June 9, 2013

"What’s interesting is that just because a food is delicious doesn’t necessarily make it popular."

"You enjoy it because, well, people around you seem to enjoy it. This means that items can also change contexts. This is what happened to Pabst Blue Ribbon, which went from a working-class Midwestern beer to Brooklyn’s preferred Hipster beverage. It’s also what happened to Marlboro, a poorly selling women’s cigarette ('Mild as May') before being rebranded to appeal to men. In both cases, nothing about the product itself changed. But if the peer behavior around the product changes, so too does our appreciation of it."

From an essay called "How Lobster Got Fancy/The surprising history—from food for the poor, servants, and prisoners to a soldier’s staple to everybody’s idea of a delicacy—of 'the cockroach of the ocean'" — via Metafilter — which first made me think why would anyone write an essay about lobster after there's already a greatest-essay-ever-written-level essay about lobster, which, by the way, the first-linked essay quotes — how could it not? — but doesn't link. But there's some good info and analysis about the culture of food:
During the Great Depression, impoverished families in Maine would sneak down to the ocean in the dark to empty and reset their lobster traps and take home the day’s haul to feed their families. It was still seen, at least in Maine, as a food for the poor. It was considered embarrassing for children to have to go to school with sandwiches made of lobster meat.

During World War II, however, lobster wasn’t rationed like other foods, and so people of all classes began to eat it enthusiastically, and discover its deliciousness.
Things that are delicious that you're nevertheless disgusted by. Is it because you're disgusted by other people? If you know that's your reason, do you overcome your disgust? If you do, is that because you're ashamed of yourself for looking down on other people or because you think that the food of the common people is usually pretty good and actually just what you're looking for?

But you still won't eat the cicadas, will you?

82 comments:

C Stanley said...

Neber understood the appeal of lobster, although I do like crawfish. But crawfish are cheap, and heavily seasoned, and eaten with heavily seasoned corn and potatoes, and beer.

Chip S. said...

Later, rumor has it, some in Massachusetts revolted and the colony was forced to sign contracts promising that indentured servants wouldn’t be fed lobster more than three times a week.

It was the standard lobster clause.

edutcher said...

Usually, it's about the food.

The Blonde says she's allergic to eggs, but it's the runniness that turns her off.

Same thing for pudding (although she loves ice cream (and I knew a Puerto Rican lady (at the IRS) that felt that way about ice cream)).

Bob said...

But you still won't eat the cicadas, will you?

Do they taste like lobster?

ndspinelli said...

The St. Louis Baking Co. simply changed their name to Panera and women started flocking there like they were giving away free valium.

Ipso Fatso said...

"Red Necks, White Sox & Blue Ribbon Beer".

Johnny Russell-RIP.

Ann Althouse said...

"It was the standard lobster clause."

Sometimes the boilerplate is about boiled things.

ndspinelli said...

There is nothing anyone can do to make headcheese popular to the masses. Maybe cannabis headcheese?

AllenS said...

Barack said that dog meat is good, so let's start eating dogs. What the hell, Althouse, you have access to plenty of them. Go for it.

Ipso Fatso said...

Also "PBR me ASAP". From one of their early commercials. I like PBR, it used to be brewed in Peoria, IL. Though no longer. It became hipster food about 7 or 8 years ago.

ndspinelli said...

It's not just Pabst that's hipster, it's Pabst "kingers"[16oz.] that is hipster beer. Don't get Baron Zemo started on this. Pabst is also known as "Indian Beer" because it's so popular on the reservations.

ricpic said...

Hippies like it? Pabst tastes like piss.

Seafood is interesting. Most people who claim to like seafood steer away from seafood with a strong oily seafoody taste, like bluefish. That's why bland lobster and flounder are popular. Who knows, maybe the hippies can popularize bluefish?

Ain't nobody ever gonna be able to popularize okra. Ewww, slimy stuff.

ndspinelli said...

