We Wasted Too Much Time Fighting About Blog Recipe Preambles When The Real Problem Has Always Been "Fun" Snack Label Backstories
I realize the fight’s only recently been put to bed and it’s rare to find collective agreement about abandoning a given topic, but it distresses me to think of how many years we’ve wasted arguing about lengthy lead-ins to online recipes when the real food copy problem of the last ten or so years has been increasingly elaborate and often-harrowing “upscale snack origin stories” of the following types:
“It all started in 2010 after Janice and Mark unexpectedly walked into each other, mixing up the contents of their respective lunch trays, during a surf trip to Costa Rica” (Old Bay-seasoned macadamia nuts)
“Living in a wheelbarrow wasn’t always easy but nothing beats the view” (beef jerky that unexpectedly has liver in it)
“I wanted to cure my mother’s exzcema’ without relying on the limited medical establishment that only exists in this dimension” (Iced coffee drink I didn’t realize had adaptogens until after I got it)
This is the actual label for some chocolate cookies I got at the grocery store down the street from me, and it’s not an extravagantly fancy grocery store either, I thought they were just regular chocolate cookies until I got to the Pauline hardship list on the side
It’s too much! There’s plenty to be said against mass-produced industrialized snacks, but Frito-Lay never wants to tell me about a family of seven that went into business together in 1999 producing alternative-flour tortillas before I open a bag of Cheetos. (Unless they’ve already bought the alternative-flour tortilla company and I just didn’t notice the tiny print at the bottom that says they’re now a subsidiary. But that would be on me for not catching it.) Amy’s Kitchen and Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese are about as whimsical and informative as I’m willing to go: Some people had a kid named Amy or Annie, she liked macaroni and cheese, they made her some, it was terrific, they made some for me too and here it is. Just enough detail for the human touch, not so much detail that I feel implicated in someone else’s personal life, like how most private-label apple cider vinegar companies are evangelical Christians for some reason who want you to hear about how honeybees disprove evolutionary theory before you can make salad dressing. Newman’s Own is also fine: “Paul Newman liked to make salad dressing, and something about charity.” Great! That’s sort of a story, not too many details to keep in order, and vague reassurances that this is good for the environment or something – perfect. Just the amount of reading I want to do before I eat a salad.
But “Janke Smetterling no longer felt satisfied as a securities broker….so he left to live an authentic life and get reacquainted with superfoods, studying for four years under local pumpkin-seed experts…this is less a snack than a daily ritual reknitting the bones of intention over a cup of gratitude” is too much for me to deal with! It’s the food-marketing equivalent of asking a stranger you’ve just been introduced to “How’s it going?” and hearing a minutely-detailed description of everything that’s gone wrong that week. It’s not that I don’t care about your life, and it’s not that I’d never want to hear about any of those things, I just need a demonstration ahead of time that you can read a room, establish emotional intimacy in reasonable doses over time, and aren’t looking to force a rapport on me before I have a chance to form an independent opinion of you.
I suggest the FDA establish a limit of two “fun facts” about a snack company’s origin story on the label, effective immediately, because I cannot possibly learn about another father-son duo who realized there was something missing from the pre-seasoned almond sleeve market the next time I’m stuck in an airport (this does not happen to me anymore for obvious reasons but pretend it does). This is the pointless no-stakes food-writing trend we should have been fighting about for the last ten years, so please start making up for lost time immediately.