Food in america

Why can't you get a decent cup of coffee in New York? asks culture kiosque.

It may well ask, why is it impossible to get anything decent-tasting to eat or drink in the whole of the United States.

Following the gourmet boom of the 90's, things are better in most places of the country than they once were, but they are only relatively better: mass produced Canadian "President Brie" still passes for "gourmet cheese" in most snazzy places of new England; restaurants still serve the same tired, tasteless food, concentrating their marketing efforts on service and ambiance instead; and verbal innovation: it is "Thai-fusion" now instead of "sushi", though, with your eyes closed, you could not tell the difference; and produce -- meat, fruit and vegetables -- remain as indistinguishable from each other in taste and texture as they have always been. (I have always suspected that they were all produced in the same factory out of the same basic pulp merely injected into different molds and then spray-painted to create a pleasing appearance).

The health food boom may have made organic vegetables standard, but it only satisfies the moral urge to be good to one's body (being good to one's body is one of the pillars of the code of ethics in the US1): it has done nothing for the taste of the stuff. In America, to paraphrase a character from Madness of King George, it turns out, it is possible to eat healthy food every day of one's life and -- never enjoy it.

The article then haphazardly gropes for explanations ("Protectionism? Nostalgia? Fierce brand loyalty? Hostility to fancy-schmantzy European drinks?") but brings me no closer to the mystery that, apparently, the whole American nation has no taste buds. If one did not know they -- the New-Worlders -- pretty much all come from here -- the Old World -- one would suspect some evil mutation. As it is, one is left with just two viable theories: either cultural determination, Barthes-like, extends to taste-bud formation; or emigration to the US was taste-bud asymmetrical: the genetic material was somehow sifted by the boats. ("No, you cannot embark on this boat, sorry.")

Shouldn’t the center of the civilized universe be able to provide a visiting Brit with a reasonable caffeine fix? asks the article, Brit-like, tongue in cheek. It means: it isn't.


1 As predicted by someone -- Wittgenstein? No, he didn't have the wit; more likely Russell, he had so many things right! (Except the main point, of course).


Andrew W. said...

Ah Sir G, this resonates. Now I am lucky, because I happen to have three wonderful places to get coffee within a three minute walk from my house. But I live in a utopic little part of Toronto the goes for this kind of culture.

The reality is that the moment one steps out of my square block, it is much easier to get bad coffee than good.

Do you know how many times I ask for an espresso and they ask me short or long, long meaning more water through the coffee? And when I say short, they still give me enough liquid to safely call what I'm drinking an Americano?

Our culture here is all about volume, Sir G. Volume.

Sir G said...

"sock juice" :)

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