In my younger years we considered Pabst "Summer beer." We always had coolers of it in the trunks of our cars during the summer. Other seasons were Schaeffer, 'Gannsett, Black Label, and Utica Club. Only northeasterners will understand.

Christopher Johnson said...

Speaking of St. Louis, the last time we saw the cicadas, a local ice cream place ground 'em up and put them into their ice cream. Sold pretty well until the Health Department made them stop.

betamax3000 said...

I would have Liked to Read a David Foster Wallace essay on Sexy Librarians.

Ahhh, the Footnotes That Could Have Been.

Chip S. said...

Pabst tastes like piss.

When people say something tastes like piss when it doesn't smell anything like piss, I always wonder how they acquired this knowledge.

ndspinelli said...

ricpic, I took some guys to a Packer game last year. One guy was a huge Busch fan. I packed Coors Light and he complained. I told him to just let me drink a couple, then I'll piss in his mouth and he'll have his Busch.

Chip S. said...

@spinelli, make mine Jenny Cream Ale.

Ipso Fatso said...

In the midwest the cheap beers were Red, White & Blue, Edelweiss, & Old Milwaukee. Also Old Style (which we naturally referred to as Dog Style) was also popular back in the early 70s. God, I miss those days.

ndspinelli said...

ricpic, You're absolutely correct about bluefish. They're one of the best fighting fish and I love the taste. The oily the better taste and better health results. I surmise the color turns off diners also. Maybe one day it will get hot. There's a fucking mess of them in the Atlantic. And the mofo's will bite off your finger if you give them a chance.

ndspinelli said...

ChipS, Got into "Jenny" going to school in NE Pa. The town[Wilkes-Barre] had 2 local beers I bet you never hears of, Stegmaier and Gibbons. You could get 3 qts. of Steg for a buck! Drank a mess of it. Gibbons had a small tap room open to the public. We would go every Friday after classes. The drivers would come in and bust our balls for having long hair. It was a different world. Those drivers would driver around making deliveries w/ half gallon bottles of beer on their lap!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Beef tongue.

Used to be a very inexpensive cut of meat. Since the growth of the Hispanic population, it has become expensive. Tacos lengua.....delicious!!!...and other Mexican uses of beef tongue have made it harder to get and costly.

This is my favorite way to serve beef tongue: Swedish Tongue

Chip S. said...

Is it customary to serve Swedish Tongue on/ a bed of Swedish meatballs?

Saint Croix said...

This is what happened to Pabst Blue Ribbon, which went from a working-class Midwestern beer to Brooklyn’s preferred Hipster beverage.

PBR is actually one of the finest American beers. We used to drink it all the time at Pinky's in Savannah, where it was on draft.

It's the preferred hipster beverage because David Lynch decided to nuke Heineken.

ndspinelli said...

DBQ, There is a taco stand in Pacific Beach that serves incredible lengua tacos.

In Ct. virtually every bar had a jar of pickled lamb's tongues. Very tasty along w/ a pickled egg.

ndspinelli said...

Pabst was the beer sold in most PX's back in the 60's/70's from what I've been told so many veterans are loyal drinkers. AllenS, was that your experience?

betamax3000 said...

Re: "
It's the preferred hipster beverage because David Lynch decided to nuke Heineken."

Exactly.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Oh...pickled lamb's tongues. Yum!!! another favorite.

We used to be able to buy lamb's tongues at an Italian butchery when I lived in The City... that would be San Francisco. Cook 'em, cool and peel. Sliced lenghtwise and marinate in an olive oil/vinaigrette. Fabulous!

Bob said...

@Ricpic: you're boiling that okra, aren't you? Try frying it.

madAsHell said...

Fried okra?
Been there.
Done that.
Didn't go back for more!

AllenS said...

Nick, never bought beer in a PX. Back when I was stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC, IIRC I drank Falstaff, Black Label (?) and some others. Back then, beer was beer. I've never been very fussy. My latest thing is Leinenkugel's Big Eddie series of beer. Dark beer with a high alcohol content. They are sold in 4 packs. You don't need many...

