I rarely share my bizarre dreams with the world, but this one was so bizarre, so incomprehensible, that I just had to share it.
I was at a McDonald’s on the East Coast (in New Jersey, I believe), and I discovered they served all kinds of items that are not on the menu at McDonald’s in the Midwest. One in particular was Salisbury steak. But that’s not the most horrible food imaginable. It is part of the most horrible food imaginable.
I can’t even remember exactly what they called this culinary disaster, but I do remember its name ended (ironically? cruelly?) with “Delight.” First, they started with a bed of rice. That’s the only marginally healthy aspect of the whole meal. Next, they placed two Salisbury steaks end-to-end atop the rice. Then, on one steak, they placed four of their standard hamburger patties, each topped with a slice of cheese. On the other steak, they placed four Filet-O-Fish… uh… “filets”… each also covered with a slice of cheese. And then they topped it all off with two more Salisbury steaks end-to-end, and drenched the entire thing in a generous pour of thick brown gravy.
I have attempted an “artist’s rendition” of this horrible food nightmare, for your misery. (And, yes, it was served in a paper tray exactly like this one.)
I’m not sure how I feel about Domino’s Pizza. It would be easy to say I hate it, but then, if I really hated it so much, why do I keep getting pizza there?
Domino’s made waves a few months ago with a risky ad campaign promoting their completely revamped pizza recipe. Publicly acknowledging that your old crust tasted like “cardboard” and your old sauce like “ketchup” and your old cheese like… well… I’m not sure what, but it wasn’t cheese, that’s a big risk for a major chain like Domino’s. Millions of dollars in revenue were at stake. And if you’re willing to acknowledge that you’ve been delivering a decidedly sub-par product to your customers for decades, why should we trust you to make it better?
And yet, I still order Domino’s. It’s not like my pizza palate lacks sophistication: there’s an excellent local pizza joint (in the vaguely New York style that dominates most of the country) just a couple blocks farther from my house than the nearest Domino’s (which is close enough that I shouldn’t be able to justify not walking to pick up my pizza); I’ve relished the authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas from Pizza Biga and Punch; and I enjoy the contemporary American reinterpretation of what pizza can be (albeit in a homogenized, chain restaurant fashion) from California Pizza Kitchen. And then of course there’s Davanni’s.
And yet, even after all of that, I still order Domino’s.
I think it has more than a little to do with the fact that I hate ordering pizza over the phone. I don’t like having to have the person on the other end rattle off the specials; I feel like I’m missing something. I like ordering online, because I’m a web geek, it feels like a video game, and more practically, because it lays out all of my options before me, and I can experiment at my leisure until I have exactly what I want, at the best price available. If my neighborhood pizza place had online ordering, I would never get pizza anywhere else. But as it is, my choices are Domino’s (bad) or Pizza Hut (worse). So, Domino’s it is.
Last night we ordered a pair of medium Domino’s pizzas, trying both the new thin crust and the new hand-tossed crust. The pizzas were not great. Visually they were fine, and structurally they were OK — the crusts were actually pretty good. But the flavors were so intense, so recklessly assembled, that the overall impression was just a pure taste assault. Unfortunately, that pure taste assault has been carefully tweaked and optimized to trigger all of the proper pleasure centers in the human brain (or at least the American human brain), so even though I didn’t really enjoy the pizza — it was something to devour, not to savor — I just couldn’t stop myself from eating more and more and more.
Domino’s Pizza isn’t food; it’s a drug. And I think I’m hooked.
I had noticed for some years that it was increasingly common to see, in the Mexican food sections of most local grocery stores, stocked in amongst the numerous flavors of Jarritos soda, a few glass bottles (the old-time returnable kind) of Coke. Mexican Coke. I never really “got it” or, frankly, cared too much to figure out what might be different about it and why it would be sold here, but lately it seems that the Cuba Libre (more commonly known simply as a Rum-and-Coke, or, if you prefer, a Rum-‘n’-Coke) is becoming trendy… for some reason. But along the way to that discovery, I also learned what’s different about Mexican Coke and why people, especially those who are used to it, would bother to buy it instead of the American version. The recipe still includes cane sugar.
