Open Letters to the Food Industry

Last week I saw two great articles from writers not known for writing about food: Seth Godin and Mark Morford.

If you’re in the marketing business, you already know Seth. He’s got a string of bestsellers, but doesn’t consider himself primarily a writer. He publishes books just because he knows some people are more willing to listen to his ideas if they’re wrapped in a hard cover. And then he camps out on the top of the New York Times bestseller lists. (What, me jealous? Nah.)

Morford is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. So if you stick to East Coast newspapers, you probably don’t read stuff like his all that often. Which is a shame, because he’s incredibly funny, sometimes in an oh-my-God-I-can’t-believe-he-said-that kind of way.

Morford tends to be more rant-y, while Seth stays more toward constructive criticism. So lets start with Morford’s two-middle-fingers-straight-up review of the new KFC Double Down:

I can think of few gigs more nightmare-inducingly, soul-deadeningly horrible than being an executive for garbage food megacorp.

That is to say, a VP for McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King or their ilk, someone who sits around all day trying to discover new ways to manipulate, coerce, poison, and otherwise flagrantly kill millions of humans worldwide by convincing them to eat mass-produced, industrial feedlot, chemical-blasted garbage you should not feed to your dog unless you totally hate him and want him to get heart disease and die.

I think he’s trying to say he doesn’t like fast food in general. So how about the Double Down in particular?

Apparently, for many months, people who run the snarky junk food blogs on the Interwebs heard rumors that KFC was testing this item, and thought it might be a joke, a viral gimmick. Or if not that, then something that certainly would never make it to market, given how it looks like some sort of frat-boy prank, like the drones at KFC’s test kitchens got completely hammered one night and had a bet as to who could come up with the most repulsive menu item imaginable.

There’s a good chance you’ll see the picture at the top of his column and think, “Heck yeah, I want to try that.” And you’ll still think everything he says is true … and funny.

Oh, by the way, the fine(?) folks over at Vegansaurus have come up with a vegan substitute for the Double Down. I haven’t seen the words “replacement” and “substitute” so many times in one recipe since … ever. What do I think of it? I’ll let Doctor Cox take this one:

And the best line is from a friend of mine who said:

Just so you realize, it won’t be the cholesterol or saturated fat that kills you in this sandwich.

My guess would be raw karma and an industrial chemical to be named later that mimics a neuro-receptor and tweaks the immune system in a way that will be obvious in hindsight.

Now for Seth’s letter to the soft-drink manufacturers. It’s reasonable, and restrained, and completely devastating.

Once people realize that excessive use of your product makes them sick and then die a long and painful death, it’s probably time to stop lobbying and time to start doing something about it. This industry should stop thinking it is in the corn syrup delivery business (which brings nasty side effects along with it) and start focusing on delivering joy in a bottle. Lots of interesting ways to do that without giving up profits.

What he’s talking about is New York’s proposed penny an ounce sweet soda tax, which all the manufacturers are fighting. His question is, if everyone has to play by the same rules, why do the manufacturers care? If the price goes up on yours, it goes up on everyone else’s. If they switch away from sweet drinks, they’ll probably switch to Dasani (Made by Coca-Cola) or Aquafina (made by Pepsi), so you’re going to make even more.

The only reason to fight this tax is if you want to sell more high fructose corn syrup. The tobacco industry recognized (in internal memos) that cigarettes are really a nicotine delivery system. Are Coke and Pepsi really just HFCS delivery systems?