Joe said...

Lobster is vile as is crab and most, if not all, seafood.

The irony is that I accidentally discovered I had a shellfish allergy after eating several bites of what I though was really bad tasting macaroni salad.

Blue@9 said...

PBR is the hipster beer because it's easily the cheapest drink in bars. Tecate is also popular here in SF because it's also dirt cheap.

You can find it in malls now, but remember when sushi started going mainstream in the 80s? Huge swaths of people swore they'd never eat anything as disgusting as raw fish. I run into people all the time who've never had raw oysters; many swear it looks too nasty to eat, but once they try it they're hooked.

Scott said...

Flank steak and brisket used to be cheaper cuts on the cow. Now you can't find it under $7/pound out here.

Fritz said...

Take my cicadas, please.

Scott said...

Flank steak and brisket used to be cheaper cuts on the cow. Now you can't find it under $7/pound out here.

bagoh20 said...

I love lobster, and I hate when it's overpriced, which is most of the time, but the best lobster anywhere above sea level is at The Galley restaurant in Santa Monica, CA. A tiny place virtually unchanged since the 1930s, not at all fancy, but the bugs are big and juicy and always perfect.

Chip S. said...

the best lobster anywhere above sea level is at The Galley restaurant in Santa Monica, CA.

Also, the best enchiladas in the world can be found at a little diner in Bar Harbor, ME.

Browndog said...

I once heard in Minnesota perch are considered "junk fish". Here in Michigan, they're a prized meal.

Chubs are considered junk here, but are prized in Canada, so I'm told.

tim said...

I have a son who is 1.5 years, I want him to eat "everything" and I also will not put anything in his mouth that I haven't had first. Lots of new foods for me.

tim said...

Oh, but he fricken loves dog food, I refuse to eat that. But he apparently likes Purina and not fancy organic human grade stuff from the vet, I have seen him spit that out.

AllenS said...

Has anyone ever hear about eelpout? In Minnesota, especially on Lake Mille Lacs where my dad had his ice fishing house, it's an ugly fish that swallows the hook completely. It seems that you only catch them in the winter. Anyways, if you just cut the two top strips of meat off them along either side of the backbone, then slice the skin off, and then cook 'em like lobster, you can't tell the difference in taste.

Tim said...

Blue@9 said...

"PBR is the hipster beer because it's easily the cheapest drink in bars. Tecate is also popular here in SF because it's also dirt cheap."

That, and it's a perfect foil for mocking the working class beer of one's parents and aunts and uncles.

I didn't much care for beer until I discovered Anchor Steam; things got better, much better, when Sierra Nevada (from Aaron Rodger's home town, Chico, CA) made craft beer nationwide.

Now, I pretty much don't drink any mass produced beers, but only because the craft beers are so wonderful, both in selection and quality.

Baron Zemo said...

PBR is one of the identifying characteristics of the hipster douchebag.

You also need ripped jeans, bad tattoos, piercings, a stupid hat and a soul patch.

They you too can be a hipster douchebag out in the sticks.

Baron Zemo said...

Back in the day you either had Reingold, Shaeffer or Shiltz. Maybe the occasional Ballentine Ale. When you went upstate you drank Gennesse Cream Ale.

Nobody drank PBR.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Scott--I know--isn't that annoying? I love to cook bulgogi-style Korean beef with flank steak but we have to eat mac & cheese the rest of the week if I do. I didn't get into the brisket thing until moving to Texas; I would love to cook that more often but since I can't do it right anyway and they cost a fortune, I just try to make friends with the kind of people who put a brisket on the pit at 6 am : )

I lived on Guam for a few years and occasionally for special occasions someone would illegally catch, cook and serve a green sea turtle. Not my cup of tea, but word on the street is that the poor suckers are delicious.

Baron Zemo said...

