How Americans Became Picky Eaters

“You have to know the Past to understand the Present” – Carl Sagan

Thorstein Veblen publishes Theory of the Leisure Class: an Economic Study of Institutions in 1899. He’s trying to figure out what makes people act like douchebags by studying their consumption habits. Like why Sara buys clothes at this store; Marty drives that car; Vivian drinks obscure coffee. Pre-test:

1. Who owns a Corvette?
a) Vascular Surgeon
b) The commercial plumber
c) The tenured college professor

2. Who owns most amount of clothes?
a) White trash girl living in trailer park
b) Old money girl attending exclusive boarding school
c) Middle-class girl living in middle-class cul-de-sac

3. What does middle-class woman eat on her birthday?
a) Surf and turf
b) Sushi and tempura
c) Raw oysters and beef tongue

4. What is upper-class woman eating Friday evening?
a) Cocktail shrimp and beef tenderloin steak
b) Acai bowl with quinoa, kale chips on side
c) Grilled beef tongue and fried shrimp heads

5. Who is most likely to have read a violent pornographic novel (eg. Georges Bataille, Pauline Reage, Marquis de Sade)
a) Upper-class woman, undergrad from Wellesley and PhD in Comparative Literature
b) Middle-class home economics teacher
c) White trash woman with boyfriend who beats the shit out of her.

1. b
2. c
3. a
4. c
5. a

Surprised? Oblique explanations in main text.

Why People Act Like Poseurs and Douchebags

For our purposes here, the only thing we need to take from Theory of Leisure Class is that imitation is the driving force of American capitalist consumerism. In Feudalism, social mobility is limited by birth and the serf works for subsistence, not social mobility. Capitalism, promising unprecedented (upward and downward) social mobility, makes imitation possible, accessible, and encouraged by the logic of economic growth.  “Keeping up,” as Americans put it.  The capitalist “Leisure Class” signifies not only Old and New Money, but anyone with discretionary income, or at least anyone with a credit card.

Whom do people imitate?  Those they *perceive* as just above them.  What do people imitate? The *imagined* sensibilities and habits of those they *perceive* as just above them. Pay attention to the choice of words: “perceive” and “imagined” because people from all social classes tend to have trouble at not only figuring out what those outside their social circles are thinking and doing, but also a person’s social status. That’s why the not-quite-middle-class teen thinks the woman with a deep tan and a tit job is high society. The Old Money woman thinks the young tow truck driver is being ironic when he’s not. The woman who reads The New Yorker has no idea who Jimmie Johnson is. The guy with collection of Jimmie Johnson autographs can’t imagine an Ivy League college professor who listens to Outkast and has tickets to Venus in Furs and The Vagina Monologues, both of which the Time and Oprah magazine reading home economics teacher with tickets to The Nutcracker Suite finds dirty and offensive.  Which is why all this imitation looks more like self-parody than “faking it till you make it.”

History of American Cuisine: Colonial Era


6. What’s most likely on the menu at a two year old casual fine dining restaurant in New York City that just won its first Micheline star?
a) Lobster alfredo with chantrelle mushrooms
b) Bone marrow with jerk spiced duck hearts
c) Wagyu tenderloin served with roasted rosemary potatoes

7. Who sucked the most dick by age 18?
a) Working middle-class Tina who attended Catholic school
b) Upper-middle class Siobhan who attended exclusive boarding school
c) Working middle-class Anthony who attended public school

8. Which family is most likely to own Emily Post books on etiquette and send children to etiquette school?
a) Conservative middle-class family, mom is homemaker, dad is bank manager.
b) Old Money family, mom is art curator, dad is opera singer.
c) New Money Google millionaires, Mom and Dad are executives

9. Who sucked the most dick by age 28?
a) Working middle-class Tina who attended Catholic school
b) Upper-middle class Siobhan who attended exclusive boarding school
c) Old Money Sarah who attended public school

10. What vehicle does single Korean man who runs with his parents an established Teriyaki store drive?
a) Toyota Camry
b) Ford Mustang
c) Porsche Cayenne

6. b
7. a
8. a
9. b
10. c

Seventeenth century, White Europeans from varied backgrounds started moving to The New World. The English soon became dominant, assimilating the Dutch and the Swedes after kicking their asses, but they couldn’t reach a deal with the French (Acadians in Nova Scotia) so the English told them to fuck off, relocating some of them to Louisiana where they begin Cajun culture. Point is, American cuisine began as variant of British cuisine, and in contrast to the French, who adopted Native American hunting and cooking methods and incorporated indigeneous ingredients into their diet, the Americans used Old World Methods to prepare New World ingredients and tried to grow Old World ingredients in New World climate, with mixed results.  Where reliable trade with British Empire was established, Old World ingredients were imported, making American (New England especially) cuisine intentionally British.

There were lots of regional variations that cut across socio-economic lines — American cuisine has never been monolithic —  with, for instance, upland Southern Rednecks eating possums and squirrels with cabbage and potatoes, and African and Caribbean ingredients and cooking methods influencing the pork based lowland Southern diet.  Pennsylvania Germans brought sausages, sauerkraut, and beer from the Old World. But colonial British mercantilist policies that limited American trade to within the Empire ensured that British traditions would dominate until the Brits began taxing alcohol starting with the Molasses Act of 1733 and the Sugar Act of 1760, and then luxury goods with the Quartering Act of 1763 and tea with the Tea Act of 1773.

The Brits soon learned that when you fuck with people’s alcohol and caffeine supply, there’s going to be a revolution. Americans began boycotting British goods and finally went native out of frustration with British laws. Whiskey had been looked down on by American high society types, who preferred Old World British goods and habits. Now Northern whiskey, made of rye (non-native European ingredient), was becoming fashionable, and Southern whiskey was considered patriotic due to its use of corn, an indigenous ingredient. Rum was out, as it was seen as a symbol of British power.

