

Having read about my love for sausage rolls and the Greggs chain before, Loyal Readers will no doubt be waiting for my comment on the furious public reaction when Greggs recently decided to open a store in Cornwall:

The bakery chain Greggs has sparked fury after it opened its first branch in Cornwall – but it won’t be selling its own version of the famous Cornish pasty.
Workers have said the store feared its crimped on top ‘the Devon way’ pasty would upset locals and wouldn’t be welcome.
Instead the outlet at a service station just off the A38 in Saltash features a range of slices and other baked goods including sausage rolls, sandwiches and cakes.
One outraged local even asked: ‘Why in the name of Satan does our county need a Greggs?’
It is understood that Greggs, which has had several stores in neighbouring Devon for many years, has never sold pasties in the West Country as it did not want to create a pasty war. [it’s pronounced “pass-ti” not “pay-sti” — Kim]

I find myself unmoved by the brouhaha because — and let it be shouted from the rooftops — Cornish pasties are shit.

Here’s why.  The problem with adding vegetables to a meat pie is twofold:  firstly, the carrots, beans and such are generally overcooked, which makes them taste bland and horrible;  and secondly, if I buy a meat pie, I want meat — and for too long, unscrupulous bakers have overloaded pasties with veggies because vegetables are cheaper than meat.  (I’m even a little iffy about steak ‘n potato pies, for the same reason.)

So my proud boast is that I haven’t eaten a Cornish pasty in (probably) thirty-five years, not even when I was in Boscastle last year.

And when (not if) I venture into a Greggs in Cornwall in the future, it’ll be sausage rolls or steak bakes, not that pasty rubbish.

5 Worst Dietary “Facts”

According to this study*:

  • Lowfat / skim milk is better for you than full-cream milk
  • Saturated fats in your diet will cause heart problems
  • Margarine is better for you than butter or lard
  • Red meat is bad for you
  • The government and health scolds know what the fuck they’re talking about

*Next week, another study will probably come out and disprove this one.  Caveat lector.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a breakfast of steak ‘n eggs (fried in butter).  And a full glass of half ‘n half to wash it down.

Good Question

A while ago, the Daily Mail raised an interesting point:

How much pain would YOU tolerate for booze?
Heavy drinkers will put up with uncomfortable electric shocks to get their alcohol fix, study finds

Granted, I’m not a “heavy drinker” (I’m fat and I like a drink, but that’s the extent of it), so I’m not really in the target demographic, but it is nevertheless an interesting topic for conjecture.

Let’s change the methodology a tad (ignoring that violent electric shock nonsense), and ask instead:  how much inconvenience and/or discomfort would you put up with in order to get your favorite booze down your throat?

Myself:  quite a bit.  I have been known to walk a considerable distance to get a decent pint of ale into me:  I dimly recall once trudging across The Englishman’s muddy fields in the rain towards The King’s Arms at All Cannings (or maybe I was trudging back — Wadworth’s 6X has a way of affecting the memory), which was both uncomfortable and inconvenient.  Don’t even ask how much I’ve trodden the sidewalks of e.g. Edinburgh, London, Johannesburg, Vienna, Paris etc. just to have some beer, wine, gin or Scotch, as the locale warranted.

And because Plano is lamentably bereft of pubs that serve good British ale, I have to drive nearly to Dallas —  all the way south to Addison’s The Londoner — just for a pint of Fuller’s London Pride:  a fair amount of inconvenience, I think you’ll agree.

But forget pain.  Anyone who’s ever experienced chronic gout — the effects of which are exacerbated by booze — would probably join me in saying “Fuck, no!” if offered a gin while suffering a gout attack.  I suppose that’s what differentiates me from being a heavy drinker to being a simple (and occasional) drunk.

Your thoughts in Comments, as usual…

 

“My Name Is Kim, And I’m An Addict”

I have the world’s greatest sweet tooth.

If there’s no candy in the house, I’ll suck on brown sugar cubes.  I mix peanut butter with golden syrup, I will add sugar to Frosted Flakes (!!!);  and speaking of cereal, the last time I had Honey Smacks in a bowl with milk was during Richard Nixon’s first term, because  I normally eat it out of the box with a glass of milk on the side.  I can’t drink coffee or tea without sugar;  and because I hate the taste of plain water, I add a few drops of lemon juice — which makes it too bitter, so I add (you guessed it) a spoon of brown sugar.

My only concession to health is that I’ve managed to eliminate white sugar from my diet altogether in favor of brown sugar, which tastes better, and I’ve only managed to reduce my total sugar intake by eliminating all sodas unless as occasional mixers in gin, rum etc.  I ration myself in the aforementioned tea and coffee by using only 1 teaspoon of sugar per 4ozs of liquid — ergo in a 12oz cup, I’ll add three spoons of brown sugar, and I never drink any quantity larger than 14ozs of anything.

And then we come to chocolate.

