The Eating Class
There are some things that public speakers don’t like. For political speakers it tends to be homosexuality or some other issue that should have long ago been accepted, for comedians it is Dane Cook (he’s apparently a terrible human being), and for food critics it is that X is not a true ethnic food.
A very common joke is to point out how stupid someone is by saying “They think Olive Garden is real Italian.” or “They think Chipotle is authentic wet burrito.” Something about the words authentic and real, and others like them, give these sentences a nice peppering of pretention.
I’m not a nutritionist, I try to keep up to date with information on food health but overall my understanding is just above middle of the road. So in terms of health and quality I do imagine that most food you would find in the US that is prepared for you is going to be less healthy than that same genre of food elsewhere in the world. But that is not the general argument with these restaurant bashes. The commentary tends to be one of class, only a fool hardy commoner would eat at these places. However someone of my honed sensibilities only eats at X or Y. My tastes are obviously better because the places I eat at are either served by people in dress suits or the entire building is made of plaster and the menus are printed on 8 by 11.
The most important questions I ask about a place are if the food is tasty and what the kind of food is. If I asked someone what kind of food Olive Garden was I would hope to get back “Italian” and “fairly tasty.” Obviously not everyone shares the same tastes, the food might be mortifying for some folks, and I imagine some of this boils down to health. People tend to look poorly upon businesses that use high fat oils and cheap additives to make their food extra greasy and fatty (thus making the food more desirable to your brain).
But this is not the point that is ever inflected, I won’t say anywhere, but anywhere I’ve heard it discussed. That to me should be the second avenue of investigation. Once you have established if the food tastes good and it fits your theme then you investigate the quality of the cooking. My college used some very cheap and very bad vegetable oils for cooking until students found out and blasted them for it. I find it odd that they cut corners when people are paying them tens of thousands of dollars, but I’ve covered my theories that a few articles back.
Partially from ignorance but I’d be surprised if there is any country you could easily eat out every day and not pick up an unhealthy lifestyle. I suspect if you worked hard enough and only frequented small family run businesses, the kind of places that charge more but use things that resemble actual foodstuffs. At least in the US there is no place that I can legitimately suggest for everyday eating and I don’t think anyone should be looking for such a thing.
We are routinely building our lives around our jobs, trying to get the fastest routine to squeeze a few extra minutes out of the time we are not working and this doesn’t lead to healthiness. Inevitably the blame falls upon all the places that profiteer on this because they are not taking our best interests to heart. However nobody is forcing anyone to eat at places that are producing fatty, greasy, and salty food. It’s not even all that hard to cook for yourself quickly and still eat fairly well.
Perhaps fruitlessly I’d love to see people be a little less condescending when someone mentions that they love to eat at Olive Garden, or Sbarros, or Red Lobster, etc, etc. In the interest of honesty I went to Olive Garden today, the breadsticks will haunt my dreams. If I could build an Olive Garden breadstick factory into the side of my home I probably would.
Of course I imagine I’d die from all that butter, so perhaps it is best I don’t.
As a random note, there was an article on Cracked that mentioned one of the worst effects of poverty is that people start to desire food that is incredibly bad for them because it is the only thing they could afford and as a child they become used to it. Real foods start to have textures and smells they aren’t comfortable with and so poor people are less likely to start eating healthy. It seemed pretty solid, but I’ve found that just about everything I ate a lot as a kid I can no longer stomach.