If you want a beer....stick with Newcastle.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

P.S. Also, back in the 60s and 70s when Seattle was still working class, it was all about Raaaaaa-nieeeeeer-beeeeeer.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I miss the days when the Pacific Northwest was still awesome.

rcocean said...

I thought Olympia Beer was better.

Browndog said...

Has anyone ever hear about eelpout?

Nope. looked it up-

We call them dogfish here.

Never heard of anyone eating them, but a lot of swearing when somebody catches them--they swallow the hook, as you pointed out.

rcocean said...

Raineer Beer was like "Schlitz" - great commercials but just OK beer.

Browndog said...

Michelob was the "hipster" beer back in the '80's.

Mary Beth said...

" It’s also what happened to Marlboro, a poorly selling women’s cigarette ('Mild as May') before being rebranded to appeal to men. In both cases, nothing about the product itself changed. But if the peer behavior around the product changes, so too does our appreciation of it."

Marlboro did change. Not the taste, the look. It originally had a red band around the filter to hide lipstick marks.

Baron Zemo said...

If you want a beer....stick with Newcastle.

6/9/13, 12:20 PM


I second that.

Howard said...

Salmon used to be white trash cuisine back in the day when you could walk across the Columbia River their backs. Tuna fish was crap-canned fish before sashimi was popularized by Yuppies (parents of hipsters).

Skirt, flank, "flat Iron" and tri-tip all used to be cheap. Do you mid-west & east coasters get tri-tip now?

Spaghetti was cheap food for low-rent trash before the Yuppie *pasta* orgasm.

Lucky Lager with the rebus under the cap was popular with teens in the 70's along with Old Milwaukee and Pabst Bock.

Back in the 50's, poor okies in Cali would pick abalone off the rocks at low tide... now it's $50/lb.

Astro said...

A lot of people in Florida won't eat mullet because it has a reputation as a low-class trash fish. (Hence the name being used for the haircut I suppose.)

-- Unless it's smoked first, then somehow it becomes a delicacy and people flock to restaurants that serve it.
But it's actually a pretty tasty fish with good texture, and comes out nicely when oven baked.

Go figure.

Jeff Teal said...

We called PBR "peanut" beer because we got it from Perry GA.Still had faint peanut taste.Drank lots cheap with fried mushrooms.And what about Spam as a cornerstone of modern Hawiian cuisine.Mom used to make my favorite summer dish Spam salad.Sort of like a Chef salad except with Spam chunks and Cheddar chunks has to have radishes.Beef cuts profusion illustrates changes as well.But what about catfish?Until they started pondraising it catfish was only eaten if you caught it.And it dang sure didn't taste like pond raised.And how about mullet?GM insists she would never eat caviar but has one of the cousins save her the muller roe for the Family Fish Fry.

Jeff Teal said...

Astro you got in first with the mullet.Seafood restaurants charge as much for smoked mullet dip as for tuna dip.Man is that fish flash fried in peanut oil yummy.

Ipso Fatso said...

Grain Belt, another classic shitty midwestern beer from the 70s.

Ann Althouse said...

Hey, I just remembered Schmidt's beer! That was, I think the equivalent brand in the Philadelphia area -- the standard brand, back when Miller was considered fancy.

Ann Althouse said...

And then I remember their being a thing for Ringnes Beer in the 70s (in NYC).

Howard said...

Is Rolling Rock hipster?

Ann Althouse said...

"A lot of people in Florida won't eat mullet because it has a reputation as a low-class trash fish. (Hence the name being used for the haircut I suppose.)"

I always assumed the fish name for the haircut was the shape being perceived as like a fishtail -- a variation on the ducktail (or duck ass), which described the hair at the back being like the back of a watergoing creature.

Ann Althouse said...

BTW, Miller was a ladies' beer in the 1960s.

Ann Althouse said...

"The Champagne of Bottled Beer."

Ann Althouse said...

Classy!

Ann Althouse said...