Or rather, let’s not come to chocolate, because in matters chocolate I can be so gluttonous that I can make myself sick just in the thinking of it.  If there’s a giant bar of white chocolate (e.g. Nestlé’s Milky Bar, my greatest weakness) I can eat the whole thing in a single sitting, and Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate and Rowntree’s Aero are almost as deadly.  I loathe Hershey Bar chocolate, by the way, because there’s too much cocoa (cacao?) in the formulation;  but when it comes to milk chocolate of the Cadbury’s ilk, I’m a goner.  You know how a leopard will encounter a flock of sheep, and kill and kill and kill until it’s exhausted, and only then carry off a single sheep to eat?  When it comes to chocolate, I’m the leopard and chocolate is the sheep — only I eat everything I kill.

My gastric band is powerless against chocolate because chocolate turns to liquid in the mouth and goes straight down.  It’s a wonder I don’t weigh 500lbs, and it is a testament to my willpower — which has taken me, oh, about thirty years to build up — that I can limit myself to the occasional (small) chocolate bar a month.

One of the few things which saves me is that I cannot abide certain things added to chocolate.  I speak here of nuts of any kind — which is strange because I quite like certain nuts like peanuts and cashews:  just not in my chocolate.  And because I don’t want to throw up all over my keyboard, we will not talk about coconut.  Other than those things, I don’t mind (okay, I love) soft centers, which is why Daughter (a sadist who makes De Sade look like an amateur) gives me for Christmas each year a box of custom-filled soft centers from See’s Candies.  Once again, it is a testament to my willpower that it can take me as long as three days to finish a box thereof because my natural inclination is to consume the entire contents on Christmas Day.  Before lunchtime.

Because I grew up in a British colony (South Africa), the chocolates we had were British, and this was especially true of the boxed chocolate assortments like Cadbury’s Roses and Mackintosh’s Quality Street.  The only thing that has ever stopped me from eating entire boxes and tins of either brand is that they contain landmines — the aforementioned nuts and coconut IEDs.

       

 

It’s a good thing that I no longer live there, and especially not in Britishland either, because retailer John Lewis has come up with the outstanding (!) idea that customers should be allowed to create their own assortments to fill a tin of Quality Street chocolates.

Quality Street chocolates are synonymous with Christmas but every year, the flavours that no-one likes always get left at the bottom of the tin.
Now John Lewis has found a way to ensure every treat will be eaten as shoppers will be able to create their own bespoke tins at pix and mix stations in selected UK stores from late September until December 23.
Customers will be able to choose only their favourite chocolates to fill up a 1.2kg tin, which means if you want a tub full of The Purple Ones and no Strawberry Delights, you can have it for £12.

That swooshing sound you may be hearing in your ears right now is the sound of me salivating.  OMG the thought of a Quality Street tin full of Strawberry Delight, Fudge, Orange Cream, Caramel Swirls and Milk Choc Blocks is so alluring, I can’t stand it.

Thank goodness this Satanic Selection of Temptation is on the other side of The Pond, and will be of limited duration (pre-Christmas only when, this year, I will not be there).  And before any of my Brit Readers (and you know who you are) start hatching evil plans to send me any, I should point out that chocolate doesn’t travel well, especially through the mail.  Please don’t.  Let me just deal with the lack thereof in as manful a way as I can — i.e., with a few small sobs and lots of sighing — and a feeling of relief that I won’t die of Massive Chocolate Overload.

Not this year, anyway, unless Daughter buys me a large box of See’s.

I am so weak

More Crap

Oh good grief, here we go again:

Saturated fats in yoghurt, cheese and butter do NOT increase the risk of heart disease — and may actually prevent a stroke
Eating full-fat dairy actually reduces the risk of dying from stroke by 42 percent, a study found.
Lead author Dr Marcia Otto, from the University of Texas, Houston, said: ‘Our findings not only support, but also significantly strengthen, the growing body of evidence which suggests that dairy fat, contrary to popular belief, does not increase risk of heart disease or overall mortality in older adults.
‘In addition to not contributing to death, the results suggest that one fatty acid present in dairy may lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, particularly from stroke.’
Dietary guidelines in the US and UK recommend people people opt for low or no-fat dairy, however, the researchers warn such options are often high in sugar, which can drive heart disease.
Milk, yoghurt and cheese contain nutrients such as calcium, which lowers blood pressure, as well as anti-inflammatory fatty acids.

And next week, the same group of researchers will say Oops! that’s not strictly true, and all those tasty foods actually lead to brain cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

The war against saturated fats was total bullshit from the start, was based on distorted and in many cases untrue data, and the whole “no-fat / low-fat” campaign was akin to heeding the advice of a guy wearing a wizard’s hat.

A pox on all of them.  Eat what you want, in moderation.  It’s gluttony that kills — hell, drinking too much water is deadly — so go out there and live your life the way you want, not the way some busybody doctors or (even worse) government flunkies want you to.