Another significant change was the shift from tea to coffee.  John Adams wrote to his wife in 1773: “Tea must be universally renounced and I must be weaned, and the sooner the better.” When word got out that a group of housewives in Massachusetts united to serve — as a fuck you to the Brits — only coffee, many were inspired to do the same.

It’s been said that you can tell a lot about a person by what he or she eats.  I bet you can tell a lot about a nation by what its people eat.  Shifts in eating habits aren’t accidents and they’re an index of what’s to come politically. You can smell a revolution that’s waiting to happen.

Independence – Immigration Act of 1924

Independence achieved, Americans stopped shitting on French cuisine, which they had disdained during the seemingly never ending conflict between the British and the French. Before the War, cookbook writer Hannah Glasse, wrote in Art of Cookery: “the blind folly of this age that would rather be imposed on by a French booby, than give encouragement to a good English cook!” On French recipes: “an odd jumble of trash.” Those insults disappeared in the first *American* post-war edition of her cookbook, probably because the French had helped with American war effort. The French-American alliance also led to French chefs migrating to the States during the French Revolution, which would’ve been unthinkable during British rule.

Free from the constraints of British mercantilism, American cooks gained wider access to foreign goods.  As an expanding industrializing nation requiring more White people (1790 Act limited citizenship to White people) to populate conquered lands and to work in expanding factories, the US began to accept more and a wider range of White immigrants — now including many from Eastern and Southern Europe — who further diversified American culinary habits. By 1924, Americans are eating all kinds of peasant-redneck-soul food — pig’s ears, raw oysters, raw beef, possums, ram testicles, squirrels, chicken gizzards, cow brains, pig’s feet, and blood pudding.

I use year 1924 as a bookend because it marks the end of liberal immigration policies and the beginning of the modern kitchen.  Growing concern about the “Whiteness” of some European immigrants — Italians, Slavs, and Eastern European Jews — the Immigration Act of 1924 limited the annual number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the US. It was a way to ensure that the US remain a White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant (WASP) nation, not overrun by Irish and Italian Catholics, Jews, Slavs, and other undesirable not-quite-White European “races.”  And by severing the flow of people and cultural habits from undesirable parts of Europe to ethnic US neighborhoods, the not-quite-White people of the US would finally lose their immigrant heritage and assimilate to become fully White and American.

And it was around 1924 that modern refrigeration was becoming common in middle-class America, which led to the rise to mass produced industrialized foods such as frozen meals.  Refrigeration in rail cars meant farms no longer had to be located near population centers and more land could be farmed, resulting in lower prices of prestige items such as beef.

The Federal government and academia were also getting involved in what Americans ate.  Nutritionists and home economics professors introduced a scientific approach to nutrition and eating. They began telling Americans which meals and cooking methods are safe and proper.

Modern American Cuisine

Why did some American ethnic and regional foods become popular nationally, while others remained marginalized or disappeared?

Test break!

11. Who sucked the most dick by age 45?
a) Working middle-class Tina who attended Catholic school
b) Upper-middle class Siobhan who attended exclusive boarding school
c) Old Money Sarah who attended public school

12. It’s 1973, in some middle to upper middle class suburb. What do the Johnson’s have in their kitchen?
a) A dead body, cut up, probably neighbor’s daughter
b) White Wonder bread, margarine, and Tang.
c) Pickled beets, sauerkraut, and offals.

13. Where has Old Money Sarah never eaten?
a) McDonald’s
b) Harold’s Chicken Shack
c) Red Lobster

14. Who lost a toe while on vacation?
a) Upper middle-class Ginger
b) Lower-middle class Tiffany
c) Upper-class Wes

15. Who spends the most on nails and tan?
a) Old Money Sarah
b) Upper middle-class Jimmy
c) Lower-middle class Tiffany

11. a
12. b
13. c
14. c
15. c

By 1965, the year immigration was liberalized, the US had finally developed a national cuisine and palate. Coca Cola, orange juice, hamburgers, fortune cookies, peanut butter, apple pie, fried chicken, hot dog, steak, pizza, french fries, spaghetti…these are some regional foods that went national (a few, like Coca Cola, went international).  Why not mutton, smoked salmon, collard greens, pig trotters, fried gizzards, baklava, gyros, Philly Cheesesteaks, and knishes?

Some food became less had because eating them was a sign of low status.  Offals (organs) and possum, for instance.  Perhaps fried chicken made the cut because it was special occasion food for the poor, and fried gizzards didn’t because that’s what the poor ate everyday.  Those who grew up poor traded liver, horse meat, and beef intestines for ground beef when they finally could.

Some food became more popular because they represented modernity and science. The middle-class household in 1970 drank space-age Tang to be modern, used margarine instead of butter to be health conscious, and ate canned soup to be family-on-the-move efficient. Now Tang is one step above kool-aid, margarine is for out-of-touch geriatrics relying on out-of-date info, and canned soup is for the lazy.

Other food and preparation methods became rare because of warnings from government agencies.  “You shouldn’t consume raw seafood or meat of any kind,” warns the FDA. So most stopped doing so, even as steak tartare was served throughout Europe, as it had for centuries, and sashimi throughout Japan, as it had for centuries.  You’re supposed to drink cow milk and eat cereal and bread and cheese…everyday “we’re told by USDA food pyramid. So we did, even though 70 percent of the people in the world are lactose intolerant.  “Cook poultry at 350 degrees,” taught the home economics teacher.  We did and learned to make dry meat palatable by adding to it extra extra gravy.  “White meat is healthier than dark meat,” announced the nutritionist.  So we became one of the few nations in the world to prefer white over dark, even though dark is more flavorful and moister.  (And then we make white meat better tasting by frying it or drenching it in gravy, making it even more calorie dense than its dark counterpart). Americans were being taught to distrust their immigrant heritage, to become more modern (American) and less ethnic (backward). American cuisine was narrowing palates and limiting the range of cooking methods. American cuisine was becoming a disaster.

