The latest illustration of trickle-down foodie fervor comes courtesy of Wendy’s, which just debuted a new line of fries. The fries, dubbed “natural cut,” differ from the fast-food chain’s other species of fry in that they’re made from russet potatoes and get to keep their skins. They’re also slimmer and sprinkled with enough sea salt to rate their own Health Department subway poster.
A Wendy’s marketing exec told the AP that “[w]e want every ingredient to be a simple ingredient, to be one you can pronounce and one your grandmother would recognize in her pantry,” though our grandmother sure as hell wouldn’t recognize what Wendy’s likes to do to its meat.
If Wendy’s appropriation of the “simple” and “natural” gospel that has so animated CSA subscribers across the land comes across as less of a concern for its customers’ welfare than their cash, it’s not that much more insidious than the examples of food snobbery that Peter Meehan highlights in his “Grass Fed” column this week. Among his choice encounters with insufferable gastronerds are the butcher who won’t sell Meehan’s friend lamb, but will sell him hogget, which is a sort of adolescent sheep; the barista who bullies an old man into drinking his coffee without milk; and the chef who berates Meehan for purchasing beef that’s “super grain-fed.”
Which all makes Meehan wonder: “Is all this righteousness going in the right direction? Or will the snake eventually eat its own tail? What originally drew me to so many of these better-practice/better-flavor foodstuffs was the joy, the passion behind them. What I’m worried about is that as the food thing gets trendier and trendier, at some point the know-it-alls will scare off the casually interested. Maybe even their fellow foot soldiers. Is that sustainable?”
Meehan’s thoughtful question follows the thoughtless screed that another Times writer penned last week about, essentially, how sick her friends are of foodies and what a drag it is that farmers’ markets have gotten so crowded.
The two very different essays (albeit written for the same publication) illustrate how the food movement, like any other movement, has reached a point at which it’s large and entrenched enough to be taken to obnoxious extremes, be it self-righteous butchers or fast-food chains throwing sea salt on their fries. Whether that’s good or bad is open to interpretation. We’re guessing the taste of Wendy’s fries falls somewhere in between.