As I was eating a dinner at Chop’t in Chinatown tonight, I could not help being astonished by the American attitude to food yet again. I bet it’s only possible here that such a place and the like exist and prosper. Let me explain why.
Chop’d is a healthy fast food (oxymoron, right?) eatery that specializes in salad bowls. For me, it’s a representation of a larger cultural phenomenon of sustenance, functionality. Food serves its direct purpose – nutrition. And it serves it effectively: salad is fresh and easy to consume, ingredients are varied and the preparation is quick. When we get to the palatability, however, it’s getting more complicated. With all that variety, international and seasonal options, the final product is only remotely reminiscent of the original taste. It has so many ingredients and such a homogenized texture, that separate tastes and textures are barely identifiable.
As you might remember, salad is also a material metaphor for the American society. As Prof.Weaver explained in the introductory lecture, the latest culture science compares New York in particular and the United States in general not with a melting pot, as it used to, but with a salad. When everyone is a unique ingredient that is cut into appropriate size, but still maintains his original qualities and characteristics, and then bound together with a ranch dressing.
Do I think a salad metaphor is accurate? Yes, pretty much so, but with a qualification: we are talking about a Chop’t salad here and not a Nicoise. Chop’d takes all those international ingredients – Japanese soba and edamame, Thai lemongrass, Levantine falafel – lays them on the bed of kale and rigorously chops and mixes together. Into an efficient, effective and healthy meal.