Thesis: government meddling and the loss of immigrant heritage fucked up American cuisine.

Postmodern American Cuisine

If Modernity is about living as one imagines one would in the future, Postmodernity is about living as one imagines someone had in the past.


The Japanese, not Julia Child, saved American cuisine.

It’s the 1980s and the Japanese are on a roll. Americans are starting to think the Japanese are going to take over the world.  They show up in Manhattan to buy all sorts of vanity properties, their cars run better than American ones, and they make Americans feel lazy, and stupid. One could smell the power shift when business between Japanese and Americans was conducted not at Peter Lugar steakhouse, but in a basement level Japanese restaurant.

The growing popularity of Japanese cuisine in the US during the 80s and 90s gave Americans an opportunity to reconsider everything they’d been taught about proper cooking and proper meals.  Sure sure, there were American servicemen who loved Japanese cuisine before the preppy douchebags got to try it, but these were working class types everyone ignored, not the preppies middle-class kids emulated during the materialistic Eighties. The preppies made Japanese food cool and eating it became a sign of sophistication and high social status.

Soon Americans are watching Iron Chef! Eating raw fish! Now they’re trying eel and loving it! A few even develop a taste for natto and live sea urchin.  Everything Americans were told not to do they were doing when they were eating Japanese food. For some, it was exhilarating.  Trying “weird” food became a legitimate hobby, and a new brand of foodie emerged.

By the start of the 21st century, Japanese cuisine had gone mainstream and Japanese cooking shows like Iron Chef inspired American versions of them, transforming chefs into rock stars, Ivy League graduates into line cooks working to become chefs, and cooking into a hobby instead of a chore. Sushi was no longer for Wall Street pricks and Californian champagne socialists, you were not middle-class if you didn’t eat and like sushi (even though sushi is a small portion of Japanese cuisine, and not had very often in Japan). Soon we had Japanese food for the masses: conveyer belt sushi, all you can eat sushi, even Chinese people serving (disgusting) sushi.  And as Japanese food ceased to be the new in thing, White Americans, now accustomed to trying “weird shit,” became interested in rediscovering their European roots because being White wasn’t cool anymore.  More restaurants started serving dishes that would’ve been unthinkable in the mainstream 70s, from raw oysters to bone marrow, duck hearts to steak tartare; using cooking methods, such as sous vide, that freaked out health inspectors. Underground dinner parties served beef tongue and shrimp head. Eating such dishes became a sign of sophistication and American cuisine was becoming not just an archetype of postmodern nostalgia, but also vibrant and challenging. For the first time in a long time, American palates and culinary repertoire were expanding and a new generation of American chefs wanted to show the world that there’s more to American food than McDonald’s.

Why We Eat What We Eat

Some think that the standard middle-class American cuisine is based primarily on proper nutrition (as determined by government agencies) and ethical behavior (as determined by soft science academics).  It is not.  If it were, we’d be eating crickets instead of beef for protein and we wouldn’t let ourselves get suckered by the latest health fad that confers an ingredient undeserved powers and fucks up another nation’s ecology.  Some of us would like to believe our cuisine is *proper* because it justifies our personal preferences (built on habit) and confirms our sense of self as belonging to a righteous nation. Those unhappy with status quo want to make American cuisine *proper* — nutritious and ethical (eg. localvore movement) — so we can feel like we belong to a righteous nation.

If American cuisine is, as argued earlier, built on political intrigue, social maneuvering, and economic brinksmanship, then there’s a good chance that its present is an expression of our competing political beliefs and anxiety about our socio-economic future.  Reading the food we eat as such makes it possible for us to see ourselves as tools when we drink orange juice every morning for its Vitamin C content, douchebags when we order kobe burgers for the prized fat that’s cooked off, cranks when we promote acai berries as ethical superfood, and human when we binge on McDonald’s fries.

Perhaps in the end — weary of reading all those conflicting articles about what’s healthiest and what’s more ethical and what’s better for the economy and environment — eating well has less to do with what we eat than how we explore what’s possible to eat. If only God can determine the righteousness of a nation and its citizens, the best we can do is build a spirited cuisine that challenges and expands, rather than accepts and limits, our palates and imagination.








Why We Hate McDonald’s

Would you work for a Fortune 500 company with the following profile:

* Has an African-American CEO
* Honored by Black Enterprise as one of the best companies for diversity at staff and corporate levels
* Provides all expense paid college credit eligible education at its business management school.
* Promotes from within and doesn’t discriminate against those without college degrees when hiring for executive level positions, including CEO.
* Invests in progressive businesses — ie. Chipotle — that raise the standard of fast-food and build green storefronts

Who that? You know the answer, title gives it away:  McDonald’s. If you feel thrown off, then we’re ready to begin.

Why We Hate McDonald’s

Top 5 reasons — qualitatively gathered — in no particular order:

1. They treat their employees like shit.
2. Their food tastes like shit.
3. They put shit in their food.
4. Their food makes people look like shit.
5. They use manipulative advertising to get kids addicted to eating shit.

All of which need to be translated, those are just codes meant to deflect attention. There’s something else going on here.  Not just projection, there’s sublimation, that “mature” defense mechanism, says Freud: when you replace urge to do something that *you* think is socially unacceptable with socially acceptable stand-in. Like Luke becoming an NFL linebacker so he doesn’t end up in jail for beating the shit out of that motherfucker.  Jenna marrying ultra-stylish Jack the hairdresser to keep Dad proud. Sam becoming a proctologist because he was raised Catholic strict.

Top 5 Reasons to Hate McDonald’s, Deconstructed and Debunked

They treat their employees like shit
Pay for non-managerial staff is comparable to what a typical hospital pays its resident MDs; similar to what the university pays its graduate student TAs and RAs ; almost as much as what a community college pays its adjunct professors to teach. (I could go on). Yet people aren’t boycotting their hospitals and schools due to employee pay and career growth opportunities.

