Posted On: Wednesday - October 9th 2019 7:29PM MST
In Topics:   Bread and Circuses
We want to draw parallels to the decline (yes, and fall) of the Roman Empire with regard to political atmosphere of "Pan et Circenses", or "Bread and Circuses" for those not conversant in Latin. History does not necessarily repeat though, it just rhymes, and our Bread is a half-dozen orders of magnitude more tasty and varied than 2,000 years ago in the Roman Empire.
This is not Rome, in which the poor may have felt grateful just having those European-style baguettes of bread, dipped in some olive oil, like at the Olive Garden. Come to think of it, if you grew up on white Wonder Bread, that other bread is definitely a step up!* However, even a poor Roman slob, walking around in proto-Birkenstocks on his dirt floor, would probably get really tired of it, and dream of the bread aisle in a standard American grocery store.
You've got 20 kinds of normal bread, English muffins, pita bread for the health nuts, baguettes for the Euro-trash, cupcakes, red velvet cake, German Black Forest cake, standard yellow cake with massively-sugar-laden icing printed into a picture of ancient Rome ... That's just the bread aisle. We're not really talking about just bread here, though, as the deal is to have the hoi polloi walking around on a satisfied stomach.
I won't go down all the aisles in our imaginary tour of the store, as the reader may not be mobile right now, and we need you to keep reading. (I'm getting a hankering for some of that Black Forest cake, myself... but, hell, I'm the blogger, so ...) IThis amazingly varied food is not just available to any average working American (and Westerner, Japanese, etc.), but even those on the lowest economic rungs can swipe that EBT and buy a coupla' ribeyes, a 2 lb bag of chips, 4 liters of Mountain Dew, and a bottle of Don Perignon - no, I understand the EBT doesn't cover Don "Per-in-yoan", I'm talking about the knock-off Don "Per-ig-non". It's a cornucopia never seen till half a century ago.
Lately, tastes have gotten even more picky, but then food manufacturers have kept up to make the formerly gourmet products easily obtainable by all. You've got your "Foodies" now and your craft beer makers. There have always been connoisseurs of fine food around, but they've been the very well-to-do. Now, everyone wants the granite counter-tops, even if she only makes a mean dish of Mac-and-Cheese once in a while. Beer-making is in fashion (kind of fun), but some of us, cough, cough, would be fine with just a Miller High-Life (none of that "Genuine Draft" crap for me) or a Bud, and there are hundreds of brands of the cheap swill too.
In any medium-sized city, one can just go out and find 20 or more kinds of ethnic food, which is why, you know, we need to bring in millions of people, because it's not like you can just get the recipes from places far away over the internet or something... There are the microbreweries too, so let's bring in some Germans! "Kum on, guys. Vat, do you need a refresher curse? Eeez all fermentation nowadaysss!"
Then, to keep themselves a rung above the common Foodies and Brewers and those who go out nearby for ethnic exotic food 3 times a week, the very well-to-do do this while earning Gold Status on the airlines. The magazines in those seat-back pockets will tell you where one can get Greek food in Austin, Texas, Somalian food in Albuquerque, where's the best seafood place in Paraguay, and the best Texas BBQ place in Greece. Nobody wants to just stay the fuck home and eat his meat and potatoes anymore.
For those on the lower rungs, well, you can go out too. Low-budget Americans can go out for General Tso's chicken, and low-budget Chinamen can go out for Colonel Harlen Sander's Kentucky fried chicken (see Superpower Battle of the Chicken Titans - Sanders v Tso). If not that, there are mile-long stretches of fast-food places with all varieties of material all containing the four basic food groups, your fat, your sugar, your salt, and your caffeine. Taco Bell, Taco John, In-and-Out Burger, Cook-Out, Zaxby's, Chick Fil A, McD's, Wendy's ... it really can go on for miles. Each one will often add new "dishes" which are just different combinations of that salt, sugar, and fat. Hey, believe me, I'm not knocking the taste or the business model. The stuff IS good-tasting!
What's the point here, besides getting the readers hungry? It's that all this variety and quantity keeps American busy, too busy for more important issues. Due to this distraction, these issues have become important enough to perhaps result in their country reverting back to the eating of nothing but pieces of bread in olive oil, maybe hyrdro-unsaturated peanut oil, hell, maybe motor oil, if the SHTF. Nobody here on a full stomach of this infinite variety of food is that awful ready to raise hell about anything.
* Hey, it was good to me, as a kid, but that's because it's nothing but expanded starch, ready to turn into sugar at the drop of a