This Week, In 'Why Is This Still a Thing'

Go ahead and tack a donut-burger on that milkshake. Make our day.

February 17, 2016 ● 2 min read

There you sit, scrolling your Instagram feed, having a lovely Sunday brunch ignoring your in-laws. Then you see them. Those foodies that you hate-follow are awake.   

That person from high school that you're vaguely friendly with on Facebook posts a pic of a soju bloody mary garnished with house pickles, six strips of bacon, a double double cheeseburger, and a maple donut. It’s dumb and bad, but so are they, so you let it go. Until you scroll to—

—the food blogger that’s engaged to your sibling posted a pic of the ramen quiche that’s been getting so much coverage in Pittsburgh. It’s astonishingly gross and you want to troll but they're family. Kinda. So you stay quiet. Then you see—

—banh mi tacos stuffed with chili fries. This time it’s your co-worker with the Pinterest account.  Were this a picture of a banh mi, or a picture of a great taco, or even like, a picture of chili fries it would be ok….but the image is so bleak, you kind of lose consciousness for a second—

—then, a post from the writer for the hip food magazine. It’s a picture of a milkshake, served in a cronut, encrusted with Twix and Snickers bars and covered in piped-on, bruléed meringue. Your vision is blurry now and you're covered in a thin layer of sweat. Your breathing goes shallow and slowly you drift into the sweet clutches of death.

The thing is, this whole culture of absurd, overblown food? It’s your fault. And my fault. And the Internet’s fault. It’s everyones fault. And it has very little to do with good food, or taste, or good intentions. It’s mostly rooted in social media thirst, and cooking to achieve the lowest common denominator. Making a dish Instagrammable is fine and all (who doesn't like a well-filtered pic of a delicious quesadilla?) but is there something gross about intentionally crafting food to “go viral” instead of just cooking something delicious?

And, if we're asking the bigger question, is it necessary? Are we trading likes on social media for the dumbing down of our craft? Sometimes it feels like if there was a highly-regarded chef cooking Guy Fieri’s food, they would be showered with Beard awards and press coverage. If David Chang had invented the KFC Doubledown, or if Chris Bianco started stuffing hot dogs into the crust of his pizza, would they be applauded?

Also, I’m absolutely guilty of cooking shit like this.

Photo via Andrew Dalton for SFist

One time, in an effort to mock and respond to the hype of the ramen burger, I made a cheeseburger ramen. It was delicious and fun and stupid, and to this day I get requests to make it. It now appears alongside my name in write-ups at events. “Richie Nakano, of the Cheeseburger Ramen.” Looking back, I realize that I was the ass end of a human centipede of dumb ramen mash-up food, but it’s crazy-making to have had a reasonably respectable career in food, and then be known for a one-off you did in jest. At least it tasted good. I guess.

Where all of this gets complicated is that there are absolutely aspects of it that work. I had a General Tso’s pizza once that was fucking delicious—and deliciousness is all that matters, right?

There should be a space for lowbrow, mildly dumb yet not gimmicky, tasty food. But as eaters—as chefs!—we can do better.  

By Richie Nakano