In providing career growth opportunities, McDonald’s has most businesses — Alive Juice Bar included — beat: you can be of humble origins and degree-less and still become its CEO, as Charlie Bell (who started working at McDonald’s at 15) had.  Free education for its management trainees. One of few businesses willing to give those with no experience and skills (and the wrong color) a chance.

Their food tastes like shit.
It’s how you frame and present something.  Watch this prank: 

Summary for those who can’t watch it: pranksters pose as chefs of high end restaurant.  They serve samples of their food — McDonald’s fare, actually — at food expo.  Some who sample rave about taste and high quality of food:

The ‘Chicken McNuggets’ were neatly cut up and served by a charming young waiter, complete with tidy uniform. “Rolls around the tongue nicely, if it were wine I’d say it’s fine,” an older and presumably more experienced food critic commented.

“The structure is good, yes. Not too sticky,” said one expert about a McMuffin. Then it was onto the ‘real classics’.

“You can just tell this is a lot more pure,” came another comment from a young lady operating an organic stall.

It’s like those studies that show a painting of, say, a boy pissing on a tree. Take that painting, make two of them, date one at 1500, another at present day and attribute it to someone who doesn’t look like a painter. Most will describe the first as some Renaissance classic.  The latter as ghetto trash.  Which is it?

baroque shit

Renaissance era painting or two boys tugging on each other’s penis. A classic or kiddie porn?


Point is, we’re tools.  We’re not trained to think or to ask questions, we’re trained to respond on cue, like caged rats in an experiment:


Even though organic has nothing to do with freshness, gluten-free isn’t healthier if you’re not celiac, and grass-fed isn’t necessarily tastier, you get the idea.  Our brains exaggerate and mix and match correlations.

They put shit in their food.
A few examples: 
Earthworms (1978)
Mutant Lab Meat (2000)
Cow Eyeballs (2006)
Random Rot Preventing Chemicals (200?)

Blood libel, definition (Wiki): “accusation that Jews kidnapped and murdered children of Christians to use their blood as part of their religious rituals during Jewish holidays.”  The world may change, but human nature remains the same: we’re still mean-spirited and vindictive. About what, we’ll get to later.

Who is more dangerous, the person who created this hoax, or those who believe it?

Who is more dangerous, the person who created this hoax, or those who believe it?

Their food makes people look like shit.
You can do a lot worse at a neighborhood Greek diner or Chinese take-out or Tacqueria, where portion sizes and calorie counts are even more ridiculous.  Or at a fine-dining steakhouse like Metropolitan Grill or El Gaucho — 3,000 calories easy for someone who orders 1 entree, 1 salad, 1 drink, and a desert. Grande Frappucino plus blueberry muffin at Starbucks is 700 nutritionally deficient calories. Not saying McDonald’s Value Meals provide the balanced and diverse nutrition we try to get customers to consistently eat, they don’t. I’m just wondering why McDonald’s gets blamed for the obesity epidemic when they don’t serve anywhere near the most nutritionally appalling meals.

They use manipulative advertising to get kids addicted to eating shit.
Anthony Bourdain describes McDonald’s advertising tactics as “Black Propaganda.” (He exaggerates, but let’s work with it). And so?  Try to think of an (effective) ad that isn’t manipulative, that provides a cold, detached, balanced review of a product’s benefits and a brand’s purpose. Is there a nation that doesn’t use propaganda to control its populace?  Find me a person who isn’t manipulative and I’ll stop charging customers $1 for Better Service.

How to Figure People Out
Asking what someone likes doesn’t reveal much about the person.

“The woman I like is smart, sexy, confident, tomboy by day, sex kitten by night, looks good in either jeans or a dress…” which reveals that this guy is a fucking tool, a dull one at that.  A better way to figure out who someone is — personality and social status — and how they’ll act is to mix it up and ask what they dislike. Here’s a real life example, from an interview with an applicant:

Interviewer: What are your career goals?
Applicant: I hope to work at Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC) food stamps program.  I want to help the poor make better choices with their food stamp money.  I want to help the poor eat better.
Interviewer: What do you think about Roger’s Market?  (Roger’s is an independent grocery store in Mountlake Terrace, primarily serving low income residents.  Lots of food stamps).
Applicant: It’s disgusting, everything about it.  I try to stay away from there.
Interviewer: Then you won’t last 2 weeks working at the WIC.
Applicant: Huh?
Interviewer: You just told me you hate poor people.  If you can’t stand shopping at Roger’s, where those with food stamps shop, then how are you going to work with them on a near daily basis?

Not saying she’s insincere about her desire to help the poor eat better. Just saying this desire is driven by a conflict within herself she doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to acknowledge because it’s too painful to do so. When we cross-check this interview transcript with applicant resume and Facebook page, what emerges is a standard lower middle-class female who’s one wrong move from becoming White trash.  That’s why she spends money she doesn’t have on microbrews and listens to college radio. That’s why she goes into debt to get a bullshit degree at a bullshit college, to gain some psychological (but ephemeral) distance from the wrong side of the tracks, even at the risk of having the debt force her to stand in line for food stamps.  And it’s precisely that risk — unacknowledged but instinctively recognized — that makes her hate those she’s afraid of becoming. That’s why she expresses — not represses — her hatred by seeking a career that allows her to “help” those she hates, that confirms her identity as not one of them.

Why We Actually Don’t Hate McDonald’s
Hating McDonald’s is like hating your great-grandmother for being a racist.  She’s an icon for lasting this long, so you forgive her faults. McDonald’s is an American icon, and they know it, which is why they’re using sentimental ads to make you less pissed off at them, to remind you of a time when everyone, regardless of social class and race, ate at McDonald’s without guilt.

Thesis: those who hate McDonald’s don’t hate McDonald’s.  They hate McDonald’s customers. They hate the stereotype of those who regularly eat at McDonald’s. They hate poor people, and the ones afraid that they themselves will end up poor probably hate themselves too. Let’s return to the 5 reasons why people hate McDonald’s.

