100%

Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue

Share

Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

September 07, 2004 - Image 33

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


COMMENTARY

The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2004 -96

The blanding of America
JESS PISKOR JOIN THE PISKOR

Attn. snobs: I love rock and roll, Hrithik, Jimmy John's

OCTOBER 21, 2003

AUBREY HENRETTY NELROTICA

OCTOBER 28, 2003

J spent a good

F ood is an
interesting
thing. It both
keeps us alive and
makes life worth
living. It is both
nourishment and a
source of pleasure.
Unfortunately, the
pleasurable aspects
of food are under attack by a group of
unadventurous and ignorant eaters: the
Blands.
The Blands are intent upon making
our world uniform. Blands are the
people who seem to thrive on the bor-
ing and the unoriginal. Blands are the
people who desperately search for the
same thing, the same foods and expe-
riences everywhere they go.
One of the main reasons chain
restaurants are successful is the
Blandian mantra, "I like the comfort
of knowing that a burger in Los Ange-
les will taste the same as here in Ann
Arbor. When I eat at Tchotchke's I
know what I'm getting, no matter
where I am."
Why do Blands feel this driving
need to have the same food every-
where? Lacking any understanding of
real food, Blands only feel comfort-
able eating when there's a big pile of
fried something on their plates and
free refills.
When I was a junior in high school,
my French class went to Paris. One
evening, our teacher gave us free
reign to stroll the Champs-Elysees to
find dinner. A couple friends and I
found a little bistro where we enjoyed
a simple yet elegant authentic French
meal with fresh bread, a nice entree, a
cheese course and a cheap French
wine. For a reasonable price we expe-
rienced something new and delicious.

The rest of the class - all Blands -
found a Chili's restaurant and had
strawberry daiquiris and french fries
while listening to American rock
music.
In what must be considered a victo-
ry for the Blands, another Jimmy
John's opened its doors in Ann Arbor
last week. Apparently, three stores
selling tasteless, dry and poorly baked
bread and overly-mayonnaised sand-
wiches just wasn't enough for the
Blands. Maybe they just couldn't get
enough of the faux old advertising,
free smells and fluorescent lighting.
Jimmy John's is not good food.
Despite their ads, it does not have
the "World's Greatest Gourmet
Sandwiches." Yet people swear they
are wonderful. I will not deny that
there are times when a Jimmy John's
sandwich hits the spot - in the
same way a Pabst Blue Ribbon does.
However, it displays a remarkable
level of ignorance as to what real
food is to argue that Jimmy John's is
quality food - or even remotely
gourmet.
Well, there's no accounting for
taste, right? Wrong. Take your food
relativism and shove it. Freshly baked
bread topped with farm fresh toma-
toes is better than white bread and
Kroger's tomatoes, guaranteed. People
might think they prefer Kraft Maca-
roni & Cheese or Lipton brand tea,
but this is for lack of trying anything
better or a result of years of palate-
deadening foods. It takes a little while
after switching to real food to begin to
taste all the subtleties of flavor, but
once tastebuds are awaked, there is no
going back.
Blands are bland largely because
they are lazy. The 10 minutes of effort
it might take to make a real sandwich

is just too much for a Bland, who
would much rather walk somewhere
out of his or her way to pay someone
to prepare an inferior sandwich.
Instead of using a modicum of plan-
ning to buy a real loaf of bread from a
bakery or perhaps go shopping for
food with a menu in mind, Blands put
as little thought into eating decisions
as possible. Blands might argue that
they aren't lazy, but rather too busy.
However, the minimal effort required
to eat better and the gloating attitude
through which they express their love
of all things boring belies this claim.
Not only are Blands lazy, they are
deeply in denial. Unwilling to believe
better food is available at roughly the
same price, Blands create a mytholo-
gy around their choices and can be
heard talking at length about the qual-
ity of ingredients at Jimmy John's or
the superior taste of a Bloomin'
Onion. Psychologically unwilling to
find foods that are in actuality better,
Blands build up an aversion to new
foods and flavors.
Price is the last defense of Blands.
"Surely," they argue, "better food
costs more." Well, it can, but it doesn't
have to. A bit of intelligent shopping
goes a long way. Fresh breads and
local produce can be found at bakeries
and farmer's markets for no more than
a few dollars and will provide for
more meals than a sub.
Yes, I'm a food elitist, a first-class
epicurean. But better that than a
Bland, a food relativist, living in a
world without moral absolutes and
unable or unwilling to distinguish
good quality food from bad.
Piskor can be reached
atjpiskor@umich.edu.

