I’ve been searching around a little for the etymology of the term “dude food”. Even though its use seem to blossom in the late 80s, it seems to have been around for a long time, referring to cowboys. The earliest that I can find is from journalist and author Caroline Lockhart’s first novel in 1911, Me SmithFrom Google Book Search
He still puts on a white linen suit every morning, rides in a chauffeured white Cadillac, visits Kentucky Fried Chicken’s white column headquarters and plugs his “finger lickin’ good” chicken around the country.
But Harland D Sanders, everyone’s favourite Kentucky colonel, is disturbed about what has happened to his chicken and to America’s dining habits.
While it sounds like an alternate history from Adbusters archives, it’s from an interview with Sanders in The Milwaukee Journal, 1975. You know something has gone terribly wrong with food when the mascot starts decrying it.
Violent crime has been on the decline in the US since 1990, and largely, the reasons for the decline have been inexplicable. Steven Leavitt (of Freakonomics fame) and John J. Donohue III argue that around 50% of the reduction in crime is the result of earlier introduction of legalised abortion (PDF). I’ve got a theory – and it is just a theory at this stage – that McDonalds in the US was also a causal factor in the decline of violence.
Over the last decade Cdr Joseph Hibbeln has been researching the link between violence and the consumption of omega 3 fatty acids. From the Guardian:
Over the last century most western countries have undergone a dramatic shift in the composition of their diets in which the omega-3 fatty acids that are essential to the brain have been flooded out by competing omega-6 fatty acids, mainly from industrial oils such as soya, corn, and sunflower. In the US, for example, soya oil accounted for only 0.02% of all calories available in 1909, but by 2000 it accounted for 20%. Americans have gone from eating a fraction of an ounce of soya oil a year to downing 25lbs (11.3kg) per person per year in that period. In the UK, omega-6 fats from oils such as soya, corn, and sunflower accounted for 1% of energy supply in the early 1960s, but by 2000 they were nearly 5%. These omega-6 fatty acids come mainly from industrial frying for takeaways, ready meals and snack foods such as crisps, chips, biscuits, ice-creams and from margarine. Alcohol, meanwhile, depletes omega-3s from the brain.
To test the hypothesis, Hibbeln and his colleagues have mapped the growth in consumption of omega-6 fatty acids from seed oils in 38 countries since the 1960s against the rise in murder rates over the same period. In all cases there is an unnerving match. As omega-6 goes up, so do homicides in a linear progression. Industrial societies where omega-3 consumption has remained high and omega-6 low because people eat fish, such as Japan, have low rates of murder and depression.
[note: link added by me]. Apart from flaxseed oil, canola oil has the lowest ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 of the vegetable oils at about 2:1. Beef tallow has a omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 6:1. In 1990, when violent crime hit its peak in America, McDonalds stopped using beef tallow in its fryers and switched to (mostly) canola oil – and as far as I know – almost all American fast food chains followed suit. This certainly increased the total intake of omega 3s and the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 amongst all Americans who eat a french fry-heavy Standard American Diet.
Exactly the same trend followed in the UK. McDonalds replaced beef tallow in the mid-90s, and and since then, the UK has seen the number of victims of violent crimes halve.
They’re interesting correlations but I can’t find (or at least, don’t have the time to find) better data to come up with anything approaching causality.
Any economists want to pick up the baton from here? Anywhere that I can get good datasets on per capita canola oil consumption?
My favourite trait in Americans is the lack of fear. It spawns an infectious entrepreneurialism. It tempts them to cook a patty of ground chuck to medium-rare over fire rather than safely char it to a risk-free tasteless puck. The above was hands down my favourite hamburger of 2010, from Teddy’s Bigger Burger in Waikiki, Hawaii.