I connect Rolling Rock and Ringnes... both were favored by young people (in the 70s) as a way to somehow distance yourself from the older people who drank Shaeffer and Miller and Budweiser.

Scott said...

When I was a teenager in Madison in the late 50's, we used to steal cases of Faurbach beer from their loading dock. Took it out into the country beyond Middleton and had a great time throwing up in the corn fields.

Scott said...

When I was a teenager in Madison in the late 50's, we used to steal cases of Faurbach beer from their loading dock. Took it out into the country beyond Middleton and had a great time throwing up in the corn fields.

Saint Croix said...

Nobody drank PBR.

Ha! My dad drank PBR. Only he didn't call it PBR. He called it Pabst.

My Dad: "What's PBR?"

It's the damn beer you've been drinking all your life!

You can't get more old school than my dad. And I've circled around and am now drinking his beer. Except with a cooler name. But same cheap price!

ndspinelli said...

There are 2 Schmidt beer. The more local is Schmidt Beer of Mn. The more regional is Schmidt's Beer of Philly. Schmidt's was the only beer you could buy @ Connie Mack and Veterans Stadium up until the mid 70's. Augie Busch tried very hard to have Bud be the ONLY beer served in all MLB ballparks. I'm glad he failed and I'm glad Harry Caray fucked his wife.

Roger J. said...

Nick: re PBR and Viet Nam--we drank a lot of PBR--probably the most available beer. If I remember correctly, it came in SP Packs in addition to the PX beer runs.

AllenS said...

Eelpout will never become hip or classy as a food thingy.

Roger J. said...

Spent two years going to school in Pittsburgh--Iron City beer was standard but a really good beer Kohler (sp?) was brewed in Erie--the beer with the dutch touch according to their ads--and I was very close to Heineken in taste. The worst local beer I had was in Miami while growing up: Regal Beer--

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Back in the 70's the thing to do was to get someone from the midwest, Ohio or someplace to bring out some Stroh's beer and trade for Coors. For some reason you couldn't buy Coors in the east and Strohs was unavailable out west.

Personal favorite for me right now is Blue Moon Belgian White or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Roger J. said...

Seems to me if you are a serious beer drinker, we are living in a golden age. Local micro brews turn out some really great stuff--when we travel we also ask for the local micro brew on tap. Never been disappointed.

Carl said...

It could easily be that the willingness to eat lobster grew as knowledge about what lobsters eat became less common.

Just for example, any New England fisherman in the 19th century knew a few friends who'd been eaten by lobsters.

Baron Zemo said...

Nobody drank PBR because it really made you fart.

Much more so than any other beer.

So for spinelli that was a feature not a bug.

Ann Althouse said...

"There are 2 Schmidt beer. The more local is Schmidt Beer of Mn. The more regional is Schmidt's Beer of Philly. Schmidt's was the only beer you could buy @ Connie Mack and Veterans Stadium up until the mid 70's. Augie Busch tried very hard to have Bud be the ONLY beer served in all MLB ballparks. I'm glad he failed and I'm glad Harry Caray fucked his wife."

Yeah, as my link indicates, I mean Schmidt's. We lived in northern Delaware, the Philadelphia region. My father and grandfather watched the Phillies on TV and drank Schmidt's. And the place down the street sold great subs and steak sandwiches.

rcocean said...

I wish had refined Beer tastes. To me there's not much difference between the best beer I've ever had, and an average beer.

And after two, the difference goes away completely.

I think someone said something similar about Pumpkin Pie - probably Orson Welles.

ken in sc said...

In Mississippi, mullet is called Biloxi bacon and is a staple of local fish frys.

BTW, PBR changed their recipe in the late 60s and I could not drink it anymore. It would stop my head up and I could not breath except through my mouth.

Anthony said...

There's also the matter of chicken which has a somewhat similar history, and affects the price and configuration of imported trucks as well!

The Subaru Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter and the Chicken Tax