Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Food Court Low Cuisine

Not my local food court. Photo by Danny Haak, available for free use under a Creative Commons license.


I'm an unapologetic fan of mall food courts and airport restaurants.  Excluding bakery fare, the best foods have relatively simple ingredients. Baking cakes and confections can be complex even in the simpler cases, but entrees need not be. For this reason, I'm also a critic of "foodie" culture, especially as applied to contemporary American cuisine (i.e. middle American food).

Things foodies are wrong about:

1. American cheese. No other cheese melts as well as American cheese, and it tastes good. Why bother making a complex sauce with 5 ingredients when you can just melt American? It forms a sauce naturally when melted and retains its molten character longer than any other cheese I've encountered. And yes, American cheese is really cheese. It is, by law, required to be manufactured from real cheese precursors. It's basically a blended cheese, much like there are blended wines. When I hear an American foodie disdaining it, I hear them signalling sophistication rather than an honest opinion.

2. Tomato ketchup. Ok, this may be an American foodie thing, but it's pretty popular right now to criticize ketchup. But French haute cuisine uses tomato ketchup. And yes, they use Heinz sometimes. Granted, they tend to use it more as an ingredient than a condiment, but the fact that they use it invalidates claims about it being for the uncultured, boring, or nasty. Claiming ketchup is disgusting because it's "middle American" is about the most hilarious self-own a foodie can make. Ketchup on a meatloaf? Yes. Ketchup in sauces? Yes. Ketchup on meat? Yes . . . well, sometimes yes.

3. Avocado on everything. I love fresh, ripe avocado, but at this point is it not only being overused, but abused. Stop putting avocado on everything. It doesn't go with everything. Example: avocado does not go particularly well with beef. It isn't terrible but the tastes, in my opinion, aren't particularly complementary. You taste two things: avocado and beef, separately, but they don't go together. I think it started with avocado on chicken and turkey, which makes more sense, then migrated to avocado on turkey burgers, and the next thing you know it's on ground beef burgers and steak. Stop that.

4. Bacon as a topping for other meats. The whole point of putting bacon on other types of meat, is that it is fatty, and if you cook it together, the bacon fat will flavor the other meat. You aren't supposed to just cook it separately, put it aside, then use it as a topping, except maybe on a salad, baked potato, or other vegetable dish. If you want a bacon cheeseburger, then the bacon needs to be cooked with the ground beef so that the pork fat flavors the beef, otherwise there is no point. As a fine point, I think this is most sensible with leaner ground beef.

6. Ersatz vegetarian/vegan food. You can make delicious vegan recipes, but it's senseless to make vegan "Mac & cheese" if you don't have real dairy cheese. Invent a new sauce and stop trying to emulate omnivore recipes. Give it a new name and its own history. Don't call it Macaroni and cheese if it isn't cheese. Don't call it chicken if it isn't chicken. Invent a new vegan "meat" and give it some other name. Or stop lying to yourself about what you want and just eat meat.

7. Beer snobs. The extreme popularity of a "good, hoppy IPA" is a typical example of foodie culture run amok, and into the ditch. IPA beers were the rotgut, cheap beer of the 18th century. They were created for long shelf life, not flavor. Loading a beer with hops to make it peppery is an easy trick to make a palatable beer. I'm not against IPAs, and I drink them reasonably often, but I think people claim to like IPAs because all the cool kids are doing it rather than that they know anything about beer or have a sophisticated palette. Food and drink should be popular because it is good, not because of peer pressure or herd mentality. There are other beer types than the India Pale Ale.

As I saw in one Quora answer a few months ago from (gasp) as European, a lot of American food has become popular around the world, including in Europe, the alleged home of gastronomy, because it is good. Basic middle-American cuisine is high on fat and salt, and that is where the flavor comes from. The last time I checked, McDonald's was the most popular fast food chain in France.

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