What America Tastes Like

Dystopian Nachos

Perhaps, if humanity so chooses, we will eventually do away with all fleshly interpersonal interaction.

Wouldn’t it be better just to have pictures of people on screens? It is easier to make pictures go away when a screen says something you don’t like.

There is always the possibility of dystopia. Someday, we may push a touchscreen causing machines to inject Mountain Dew into our carotid arteries.

Many people’s minds believe that not having to interact with a human being would instead be a utopia.

We’ve all had that night where we smoked too much weed and became afraid of calling the pizza guy for some reason. The “social anxiety” tolerance threshold was lowered by hallucinogenics.

Smartphones seem to be lowering this threshold for society in general, especially younger generations. I once saw a billboard that said You wouldn’t talk to your friends, so why would you talk to a restaurant?” I squinted at it and frowned. I read it again. “Why wouldn’t I talk to my friends?” I had to ask someone what the sign meant, and they explained: “It’s an advertisement for a food-ordering app. They think that you don’t enjoy making phone calls to anyone, including your friends.”

Once that message sank in for me, my eyes got wide. That’s the most frightened I’ve ever been of a billboard.

My sense is that while the benefit of “lack of social anxiety” might appeal to us for awhile if we choose this particular utopian dystopia, we would all eventually start to wonder why we felt empty in our souls.

To fill my stomach with warm, mostly organic material, I ate at a gas station.

I sampled this anti-human (techno-cultural? non-cultural?) experience, of all places, in the South.

Junkatron cyberfood from the future is available today, ordered by touchscreen.

I hadn’t eaten at a “Sheetz” before. You play a colorful videogame on the computer to find what you actually want while the screen tries throwing extra things at you.

No, I don’t want to add “Extra Big Ass Tacos.”

No, I don’t want “Ultimate Mega Quiche.”

A few minutes after you beat the game, a human being shuffles out of the enclosed metal “kitchen.” This “Human Serving Unit” may or may not cower inside a steel cage in the back, emerging only when prodded by electrical shock from his robot overlords. Serving Unit 75876 shoves a plastic box of “Stuffed Nachos” across the counter to you.

These were entirely submerged in a thick goo. So far so good. A delicious and decidedly unspicy meaty paste is folded into triangles of corn tortilla and fried. There is a distinct possibility that Sheetz buys factory-seconds from Jack In the Box and sells the frozen deepfried tacos that shattered during shipping. The yellow sauce is thick and has a dull cheddar flavor, asking for an element of acid or jalepeno to truly qualify as “nacho” cheese. But it is plasticly pleasing and I was given a big bowlful.

This is exactly what you’re hoping for when you give a robot $3 because you want to eat something other than food.

If you’re a fast-food employee, your employed days are numbered. It doesn’t take a PhD to push fries across the counter.

Of course, considering the fact that a robot can access every text and study ever scanned into the internet, you may want to save up a little nest-egg if you have that PhD, too.

“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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