1. They treat their employees like shit.
2. Their food tastes like shit.
3. They put shit in their food.
4. Their food makes people look like shit.
5. They use manipulative advertising to get kids addicted to eating shit.

Above 5 is how we routinely describe the poor.  It’s the poor, the thinking goes, who get paid and treated like shit.  It’s the poor who eat food that tastes like shit; who are pathetic enough to eat food that literally is shit; who are obese; who are stupid enough to be so easily manipulated.

But we’ve been taught that it’s socially unacceptable to shit on the poor. So we displace our hate onto the biggest piece of cultural flotsam we see, the number one fast food company in the world. Calling out the Greek diner or Chinese takeout or the dive bar that serves too much alcohol is too politically problematic — these are hard working immigrants making a living by providing what people want and blaming alcohol will lead to riots.  But blaming a giant corporation for serving what people want *is* socially acceptable, a lot more so than telling your daughter she needs to lose 50 pounds.

It’s easier to blame McDonald’s for making people fat than to blame fat people for making themselves fat, *possibly* from eating at McDonald’s.  It’s more comforting: “It’s not my fault my kids are obese,” rationalizes Mom’s defense mechanism. “If we just get rid of fast food and raised wages, these people wouldn’t act as they do,” the Champagne Socialist who has never lived among non-immigrant American poor surmises. In other words, it’s more comforting to believe that we don’t control our destiny, that virtue and character don’t emerge from that struggle within, it’s simply a matter of public fucking policy.  Fix the policy and we’ll have Heaven on Earth, the thinking goes, as people wait and wait and wait for the government to get it right.

The problem isn’t McDonald’s.   McDonald’s is just providing what some people want and making McDonald’s disappear isn’t going to make a difference — none at all — because people will get what they want and what they deserve, regardless of public policy and intervening laws. The problem is us.  We’re the ones who are suspicious instead of skeptical, gullible instead of judicious, and fearful of our place in a rapidly changing society.

Nietzsche on the Monsters we fight (from Beyond Good and Evil):

“Those who fight Monsters should look to it that they themselves do not become Monsters.  And when you gaze long into the Abyss, the Abyss also gazes into you.”

And the only experience more terrifying than the abyss gazing back into you is when it offers you a Big Mac and Fries, which you then eat alone.




Alive Juice Bar Seeking Hate Mail Contestants

(Posted on craigslist)

Alright Motherhuggers,

The *quality* of the hate mail we get after we post a job ad sucks. Example (real):

“What a fucked up job posting. Who the hell would want to work for you after reading that shit? You can tell by what kind of person you are with the attitude you portray on Craigslist. You don’t have the right to talk like that. I feel sorry for the slaves that have to labor under an asshole.”


Boring. Unacceptable. To improve the quality of hate mail we receive, we’re hosting Alive Juice Bar’s first annual Hate Mail contest. Winner gets $100 gift card. Employees select finalists to be judged by customers. Your name will be redacted, we will protect your privacy so don’t go chickenshit on us, ok? So let’s get this going, Motherfuggers.

Guidelines: we want well-written, we want art. Don’t just tell us what you think about the person who wrote this ad, tell us WHAT YOU’D LIKE TO DO TO HIM, or HAPPEN TO HIM. Dig deep, find your inner rage, reveal your inner freak — we know there’s some Marquis de Sade in you, we can feel it. Example:

“To the sick fuck who wrote this piece of shit ad, I hope you get gang-banged by giant orangutans until your butthole looks like a donut. You deserve to be buried alive in your own shit because even horse shit is too good for you.”

Some keywords you might want to use or at least consider to get your creative juices flowing: porcupine, jalapenos, Wonder Woman, chainsaw, pink, King Kong, handcuffs, mini-me, dolphins, charcoal, pirannahs, Justin Bieber, North Korea, Michael Jackson, Hello Kitty.
Now to inspire you, to get you angry enough to turn on the (she)Hulk so you can write some hate mail art: here are a few reasons owner deserves hate mail from you:

Owner is insulting, rude and abusive. Examples:
1) Charging customers $1 to change the music.
2) Telling customer to go to Jamba Juice
3) Calling customers Dumbass for asking for wheatgrass
4) Forcing employee to call customer Fuck-Face. And then charging customer a dollar for the abuse.
5) Charging customer $1 for better service when customer is unhappy with and requests better service
6) Inhumane, slave driving owner who does unspeakable things with jalapenos
7) Telling customers how they fucked up their kids.
8) Calling employees “Stupid, Useless, Cunt.”
9) Demanding improved quality of hate mail sent to him
10) Calling Oprah Winfrey a “House N#$gger”
11) Rants about how White people are fucking things up
12) Random misogynistic musings.
13) Routinely playing misogynistic music like “Me So Horny” and “Taught Her How to Fuck.”
14) Calling his customers batshit crazy.
15) Making customer change the garbage

If you want examples of owner making misogynistic comments, read:

Examples of owner calling his employees “stupid, useless, cunt,” read:

Owner telling customers how they fucked up their kids:

Owner calling Oprah a “house n#%#gger”:

Owner forcing employee to call customer a Fuck-Face:

Owner calling customers who ask for wheatgrass dumbasses:

Why People Don’t Change

She’s a White trash girl trying to escape her White trash world.  At 21, she’s got one foot out the door: 50k a year plus benefits as head manager of an independently owned retail store, where she’s been working since 13. She saves enough to help her White trash family —  grandma is especially proud of her, her siblings look up to her. She’s saved enough to put 20 percent down on a modest house in a gentrifying not-quite-middle-class neighborhood.  She has her shit together, a lot more so than those panicking college seniors who looked down on her but are now worried if they’ll ever have a job that pays enough after graduation. Not bad for a high school drop out.

