A regular review of interesting cultural shifts & marketing developments as viewed through the collective lens of the Stancombe Research + Planning Team

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Farce Food

For the last decade or so we’ve been bombarded with more and more health messages, encouraging us to watch what we eat, exercise and steer clear of fast, fried and junk food.  These messages have been augmented by controversial blockbuster films such as Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation and accompanied by rising popularity of fast food alternatives such as salad bars and sushi shops. Last month, the Australian Government released the Eat For Health dietary guidelines stating that Australians need to limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt and added sugars. The message to date has been very clear.

But in recent years, an interesting countermovement has emerged. It’s difficult to label but for now we’ll call it the ‘anti-health-tongue in cheek-ironic-adaptation-American-fast food-diner movement’. It’s most evident on the bar menus of some of Sydney’s trendiest watering holes and it isn’t showing any signs of waning. So what are the symptoms? Apart from the de rigeur of American diner food; sliders, tex-mex tacos/nachos and burgers; it is characterised by such ironic menu items as deep fried pizza, deep fried mac n cheese balls, bucket o’chicken, ‘dynamite chili dawg’ and, would you believe, a deep fried golden gaytime! Its either processed, fried, cheesy, oily, covered in a thick layer of sweet, sticky sauce…or in some cases, all of the above.
So how can such horribly unhealthy and unfortunate looking food gain traction in a cosmopolitan culinary city like this one? It’s the intention that counts. Because it’s knowingly unhealthy and knowingly ugly, it’s postmodern! A greasy cheeseburger at the local fish and chip shop will never have the same appeal because a greasy cheeseburger is all it can be. The deep fried pizza on the other hand, could have been a rustic tomato, basil and mozzarella pizza covered in rocket and served on a wooden board, but it chooses not to be, you see? This artery-clogging food resonates with Sydney’s trendy youth because it’s slightly offensive, it complements vintage fashion trends and it offers all the cheap thrills of MacDonald’s without the social stigma. It’s not just cuisine, it’s a social statement, it’s a big middle finger to nutrionalists, an embrace of hedonism and a drizzle of irony.

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