Saturday, May 14, 2016

Food for Thought

When it comes to innovation, there’s nothing like food and drink to fire up the American imagination.

And we’re not talking about filet of free-range bison in a pinot noir reduction served on a bed of organic prairie grass.

We’re talking about stick-to-the-ribs fare, the kind of stuff we’ve been told to avoid but continue to eat in mass quantities.

We can’t help it. We are people whose ancestors rose before dawn to plow the back 40, mend the fences, round up the livestock and shoe the horses all before lunch. And even though we don’t plow, mend, round up or shoe anything these days, we still eat like we do.  Traditions die hard.

We are one nation, burgers and fries for all.

In that spirit, we introduce a few new culinary delights you may have missed.

Out in Brooklyn, a pizzeria named Vinnie’s has solved that age-old problem of dealing with that large, greasy, unwieldly pizza box.

They have invented a box made of pizza. You don’t toss it, you eat it.

Vinnie’s owner Sean Berthiaume says the idea came to him while he was thinking about customers coming in for a slice or two, then discarding their greasy boxes right away.

“Sometimes I get a little upset when customers ask for a box and then they sit down and eat the pizza and they throw away the box right away. So that kinda clicked something in my brain.”  

So the pizza box isn’t just tasty—it’s also environmentally friendly. Save a tree. Eat a pizza.

These guys are no newcomers to the pizza game. Last year, they introduced a pizza topped with smaller pizza slices.

The only problem they’re having is trying to figure out the best way to deliver the pizza without using an actual box thus defeating the whole point.

American ingenuity will find a way. In the meantime, give them credit for thinking outside the box.

Down at the ballpark, nobody will confuse baseball with the Hunger Games.

In Atlanta, they feast on a 20-ounce bacon cheeseburger jammed between two personal-size pizzas—one pepperoni, one plain—in lieu of buns. 

In Texas, where the Rangers hold forth, you can dine on something called the Wicked Pig, a tri-level “Hawaiian roll stacked with pulled pork, bacon, sausage, prosciutto and ham, then doused in barbecue sauce and topped with coleslaw and pork rinds.”

Or the Chicken and Doughnut Skewer, a foot of alternating fried chicken and doughnuts “drizzled with buffalo honey sauce.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are offering the Cracker Jack and Mac Dog, a foot-long hot dog with what appears to be an entire box of Cracker Jacks, a fistful of mac and cheese, plus jalapeños, and salted caramel sauce.

The Philadelphia Phillies will be serving the Wayback Triple Triple Triple, a teetering stack of nine cheeseburgers that clocks in at 1,980 calories.

The world champion Kansas City Royals offer the Champions Alley Burger, “a cheese-stuffed, tempura-battered cheddar bacon burger with sweet slaw, chipotle ketchup and fried pickle on a Farm to Market roll for $19.”

Napkins and paramedics will be available in abundance.

Corporate America is firmly in lockstep on innovative food fare.

Kentucky Fried Chicken, whose motto is “finger lickin’ good” is offering lickable, edible fingernail polish in two flavors: Original, and Hot and Spicy.

Let me guess.  It tastes like chicken.

KFC’s advertising company said the aim of the product was a way “to remind the younger generation” of “the great taste and good times the brand stands for.”

"Simply apply and dry like regular nail polish and then lick — again and again and again to taste why the world's favorite chicken is Finger Lickin' Good," the company says.

Alas, this treat is only available in Hong Kong, at least for the time being.  Why?

According to Forbes, KFC is all over China. And not just with its buckets of fried chicken. The fast-food chain – one of the country’s most popular – has recently unleashed a series of clever marketing props to keep luring in its Chinese consumers, with a special eye on Millennials and Generation Z.

Of course.  Nothing says hip like deep fried poultry.

Innovations extend to packaging as well. We offer as Exhibit A Budweiser’s plan to rename its beer, at least temporarily.

It will be called America.

The redesigned can will replace each element of Budweiser-specific branding with Americana. The beer’s slogan, “King of Beers,” will be replaced with “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of many, one”), the words featured on American currency. Instead of a description of the brewing process at the top of the can, there will be lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Too bad they couldn’t squeeze the Bill of Rights in there somewhere.

Lost in all this hoopla is that fact that it won’t be a better beer. Just plain old Bud wrapped in a flag.

Considering Bud is owned by a company based in Belgium, why this sudden burst of patriotism?

It will be “probably the most American summer of our generation,” Ricardo Marques, a vice president at Budweiser, told the New York Times. Along with the traditional spring and summer holidays — Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, this summer will bring the Olympics and the Copa América soccer tournament, to be held in June at sites throughout the United States. 

The re-branding will last until November.

Some might question equating a love of country with a product that can make you fat, lazy and stupid.

On the other hand, we may need to pound down a couple of cans of America before we enter the booth to vote for a president this fall.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1

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