A customer — executive at publicly traded company — is impressed with her work ethic, resourcefulness, and thoughtfulness.  Hooks her up with a job as head manager of one of his struggling retail stores, where they’ve gone through three managers over the past year. He tells her she has the force of character to turn the store around, that she’s a perfect fit. Compensation is 80k a year plus bonus plus vacation time and better bennies. Better career growth opportunities, potential for stock options, more sophisticated supply chain and IT infrastructure to work with, and those college educated bitches who made fun of her are now her bitches, making $12/hour. Fuck yeah.

She verbally commits, but can’t sign when it’s time, even though she’s submitted her two weeks and reservations for going away party have been made by her colleagues.  She ultimately stays put with same business at same position and lives out rest of her not-quite-middle-class life in what quickly turns into an upper-middle class neighborhood, leaving her isolated and estranged from her surroundings.

What happened? What made White trash girl prefer the embarrassment of *not trying* over the *possible* embarrassment of failing?

(If you tell me it’s low self-esteem, I swear, I’ll graffiti your house with Hello Kitty stickers and paint your windows black).

“People Never Change, They Just Become More of Who They Really Are”

Marketing experts predicted that the recently promoted 28 year old woman buying the BMW was going to do so when she purchased her VW Jetta 5 years ago.  Grandma didn’t stop being a racist when she stopped using the N word sometime around 1974, she started watching her mouth because she’s a chickenshit conformist. The only reason Johnny stopped doing anal 14 years ago is because his dick doesn’t get hard enough for it anymore and he’d rather not think about that.  The not-quite-middle-class teenager deleted all Facebook references to Jersey Shore only when she figured out that middle-class folks aren’t supposed to admit to watching such shows, and not because she’d learned better taste and how to use her time more wisely.

Above examples illustrate the dictum, “people never change, they just become more of who they really are.”  Most changes are behavioral and not attitudinal (remember this distinction). Behavioral changes occur not because of fundamental change in a person’s character, mindset, and sensibility, but because (pay attention, here comes the thesis) they’re obligated and given the opportunity to change to confirm their sense of self and reality. Change, and the discipline and willpower that makes it possible, is rooted in the act of regulating, sculpting, and imagining identity. That’s why peer pressure works and New Year’s Resolutions don’t.

Real change is change of mindset and attitude, not just behavior.  Behavioral change alone is about maintaining status quo, it’s about being fashionable, keeping up with the times instead of becoming a different person. Those who want to change their lives must change their mindset and attitude.

White Trash Girl Part II

White trash girl started working at 13 because she wanted things other kids had that she couldn’t afford.  She soon makes enough to become responsible for herself, buying not only her own toys, but also her own food and clothes.  A few years later she makes enough to become responsible for her family, picking up some of the rent even when she stopped living with them.  She becomes known as the responsible one, the caretaker, Santa to her siblings, the one who gets shit done — those archetypes combined became her primary identity.  Her family and colleagues confirmed her identity.

One foot out the White trash door, why couldn’t she get the other foot out and make a run for it? The opportunity was there.  The scenarios if she takes the job:

* She fails at her new job, returns to her old job.  Or a similar one making same as she did before. Back to same old same old.
* She succeeds at her new job and eventually gets promoted to district manager, or is given a shot at corporate ladder.

Both of which seem a lot better than embarrassing herself to her colleagues and family by turning down a job she’d accepted. But she’s playing on tilt, which is why she can’t think straight, why she’s emotional instead of rational.  All she can think:

 If I fail, that will be evidence that I’m not responsible and competent, and the world will reject me and I’ll lose my identity as the responsible one, the caregiver, I’ll be a loser again, they’ll laugh at me again, everyone will make fun of me again…

At 13, she worked for toys.  At 17, she worked to take care of herself.  At 21, she worked to confirm her identity.  She crumbled at the first perceived threat to her identity.  Happens all the time. Check the socio-economic mobility data for non-immigrant Americans if you don’t believe me.

What Makes People Batshit Crazy
Who is most likely to become batshit crazy?  Pick:
a) White trash who knows she’s White trash.
b) Middle-class who thinks she’s high society
c) Rich kid slumming it with the hobos and peasants.

My picks: b, c, then a.

Who has the highest self-esteem?  Pick:
a) White trash who knows she’s White trash.
b) Middle-class who thinks she’s high society
c) Rich kid slumming it with the hobos and peasants.

My picks: b, c, then a. What am I saying?

Being poor and having low self-esteem doesn’t make one batshit crazy, but not knowing one’s place does. White trash girl who knows she’s White trash not only isn’t batshit crazy, she isn’t offensive because she’s authentic, and that’s why people want to help her, why we like her and root for her.  Middle-class girl who thinks she’s high society will never move up because she can only impress — with her contrived sensibilities — those who can’t help her, and those who can either ignore her or gently laugh at her to put her in her place.  Rich kid slumming is just a confused fuck trying to sort out feelings of guilt, pride, and ennui.

Dissonance between one’s sense of self and “reality” is what makes one batshit crazy.  That’s why the middle-class girl who thinks she’s high society avoids hanging out with rich kid slumming, who doesn’t want to hang out with her anyway.  She’ll only hang out with those who confirm her sense of self, her identity.  And that’s precisely why she’s not going anywhere except to therapy.

Self-Defense Mechanisms 

You know, like rationalization.  Projection.  Denial.  Google them.

The former high school beauty queen can’t figure out why she isn’t getting as much attention from guys (she’s attracted to) as she used to even though she’s gained 30 pounds since graduating from college 5 years ago. “Men around here are sissies, no courage to ask me out” she tells herself and her besties. Then goes to a beauty lounge and takes glamour photos of herself to post on Facebook.  Since she’s a nice girl and has a lot of friends, she gets the responses she needs to confirm her sense of self: ‘like like like like like…’ and comments like: “wow, this is like bringing a gun to a fist fight” from nice guy trying to convince the crowd that he is in fact a nice guy who therefore deserves some pussy; and the ubiquitous “you’re so beautiful” from frenemy fishing for a similar compliment.