Yes, although we’ve had “Coke Classic” here in the U.S. since the Coca-Cola company gave up on the insipid “New Coke” concept (although, interestingly, you can still buy it as “Coke II” in certain parts of Chicago), it’s not really the original formula, and not just because it doesn’t include cocaine. (I’m not talking that original here.) The U.S. version had the cane sugar replaced with America’s most beloved ingredient, high-fructose corn syrup, in the mid-1980s, around the same time that particular ingredient started showing up in everything. Click the link above to learn more about why Americans, or at least American corporations, love the stuff so much. It’s also worth checking out some of the commentary on the failed 1985 launch of New Coke and the reintroduction, a few months later, of Coke Classic. One almost has to wonder if the whole New Coke thing wasn’t just a risky ploy to ultimately get away with switching Coke Classic from cane sugar to corn syrup, since this was the moment when that transition occurred. Perhaps going straight to HFCS would have enraged customers, since it does taste slightly different, but the few months enduring the original drink’s miserable replacement made Coke Classic seem great, even if it was slightly different than before. But I digress… (Then again, isn’t digression the defining characteristic of this blog?)
Tonight SLP and I decided to try the “traditional” Cuba Libre, not just the college freshman’s intoxicant of choice, so although we still lamed out on the rum with Bacardi, we got a bottle of Mexican Coke, and took the extra step of including a lime wedge in the drink.
I didn’t actually try any of the Mexican Coke on its own, since I needed all of it for the mixed drinks, but even with the rum and the lime mixed in, I could tell the difference in the Coke. The drink overall lacked the cloying, slightly chemical-y taste I am now accustomed to in Coke. For a moment I had a flashback to the taste of my youth (minus the rum, of course). I look forward to trying a bottle of Mexican Coke on its own soon, preferably consumed straight from the bottle, since they’re the same shape and thickness as the old returnable bottles of yore… just slightly larger, since the Mexican bottles hold 500 mL (16.9 oz) instead of 16 oz.
I’ve noticed that Mexican Coke is getting easier and easier to find in the U.S. these days, so for those of you who, like me, are old enough to remember (though you may have long since forgotten it) the taste of pre-corn syrup Coke, I recommend picking up a bottle sometime soon!
Know Mark Summers? He hosted the messy Nickelodeon game show Double Dare way back when, and these days he’s the host of Unwrapped on Food Network, which I am, unfortunately, watching as I write this. (Hey, it was that or the routine weekly post-SNL broadcast of the Guthy-Renker infomercial for the Midnight Special DVD collection.)
The show is moderately interesting as a glimpse into the operations of various quirky businesses in the food industry (such as the one they’re talking about now, whose corporate office is a 7-story replica of a wicker picnic basket that would put Beebe Gallini‘s powder puff factory to shame). But the most distinctive thing about it is the maddening, Shatner-esque start-and-stop cadence of Mark Summer’s voiceovers. I’m sure he doesn’t really talk that way, at least I hope so, but on TV, he’s so programmed into this particular way of speaking — which presumably originated long ago in broadcasting schools with the desire to sound enthusiastic and engaging, and be easy to follow — that, ironically, I can barely concentrate on what he’s saying due to the way he says it.
I was not aware until I set about writing this post that Mark Summers is also a spokesperson for OCD, as detailed on his stunningly mid-’90s-style website. Wowwee. That site must have seemed freakin’ awesome at the time, what with its 3-D animated GIF logo, frameset navigation that unpredictably disappears on certain pages, etc. I don’t mean to mock a psychological condition, but you’d think someone with OCD would have no truck with this. It certainly hasn’t aged well, and I find it funny that the company that designed and (apparently, given its URL) hosts it still has the audacity to tout having been featured in a 1999 magazine.
P.S. This is what I get for drinking coffee after 5 PM. 8 hours later I’m still up doing… this.
Yes, they’re pretty nasty. Especially the boiled duck embryos. But if you’re not retching yet, be sure to check out the shocking cholesterol content in a can of Pork Brains in Milk Gravy. Just don’t tell your cardiologist! I think even reading about the stuff might give you a heart attack.