Food is an interesting thing. It both
keeps us alive and makes life worth living. It is both nourishment
and a source of pleasure. Unfortunately, the pleasurable aspects of
food are under attack by a group of unadventurous and ignorant
eaters: the Blands.
The Blands are intent upon making our world uniform. Blands are
the people who seem to thrive on the boring and the unoriginal.
Blands are the people who desperately search for the same thing,
the same foods and experiences everywhere they go.
One of the main reasons chain restaurants are successful is the
Blandian mantra, “I like the comfort of knowing that a burger in
Los Angeles will taste the same as here in Ann Arbor. When I eat at
Tchotchke’s I know what I’m getting, no matter where I am.”
Why do Blands feel this driving need to have the same food
everywhere? Lacking any understanding of real food, Blands only
feel comfortable eating when there’s a big pile of fried something
on their plates and free refills.
When I was a junior in high school, my French class went to
Paris. One evening, our teacher gave us free reign to stroll the
Champs-Elysees to find dinner. A couple friends and I found a
little bistro where we enjoyed a simple yet elegant authentic
French meal with fresh bread, a nice entree, a cheese course and a
cheap French wine. For a reasonable price we experienced something
new and delicious. The rest of the class – all Blands – found a
Chili’s restaurant and had strawberry daiquiris and french fries
while listening to American rock music.
In what must be considered a victory for the Blands, another
Jimmy John’s opened it’s doors in Ann Arbor last week. Apparently,
three stores selling tasteless, dry and poorly baked bread and
overly-mayonnaised sandwiches just wasn’t enough for the Blands.
Maybe they just couldn’t get enough of the faux old advertising,
free smells and fluorescent lighting.
Jimmy John’s is not good food. Despite their ads, it does not
have the “World’s Greatest Gourmet Sandwiches.” Yet people swear
they are wonderful. I will not deny that there are times when a
Jimmy John’s sandwich hits the spot – in the same way a Pabst Blue
Ribbon does. However, it displays a remarkable level of ignorance
as to what real food is to argue that Jimmy John’s is quality food
– or even remotely gourmet.
Well, there’s no accounting for taste, right? Wrong. Take your
food relativism and shove it. Freshly baked bread topped with farm
fresh tomatoes is better than white bread and Kroger’s tomatoes,
guaranteed. People might think they prefer Kraft Macaroni &
Cheese or Lipton brand tea, but this is for lack of trying anything
better or a result of years of palate deadening foods. It takes a
little while after switching to real food to begin to taste all the
subtleties of flavor, but once tastebuds are awaked, there is no
Blands are bland largely because they are lazy. The 10 minutes
of effort it might take to make a real sandwich is just too much
for a Bland, who would much rather walk somewhere out of his or her
way to pay someone to prepare an inferior sandwich. Instead of
using a modicum of planning to buy a real loaf of bread from a
bakery or perhaps go shopping for food with a menu in mind, Blands
put as little thought into eating decisions as possible. Blands
might argue that they aren’t lazy, but rather too busy. However,
the minimal effort required to eat better and the gloating attitude
through which they express their love of all things boring belies
Not only are Blands lazy, they are deeply in denial. Unwilling
to believe better food is available at roughly the same price,
Blands create a mythology around their choices and can be heard
talking at length about the quality of ingredients at Jimmy John’s
or the superior taste of a Bloomin’ Onion. Psychologically
unwilling to find foods that are in actuality better, Blands build
up an aversion to new foods and flavors.
Price is the last defense of Blands. “Surely,” they argue,
“better food costs more.” Well, it can, but it doesn’t have to. A
bit of intelligent shopping goes a long way. Fresh breads and local
produce can be found at bakeries and farmer’s markets for no more
than a few dollars and will provide for more meals than a sub.
Yes, I’m a food elitist, a first class epicurean. But better
that than a Bland, a food relativist, living in a world without
moral absolutes and unable or unwilling to distinguish good quality
food from bad.