Self-defense mechanisms make us do some fucked up shit.  Like purchase accessories, including houses, we can’t afford. Like make bad business decisions that sink life savings. Like get a bullshit degree from a bullshit college, despite warnings about choosing the “wrong major” at the “wrong college.”  And then get another bullshit degree (Masters or JD) from yet another bullshit college when it turns out the first degree is useless.  It’s fucking madness but the madness continues because we filter out the information we don’t want to hear and keep reading the articles that tell us we’re right even when it’s obvious to the Aliens watching us that we’re not.


Ten young women on a trip in some faraway land are stopped and robbed. The robbers choose five to rape. What do you think the five not chosen are thinking and feeling?  You think they’re counting their blessings, “whew, at least I wasn’t raped”? Or is NOT being picked WORSE than being raped?

(long pause)

That’s how powerful self-defense of identity can be. That’s why White trash girl turns irrational and quits life. The possibility that those who confirm her identity will stop doing so is too much for her to handle. She’d rather be miserable than risk losing her identity.  Ironically, she ends up miserable AND loses her identity. The spark that made people want to help her is gone.

White trash girl was robbed the moment she was born.  Fate wouldn’t let her just be born poor, she had to be poor AND White, which is almost as bad as being Asian and the dumbest kid in school — there is no sympathy, there isn’t even affirmative action, she’s free game to be fucked with.  When given a chance to grab the gun and shoot the dicks off the motherfuckers, she chose to do nothing.  Did she do nothing because it wasn’t worth the risk, or because she was hoping they’d pick her to be raped?

Choose a Reality That Will Make You Change    
Cornell University study: stupid people don’t realize they’re stupid.  That’s why they’re stupid. And the smartest don’t realize they’re that smart.  Socrates said the same thing.  Bill Gates said something similar: “Success is a lousy teacher.  It makes smart people think they can’t lose.” Thanks for the confirmation, Cornell University.

Here’s how it works: those who think they’re “brilliant” or at least “not stupid” will rarely recognize their own stupidity.  They will see and hear only that which confirms their identity. “Nah nah nah, I didn’t do that, I didn’t say that, that can’t be me, I’m not that dumb.”  Oh yes you are, we have the e-mail transcript to prove it, the evidence is there, you’re in denial, you’re purposely misreading it. Or we make excuses, blame others: “but it was raining, but it was busy, but the test was unfair, but the teacher is a racist, but but but but.” Which are all short-term fixes that fuck up long-term goals. People grow and change only when there’s failure failure failure AND the CAPACITY to learn from them. We stagnate when we avoid (the possibility of) failure, or worse, deny failure ever happened. Which is the same as denying our Original Sin, our total depravity, thus elevating ourselves to deity. One can do no wrong when one is god, right? So what happens when we have a room full of gods?  You get Greek mythology: madness and batshit crazy. (see How Cult of Self-Esteem Produces Fuck ups).

Socrates again: it’s easy to tell a person who thinks she’s stupid that she’s done something stupid. She’s expecting to do something stupid, so she’s looking for instances of her stupidity that will confirm her sense of self. Which is precisely why she grows and changes and moves up in her career, while Mr. Perfect blames reverse discrimination for not getting promoted.  Once she masters a task, her sense of self demands she find a more difficult challenge, one where she fucks up and looks like a dumbass all over again.

Stupid, Useless, Cunt

If you really want to change — you’re tired of banging your head on the same ceiling — choose a reality that will make you change into the person you want to be. “Manager didn’t screw up on inventory, she was just testing to see if I’d catch the mistakes.” “Girl who rejected me isn’t racist, she simply found me obnoxious and rupulsive.” Test isn’t biased, I just didn’t study hard enough.”  “I’m late not because car battery died, but because I didn’t change it before it died.” “The CEO of Walmart isn’t a lazy and greedy piece of shit who works 30 hours a week, he puts in 100 hour weeks and has done so his entire life.” What I tell employees and those who ask me for advice on opening a restaurant:

You want reality?  How’s this for reality. For a month, make a three egg omelet every morning. Make it in less than a minute.  If you can’t make a perfect omelet in less than a minute, find a mirror.  Now stare into your eyes and call yourself a “stupid, useless cunt.” Three times.  Because that’s what someone is thinking every time you fuck up an order.  And even if that isn’t true, it NEEDS TO BE TRUE, YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IT’S TRUE. If you don’t, you’ll fail, I guarantee it.  “Stupid useless cunt” is what I call myself every morning.  Makes my piss smell good, helps me piss straight. If you can’t handle treating yourself this way, you’re not going to last a month working here, much less running your own unbranded restaurant.

Choose the reality that’ll make you the person you want to be, and not the reality that makes you feel good, short term. Choose life, not escape.  Happy New Year, 2015!

Frequently Asked Questions Part VI

Links to FAQ I, II, III, IV, V


What the fuck are we listening to?
A fight on a bus that’s driving through San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Aren’t you worried about people not paying off their tabs?
No.  That’s between customer and God. We have enough to worry about.

There’s so much information about health and nutrition, politics of food, agriculture, environment.  Which sources do you rely on?
Variety of conflicting sources, including Voltaire Network;  Russia Today (Russian propaganda in response to US propaganda); China Daily (lots of censorship, but most reliable for facts and accuracy); independent journalists such as Lizzie Phelan.

What’s in the “Really Weird Shit”?
Examples include duck tongue, chicken feet, and pig uterus.  We’re looking into insects like grasshopper.

What’s the point of the “Weird Shit” and “Really Weird Shit”?
Reminds customers what’s possible when it comes to food.  It pushes us to expand our palates and to consider more eco friendly alternatives. Insects instead of beef, for instance, may be next frontier.

 Can I have her number?  

Is my boyfriend cheating on me?

Are you fucking my boyfriend? 

Why am I bored of my boyfriend? 
Because you’re in love with love.

Why is my kid so screwed up?
You told your kid she could be this or that but failed to prepare her to become that or this.

