Sweet As Sugar...But Very Hard To Swallow

Taco Bell is rolling out a breakfast item that is the quintessential south-of-the-border desayuno especialidad:

I refer, naturally, to Cap’n Crunch Crunch Berries coated doughnut holes. So auténticamente Mexicana!

Ay, caramba. Brace yourself. This is where Yum Brands begins to take a licking.

But not just for the ethnic non-sequitur, however ridiculo. Not even for creating the most lowbrow fast food item since its sister fast-feeder, KFC, unveiled the Double Down, which sandwiched the meat between slabs of more meat, with fried chicken serving the function of bread.

Although, let’s just think about that for a moment. On the question of elevating humanity or lowering it, this menu-item eatrocity is actually a pretty tempting target.

I mean, does Joe Queenan know about this? Back in 1998, you may recall, he wrote Red Lobster, White Trash and Blue Lagoon, a funny, nasty, dead-on (if horribly sneering) book about the cultural hegemony of downmarket tastes. Queenan certainly had a sharp eye for kitsch. Michael Bolton and Yanni, check. Red Lobster and Sizzler, check. Love Story and Cats, check.  Branson, Mo., and John Tesh, checkmate.



But so what? Imagine a bell curve. Move your eyes to the point two-thirds between the apex and the endpoint on the right. Everything to the right of that point tends toward the highbrow. Thomas Pynchon, Twyla Tharp, the Guggenheim and 2008 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières Premier Cru. Everything to the left -- which is to say the vast majority of stuff for the vast majority of earthlings -- is the norm

Of course the less sophisticated majority will embrace less sophisticated popular culture. That is why Olive Garden, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Bay and Hallmark exist. And TMZ. And Rush Limbaugh. And the Kardashians. “Popular” is after all about huge swaths off the population. It is why The Da Vinci Code was a blockbuster. It is why John Williams the composer is famous and John Williams the novelist is obscure. And it’s why a restaurant of any kind would serve Cap’n Crunch in any form.

So, if that’s not why to eviscerate Yum Brands, then what? Aha. How about going Double Down on hypocrisy?

It was only two weeks ago that the company self-righteously made an announcement about removing artificial coloring and some artificial flavorings from its food. 

“We're part of an exciting time -- a food revolution,” said Liz Matthews, chief food innovation officer, Taco Bell Corp. “Today's customers are more curious and interested about food than ever. They want to understand what they're eating and expect to know more about it. Their exploration in food is a journey, and one that we have also been on for the past 10 years. We are excited to bring new tools and the right information that is relevant to our fans today. We're making it easy for them to understand what's in our food and providing options for all of today's lifestyles and price points. We're not stopping here, and we are thrilled to bring our fans along.”

If you aren't fluent in CorporateSpeak, allow me to provide a translation:

“Nutritionists, governments and individuals have finally started focusing on how Americans -- with the help of the Crap Industrial Complex -- are poisoning themselves on a mass scale with the gross overconsumption of sugar, simple carbohydrates, salt and fat. That's why we have an obesity epidemic and skyrocketing rates of Type II diabetes, metabolic disease and heart disease, among other disorders. Taco Bell can't truly ameliorate the problem without destroying our own business, but we can pretend to help by removing ingredients never shown to be a health risk to humans. But the more noise we make about this, the more we can confuse you into thinking that we have behaved responsibly and even selflessly -- which, believe me, we definitely have not. What we have done, for the umpteenth time, is blow smoke up the collective ass.”

Amazingly, even in the context of this fraud against public health, the heroes at Yum Brands (motto: Live Free or Dye!) have granted themselves exemptions. Such as Cap’n Crunch Crunch Berries crusted doughnut holes for a nutritious breakfast at Taco Bell (slogan: Live menos!).  

Come on….how could they not give themselves a free pass? There is more natural, organic material in a Frisbee than there is in this breakfast confection. NASA has inquired about the Ca’n Crunch items -- not for feeding astronauts, but for keeping the heat tiles affixed to spacecraft during reentry. Naturalmente, the Doritos Locos Tacos are exempted, too.

Also, I think, the Burrito Oxycontina. Rush Limbaugh, eat your heart out.



3 comments about "Sweet As Sugar...But Very Hard To Swallow".
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  1. Diana Combs from Diana Combs Writer, June 8, 2015 at 12:29 p.m.

    It saddens me that as a nation, we love sugar so much.  The worst part is the parents who don't watch the ingredients of what they feed their kids, and consequently condition their kids to eat way more sugar (or corn syrup) than they realize.  By the time the kids are grown, it is too late -- they're already hooked.  I've seen it even with educated peers -- they grew up on bad food, and even though they know the health risks -- they still gravitate to the overly sweetened foods.  That's my main objection to the cereal, in addition to the non-food items used to make it.

    Fast food such as Taco Bell is a seperate problem -- again enjoying a flavor derived from nothing good for you.

    You puzzled me with your dig against Cats though.  When families want to see musicals with children, Cats is a good one.  Or do you expect them to sit through The Phantom of the Opera?

  2. Mark Paul from Mark Paul, June 8, 2015 at 2:45 p.m.

    Yum Brands is low-lying fruit. Much trickier is something like Whole Foods, which sells the healthy food trip, but a lot of what they sell is the same old junk, but in packaging that leads you to think it's much better at a significantly higher price.

    What's really sad about Yum and others like it is that in a lot of smaller towns in mid-America, they're about the only choice for a meal out, at least at a price many can afford for something less than a major celebration.  

  3. Christopher Stephenson from OnWords, June 9, 2015 at 1:08 p.m.

    On target as always Bob.  Great piece and timely, given the obesity epidemic we face.

    ps - "The collective ass" is a great name for a rock band...and is also available. just an fyi.

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