Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Epiphany #1

If you are expecting big things here, you will be disappointed.  If you see life in the small details, welcome aboard.

I'm in an upscale hamburger place, a concept that, ten years ago, didn't exist.  But now it does, and its burgers come from locally-sourced beef or else they are turkey burgers or else they are veggie burgers or else they are vegan burgers.  You get the idea.

I'm splurging; I'm having the beef.  Of the times I've been here, this may be the first time I've actually had the hamburger as beef.  Turkey, yes.  Appetizers only, yes.  But this time, I'm having the beef, so I skip the egg, the guacamole, the roasted New Mexico chile, the pastrami, the mushrooms, the BBQ, and all of the other things I could have on one of their specialty burgers.  I'm just having the cheeseburger.

ME:  I'll have the All-American Burger (or whatever the basic cheeseburger is called).

WAITRESS:  How would you like that cooked?

ME:  Medium.

WAITRESS:  What kind of cheese would you like?

ME:  Cheddar.

I have to interject here.  I know from the menu that there are four kinds of cheese I can pick from--Swiss (I think), white cheddar, yellow cheddar, and pimento cheese.  

WAITRESS:  Which kind--white or yellow?

ME:  I don't care.

I have to interject here.  I really don't care.

WAITRESS:  silence.

ME:  You decide.  It doesn't matter to me.

WAITRESS:  silence.

ME:  Okay, then yellow.

WAITRESS:  So, an All-American Burger cooked medium with yellow cheddar.

I nod; she leaves.  And I realize that our society is one where it has become necessary to offer two different colors of cheddar cheese that taste exactly the same.  Not everywhere, of course, but here.  Whether that is because customers demand the choice or a because a restaurant can gain credibility for such a distinction, I don't know.  

And not only in cheeses.  Our opportunities to distinguish who we are based on colors and shades expand everyday.  Everything is an accessory to the fashionable us.

Do you know how yellow cheddar gets yellow or orange?  Seeds from the Achiote tree are used to make a dye called Achiote or annato (I know this because I once made a Peruvian fish stew that called for the coloring, available in Latin American groceries).  It is natural.  I assume it is harmless, unless you are allergic to Achiote.  But I'm sure you know that white and yellow cheddar taste the same.  It is a cosmetic coloring, for uniformity.

I am careless.  I know that.  I often choose the easiest path.  Please do not make me agonize over which color of cheese is the right color.  I don't want to be the person who feels that preference is important, or the person who develops a preferential prejudice.

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