Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Pave Paradise, Put Up a Shitty Chocolate Chip Cookie

I keep burying ledes, and then feeling compelled to dig them back up again. Here's another.

Revving up to describe Two Food Miracles in Peekskill, NY, I wrote:
Many of our most sublime foods stem from unappetizing, dirt-cheap ingredients. Cut down a few stalks of grain, grind it into a tasteless powder, combine with mineral scrapings from cave walls and a spoonful of minuscule wriggling cooties. Heat it a while, and, somehow, maxi pleasure ensues. If you're not astonished by this gift, you should spend some time stranded on an Arctic ice shelf or desert sand dune, resetting your baselines.

That said, bread's usually not sublime, due to the appalling meanness of our species. We observe this gaping headroom between price and quality, and deem it opportunity. People don't need "sublime", so let's make it even cheaper and easier, saving 1/4¢, at the cost of a mere 75% quality reduction! Throw in some additives to keep it fresher longer, to make the yeast work faster, and to create better color with less care, and still more to cover up those shortcuts, and...well, here we are in 2019. We're desperately trying to backtrack ourselves away from gratuitous meanness and avarice - and, ironically, charging even more for that. We're like double hostages.

Consider: there is no reason for a chocolate chip cookie to ever be less than stellar. Any earnest baker with an iota of talent can make reliably great ones. Yet how many are indeed great? And how shitty and mean and evil do you need to be to deliberately erode quality in something so intrinsically delicious and dirt-cheap? I don't add additives to my cookies, and they taste great. Yet all the ones I can buy are loaded with them, and they suck. "Pave paradise, put up a shitty chocolate chip cookie"!

The miracle of deliciousness perpetually awaits our rediscovery. It doesn't need to be expensive. In fact, that ruins the beauty - the intrinsic generosity - of it all. But it's out there.

The essential point about additives - missed by literally everyone I've ever seen use the term with a sneer - is not that they're bad or dangerous in and of themselves. It's that they're inherently unnecessary, so they are always - without exception! - used to cover up sins of omission and/or commission.

Bread tastes GREAT. If it doesn't, and you spot a list of additives on the package, it's not the simple cause/effect equation you'd initially suppose. If you were to remove the additives from the recipes for Wonder Bread or Keebler cookies, the result would not be wonderment. It would more likely be a greasy grey sludge. Additives prop up unimaginable cheap shittiness, ensuring a result that's merely mediocre, rather than entirely inedible.

It's not the deodorizer that bothers me in cheap hotel rooms. It's whatever problem is being masked.  

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