Teddy’s is a short walk from “the Wall” surf break, just near the Zoo at Waikiki, a right-hand reef break that gets packed with local bodyboarders even in the smallest swells. It is a convenient break to bodyboard: you can just walk to the end of a pier and jump off straight into the midst of the action, catching waves that propel the fearless alongside the concrete jetty. Tourists line up to take photos. It’s the first place that I’ve ever been alongside someone on a paipo board, the wooden precursor to the modern foam bodyboards; a portly, grey-bearded Hawaiian who looked like he was carved from a brown leather banquette with an uncanny knack of picking the finest wave even from the poorest sets, riding a beautiful slice of polished timber.
Teddy’s is so close that my boardshorts were still moist. I could taste sea salt dripping from my holiday stubble.
Squishy bun, a patty that tastes of pure barely-cooked beef, pickle, sliced onion, an in-season tomato and a decorative frill of lettuce. There is no meal better.
Apologies about the photo. It’s rubbish.
I’m starting to think that I may have gone a bit soft over the past few weeks.
I called this non-beer surprisingly refreshing. I enjoyed this slice of spam strapped to brick of rice and served at roughly the temperature generated by salmonella having hot and dirty sex. Frankly, I’m loving hawaii for none of the right food reasons and it is blurring my judgment altogether.
The “spam musubi” (above) is big, dumb fun – it’s the eponymous potted spiced ham fried with teriyaki sauce then bound to rice with a belt of nori. It comes with the endorsement of at least one American president and is available around the Hawaiian islands from sushi counters and convenience stores.
I’m surprised that there seems to be no clear history of spam musubi: Was it an innovation that started with the influx of US troops in a similar fashion to the start of budae jjiggae in Korea? Did it come via Okinawa where a similar dish is served or did the two co-evolve? Why was the honorific “o” dropped from “omusubi“? This dish can’t be more than sixty years old, and so its birth is possibly still within someone’s living memory.
The Hawaiian “plate lunch” is an excuse to anchor any protein to an icecream scoop or two of sticky rice. They seem to be both cheap filler and endlessly variable. I’d imagine that you could quite easily write about nothing but the numerous variations on the polystyrene clamshell filled with Hawaiian lunch, forever. At least until a heart attack took you out of the game before you reached middle age.
Two hamburgers submerged in gravy, celery and onion with rice and macaroni salad, from Sueoka Snack Shop in Koloa, Kauai
Some very bready tempura prawns with mayonnaise, macaroni salad and rice from Sueoka Snack Shop in Koloa, Kauai
Until now, the only thing that I knew about Hanalei was that it was the birthplace of Puff the Magic Dragon, which is apparently, a lie.
Some of the best food in America comes in shacks, lean-tos, vans, makeshift structures cobbled together from plywood and tarpaulin and fryer grease. The American food that Americans aspire to eat and inspires the most column inches in this decade seems to sit either at the bottom or at the top, either food van or haute cuisine, but rarely in the middle.
Talking about the middle seems to be more about despairing about the industrialisation of food, big corn, the banality of the corporate chain restaurant and the emptiness of the American home kitchen. American food is hollow in the centre. As a result, the food that Americans aspire to eat from other cultures tends to sit in the middle – home-cooked is shorthand for “authentic” if some other culture is standing in front of the household stove. Your locavoring Alice Water-y folk will argue otherwise.
It bookends neatly with my approach to food: that strange mix of street food and top end – although I am a bit tempted by the taro pie on McDonald’s special Hawaii menu here in Kauai because it combines two things that I despise made good by the deepfryer. I’m more here to surf than eat but food from a shack beckons.
The Shrimp Station in Waimea sits alongside the highway en route to Waimea Canyon and picks up the day-tripping crowd in either direction – it’s almost opposite the faded beachside deco majesty of the local cinema and market.
The drawcard is dealt straight from the deep fryer: Coconut Shrimp. Prawns in a crispy batter with shreds of local coconut, on fries. They’re top notch.
The shrimp taco is a little less inspiring – tasty, fresh salsa but a bit light on the prawn.
Location: 9652 Kaumualii Highway, Waimea, Hawaii
Tel: (808) 338-1242