How do I prepare my kid to work at Alive Juice Bar?
To start with, teach them to choose the right reality.


Is owner being sarcastic…
Owner is rarely sarcastic.  He prefers to be blunt than make hostile jokes that aren’t funny.

Did the owner tell  my kid to drop out of school? 

Is it true that an employee chased down, with a knife, someone who stole her tip jar?
There’s some truth to that.

Is it true an employee kicked a customer in the ass, hard? 
Yes, but she was off hours.

Did employee really ask an annoying customer to show her his penis?
It happens.

I’ve heard a former employee still has nightmares about working at Alive Juice Bar.  
Only one?

Is owner trying to open a Vintage clothing store?
Yes, business plan submitted, in negotiations with landlord.



Application vs. 8.0

Alive Juice Bar will not hire anyone who:

* Drinks wheatgrass (bullshit juice)
* Has a degree in nutrition (mostly outdated knowledge)
* Listens to R. Kelly regularly (means hasn’t grown up)
* Talks about trying to be happy (means not happy)
* Tries to be happy (means miserable)
* Thinks he/she’s brilliant (m….uncoachable and can’t grow)
* Thinks he/she’s hard working (low personal standards)
* Thinks he’she has great social and communication skills (provincial)
* Has degree in Child Psychology (certi-fucking-fiably batshit crazy)
* Thinks he/she’s funny (sarcasm isn’t the lowest form of wit, but there’s too much of it)
* Thinks he/she’s self-aware (self-absorbed and delusional)
* Worships Ayn Rand AND is a Socialist (combo = psychobitch)
* Doesn’t like soup (WTF?)

Job duties: prep food and drinks with precision and alacrity; change expletive laden music when kids walk in; serve customers; listen to, learn about and from customers; never say “no” to customer; tell customer to fuck off; remind customers to shut bathroom door; figure out what people really want, not what they say/think they want; recognize patterns of behavior; deal with hung-over and/or emotional co-workers; ask questions; draw stuff on windows; download music; clean mess; correct co-worker’s grammar; explain why ionized water is for dumbasses; explain difference between glycemic load and glycemic index so customers stop freaking out about carrot juice; tell customer it’s ok to stare at your ass but be discreet about it; ask customer if he has a small penis; ask customer if she has a big penis; ask customer to show his penis; ask customer if she wants to bitch slap you with her big penis; make co-worker stop acting like a whiny bitch; babysit your Bitch.

If it hasn’t occurred to you to research, like check Yelp reviews (of all businesses you apply to), then you don’t deserve to use toilet paper ever again. Attach resume. Don’t hesitate to ask questions in cover letter. Drop the usual cliches that all your friends use…don’t bore us. And remember, you don’t have to dig deep to dig deep. Shit is in front of you, you’ve just been trained to not see it, to repress it. Don’t try to impress, we’re just a bunch of dumbasses trying to make a living and trying to avoid reading the same shit over and over again.

If you want an example of an original resume and cover letter:

If you’re wondering why Wheatgrass is bullshit juice:

If you’re wondering how people turn into a fuck up:

If you want to quit your well paying job to work at Alive Juice Bar, read:

Frequently Asked Questions Part V

Links to FAQs I, II, III, IV

Why don’t you offer smoothies and protein shakes in a smaller size?
It’d shrink our labor pool.  It’s tough enough to find someone who can make a 24 oz drink accurately (no overage).  

But other stores offer different sizes.
They use sorbet or syrup. Meaning, everything they use is easily measured. Or they put up with employees who make like 30 oz. for a 16. oz order.

Why don’t you offer punch cards?
They add nothing of value to the business.  They’re costly and a burden.  Finally, we don’t have a problem with loyalty: people either hate or love us, little in between.  Loyalty cards work best for businesses in the “in between.”

How did owner come up with idea for the store?
Click for answer

Why is your Yelp offer “Free Bad Service?”
Keeps those who don’t like being called a Fuckface away.

Does owner offer cooking lessons?

Do you support a “Fat Tax?”

Soda tax?

So owner is writing a porn novel.  What’s it about?
A girl trying to get some hot knucklehead to tattoo her name on his penis.  Then she’ll dump him.

And he thinks I’m batshit crazy?

Dude, are those real?
Don’t know, haven’t asked and don’t plan to ask.

Do you guys really lock employees in the freezer?
No comment.

Can you help me open a juice bar/restaurant?

Who should open a juice bar/restaurant?
Dumbasses who know they’re dumbasses.

Who shouldn’t open a juice bar/restaurant?
Dumbasses who don’t know they’re dumbasses.

Health and Fitness
Is this drink good for me?
Yes, as long you drink no more than one a day.

Why are there so many blog articles about mental heath? Shouldn’t he stick to food, nutrition, and physical health? 
Mental health — attitude, mindset — has significant impact on physical health, and one’s relationship with food.  Getting sick sometimes isn’t just a matter of being exposed to something in the air. It’s often an indicator of how one deals with change, stress, and failure. We’re trying to get to the source of the problem.

Why do you guys ask me “why are you sick?”
We want customers to take responsibility for their sickness, to figure out what they did to make themselves so. Only then will they get sick less often.

“So my boyfriend tried to kill me last night…”
No he didn’t, it just *felt* like he tried to kill you and you’re fishing for undeserved sympathy.

Why do you have to be such a dick?
This question doesn’t belong in Relationships section.

Dude, are all women crazy?

Verbal vomit at end of my date.  How do I stop it?
Why stop it? It’s just your instincts kicking in at end of the night, after being repressed for most of the date.  If you really want to stop verbal vomit, ask him why he’s looking at the TV when you catch him doing so instead of bringing it up at the end of the date.  And why the fuck are you having a date at a place with a TV?

So where should we dine for first few dates?
Long answer requires another article (coming soon).  Short answer: modest and quiet (and no TVs).  Some of my preferences: Harvest Vine, Art of the Table, Cafe Presse.  Ultimately, it depends on the individual and situation.












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