What America Tastes Like

Milk-Robots From a Simpler Time

We see the dark side of consumerist society all around us. It plugs our arteries with trans-fats. It fills our children with a sense of superiority based on what they do own – and envy for what they don’t.

Sometimes, however, we catch a glimpse into an earlier stage of these cultural developments. We might visit an unfamiliar town and walk through a time-portal into a 20th-century version of “consumerist culture.”

This was when store owners just wanted people to eat their hamburgers, and nobody had thought of addicting people to transform them from “human beings” into “heavy users.” There are still little enclaves of capitalism out there where the air is filled with light amusements instead of exploiting smog. A few, usually elderly, businessowners are still more goofy “carnival barker” and less “predacious CEO.”

Such dinosaur-parks are naive, maybe. Outdated, maybe. But also so amusing they’re darn near wholesome.

Walking through the door of “Stew Leonard’s” grocery store – a creepy song and dance performed by grinning animatronic milk cartons?

You have my attention, Stew. Now give me a “taco croissant” free sample.

As a grocery store, the everyday items manage to be competitive with the neighborhood Sav-n-Pic-n-Shop-n-Whatever.

As a theme park that sells brussels sprouts, it’s one heck of a value.

This place could seriously overcharge on all their items. Instead, they just seriously overcharge on some things.

The $7.99/lb buffet-style deli food at the end of your journey, ranges from worth it (massive meatballs) to meh (the wing bar.)

Quite a few items are cheaper than the average boring grocery store. And those stores don’t have talking animals.

In the finest of American capitalist traditions, you are simply invited to upsell yourself. You can get all your practical shopping done and get out of the door with $2.99/lb ground chuck. You can, in theory, walk past the fun.

Good luck trying to do that while navigating a labyrinthine deli section, with the smell of fresh cookies blowing in your face. Can you make it past the innovative house-made goodies, which are reasonably priced considering they seem to be of generally high quality ingredients?

Here’s where they got us – Chocolate-chip cookies sandwiches with cannoli filling. The protruding ricotta is rolled into a ring of chocolate-chiplets. The whole thing ends up with the texture of cookie dough and the richness of a cannoli.

Sure, a superficial “sizzle-over-steak mentality” may be destroying America. We’ve become afraid that if you make something real, people won’t buy it. The modern take on capitalism says to make something snazzy but not real, sell only image, and die rich and evil.

Stew Leonard’s says: “Bring ’em through the door with sizzle, but go ahead and serve an actual steak.”

Those tiny chiplets on the cookie-cannoli are made of actual chocolate, not brown wax.

3475 Berlin Turnpike
Newington, Connecticut

“What America Tastes Like” is an exploration of sub-cultures in the US by way of food. Eating is something all people do, and it also happens to be one of the few expressions of “difference and diversity” in culture that just about all people are ready to celebrate. Regardless of our politics and religion and ontologies, we all like to eat food with our mouths.

Food makes family happen.



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