Somewhere right now there’s a college sophomore going hungry. He’s staggering in his kitchenette staring at his freezer with hopelessness in his eyes. There’s a family of four sitting in an airport terminal missing out on a true low-brow American food experience. How will they ever know? There’s a tourist in Times Square trying to have themselves a Michael Scott moment, and the world is depriving them of that simple pleasure.
Hot Pockets and Sbarro have been experiencing some rough times recently. What that means for the American junk food industry has us worried. In the words of the Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the love?.”
First on Friday, Feb. 14th (Valentine’s Day of all days), Hot Pockets announced the voluntary recall of two of its products, the Philly Steak and Cheese and the Croissant Crust Philly Steak and Cheese, after the Food Safety and Inspection Service suspended operations at a meat factory in California. We’re not quite sure what went down but a lot can fall under the branch of suspicious sanitary conditions.
The next blow to the fast food industry came on Wednesday when Sbarro announced that it would be closing 155 locations across North America due to financial difficulties. We knew there was a band of vegan, gluten-free, paleo heads who had turned their back on fast food, but 155 locations! The mall staple is disappearing faster than dinosaurs during an ice-age. What American classic is next? The automobile? The gin mill? Oh wait…
Anyway, frozen food is one of the best things that ever happened to us. All the way back in 1929. Luckily, the Pockets underwent corrective actions to address the issue, the suspension was lifted, and the plant has resumed operations. But what did Hot Pockets customers have to say about the mishap with their pastry dinners? “They just want to know if their product is actually in the recall since not all of them are,” says Sue, a Hot Pockets representative, who’s favorite Hot Pocket is the bacon and cheese variety.
Jimmy Fallon has been a fan of Hot Pockets for quite a while now. He personally addressed the issue on the Tonight Show saying, “Hot Pockets have been officially recalled. People that eat Hot Pockets say, huh?” and then he motioned to continue eating the Hot Pocket. If the Tonight Show is a reflection of America, then what is it the mirror on the wall is telling us? That inside all of our hearts is a scalding gooey pepperoni pocket.
We’re not condoning 500 pound kids here, but it’s hard not to admit that there is a war on fast food. “Four years ago was the beginning of the battle” recalls Erik Trinidad, creator of Fancy Fast Food. “More of an overall ‘war’ campaign of the state of food production and consumption in general”, he continues. “Foodies really started villainizing fast food — which I thought was hypocritical. A lot of gourmet food is just as unhealthy as fast food.”
And then there are Twinkies. RIP for real, though. Those were fucking incredible. Who didn’t like them? Except maybe the same people who claim they, “don’t like chocolate.” Oh, ok, you puppy-hating sunshine-bashing lunatic. We’re not suggesting a full-blown kale and quinoa investigation, but let the people decide what they want to put in their mouths. Let the people decide! “Restaurants will always try to profit on consumers’ desire no matter what it is, and if there’s a demand to eat ‘better,’ then they’ll capitalize on it”, Trinidad said. So there you have it. Restaurants don’t even care about you or your health. Just your money$.
But what is happening to our world? All of this reminds me of that other ridiculousness that happened back in 2013. They tried to Ban Soda. All due respect to Mr. Bloomberg, but are you fucking NUTS!? At least we weren’t the only New Yorker who realized this. This at least gives me hope. “I think people are just generally more aware of what they put in their bodies these days, and that means eating less of things that will kill you slowly.” says Chris Stang, of the food blog Immaculate Infatuation.
So Sbarro is closing 155 out of their 400 North American stores. Why are they suffering? Hmm, let’s think about this. Maybe it’s because there is Organic Health Food Places everywhere! If you want to get fast food at an airport these days, you literally have to run to another terminal five miles away. They make it so fucking hard.
And say what you will about Sbarro pizza, it being lackluster and all that, but there’s no denying the familiarity and iconography of the chain. RZA, the Motherf’ing RZA dropped the pizza joints name last year on “Beez” — “Precise with this mic device, slice your pie like Sbarros.”
We miss grease. Not that Grease. But disgusting, oily, scrumptious grease. Not only does it cure hangovers, but it so damn tasty. “Sometimes we’re hungover or having a shitty day, and nothing beats a Big Mac,” Erik admits. “The key is moderation — but you can’t practice moderation if the option isn’t there.”
Not only that, but healthy foods can be expensive. Immaculate’s Chris Stang explains, “Until someone can figure out how to make healthy, whole foods more affordable and more accessible, there will always be a market for food that is cheaper because it comes frozen or chock-full of delicious preservatives”.
Anyway, let this resonate with you and come to your own conclusion. Think for yourself. It’s okay to still like fast food and it’s okay to be more health conscious with your food decision, we just need to find that happy balance. Oh, and they better not fuck with Wendy’s, that’ll have us throwing quinoa bricks through windows.