spent a good
number of my
hours last summer
watching "reality"
television and
Bollywood
movies. Usually
back to back: a
little "Paradise
Hotel a little "Kabhi Khushi Kab-
hie Gham" and a whole lot of subti-
tles and crying. And I am not
ashamed to admit I loved every sec-
ond of these viewing experiences. I
loved every cheesy profession of
love or loyalty, every musical num-
ber, every kissing-spree montage
(especially the one they showed
right after the hotel whore swore to
her longtime boyfriend that she'd
only locked lips with one PH boy -
dramatic irony at its finest), every
indoor close-up of Hrithik Roshan
in which his hair billowed as if
caught in a mysterious indoor
breeze or the path of a large station-
ary fan placed just off-camera.
Massive structural differences
aside, PH and K3G occupy similar
spaces in the entertainment world.
Both are products of huge profit-
driven industries and both appeal to
our most basic human interest: the
interpersonal relationship and the
many ways in which it can go horri-
bly, horribly wrong. Critics roll their
eyes at the strict adherence of each.
to its genre's conventions and result-
ing relative predictability, but fans
wouldn't have it any other way.
I suppose there is one other stand-
out similarity between "reality" TV
and Bollywood fare, and believe it
or not, this is something they share
with science fiction, Starbucks, pop

music, chain restaurants and mys-
tery novels. Something about their
mass appeal makes people hate
them.
I'm not trying to suggest that
some people don't loathe "reality"
TV because watching it for more
than 10 seconds at a time makes
them want to reach right through the
screen and throttle the next cast
member to say "playing the game"
with a straight face, or that some
people don't scorn Starbucks
because Starbucks coffee tastes
remarkably like freshly burnt rub-
ber. These are valid complaints.
What's missing from them is the
word, "hate." It takes something
very special to elicit active hate
from otherwise laid-back individu-
als - especially for something as
benign as a TV show or a song or a
double tall mocha - and a quick
conversation with any given hater is
all it takes to see what that special
something is: snobbery.
Yes, the true pop-cultural haters
are nothing but a bunch of stuck-up
sourpusses, a humorless band of
elitists who insist that nothing good
is ever popular, that nothing popular
is ever good. And they are every-
where. You'll find them in every
facet of life, from the literary ("Oh,
my God, is that a Stephen King
novel? Don't you realize that
William Faulkner exists, you poor
slob??) to the culinary ("Excuse me,
did you just say Jimmy John's sand-
wiches were delicious? But they use
white bread and pre-sliced meat!
Don't you have taste buds?").
They're expert martyrs, too, per-
fectly capable of questioning your
taste and attacking your character in
the same breath. They'll tell you

you're not allowed to continue to
like what you once liked if too many
other people now like it. I hate to
keep coming back to Starbucks
(mmm ... burnt rubber), but say you
happened to like Starbucks coffee.
If you lived in Seattle in the '70s
and that was the case, fine; it was a
successful local business back then,
God bless it. But no more. Shop
there now - i.e. drink the coffee
you have been enjoying for the past
30 years - and you're a selfish,
corporation-lovin', homogeny-
pushin' sellout. You lose. If you had
any kind of moral backbone whatso-
ever, you'd buy coffee from the little
coffee shop across town - the one
that serves the coffee you don't like
- so that others will have a choice.
I think this reasoning is self-evi-
dently ridiculous. But that is a side
issue.
What I suspect is really going on
with our friends the snobs is that
they - like the adolescent tormen-
tors they are trying so desperately
to move past in their minds - are
so helplessly concerned with being
the coolest of the cool that they've
forgotten how to have fun. They'll
never be able to point and laugh at
their own silly problems (the lies
they've told and been told, the stu-
pid things they've said in the pres-
ence of witnesses) as re-inacted in
prime-time by "real" people on
tropical islands. They'll never
appreciate brain candy. The rest of
us should pity them, but never
judge. After all, there is no account-
ing for taste.

Henretty can be reached
at ahenrett@umich.edu.

Back to Top

© 2021 Regents of the University of Michigan