The stupidest food lists in Iowa4/1/2016
Des Moines has fallen head over heels for lists. If a blogger, magazine, newspaper or Tweeter wants to grab the attention of the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, or the Greater Des Moines Partnership, they simply need to include the town on a list of the top 10 to 100 places for something or other. It doesn’t matter much what. We are equally proud to be a top 10 town for “young professionals to hook up without consequences,” for raising large families without a college education, for the number of times we close downtown streets to party at Hy-Vee-sponsored events, for shops per capita to buy quinceaneras dresses and for the consumption of Black Velvet. The latter is an accolade the city has won almost every year since liquor by the drink was legalized. It’s our thing.
Nor does it matter what criteria was used or who the source of the list might have been. U.S. News & World Report and Forbes are equal to www.chugalug.com and www.partyforever.edu in this field of journalism. Never has the adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” been so appropriate. Lists are so tempting that one Des Moines Register columnist wrote a rant about them one week and a column in the form of a list the following week.
Food writing is the most abused victim of zealous list makers. Des Moines waves banners for landing on lists for manliest restaurant, biggest sandwich, most beers on tap, pho houses, mid-century Calabrese cafés, James Beard regional semifinalists, corn dog and sweet corn consumption and local liquor that is made in Indiana. Even restaurant reviews are being written in list form these days. In the spirit of list making, here are four stupidest food lists so far compiled.
1.) “The top restaurants for house-made tomato ketchup.” One should be very suspicious of a place that makes its own tomato ketchup and advertises it. Ketchup has developed since the Roman Empire.
Heinz ketchup is so superior that it controls 60 percent of the U.S. market and 85 percent of United Kingdom sales. It’s cheap, too. A restaurant that thinks it can improve upon this is egotistic, deluded and probably overpriced because it is committing too much labor to a lost cause. Like Smirnoff vodka, Heinz ketchup wins blind tasting tests of snobby food and beverage experts over products that cost far more. It’s a product that most everyone accepts as “the standard.”
2.) “The top 30 bars for hand-crafted cocktails.” Hand crafting has meaning in violin making. Well, it would if it were not so frequently used to fraudulently pass off factory made violins from China and Bulgaria. What does it mean in cocktails? All cocktails that are not pre-bottled involve hand crafting. Some people make their own simple syrups, bitters and freshly squeezed juices. That is the least that should be done to call a cocktail hand crafted, so ask if that is the case before you fork out $10 and up for a well drink.
3.) “Top places for indigenous foods.” This makes sense on the big island in Hawaii where more exotic fruits grow than anywhere else on Earth. It makes no sense in Des Moines. If we ate indigenous foods to Iowa, we would subsist on sunflower seeds, acorn gruel, catfish, eagles, buffalo, deer and wild berries. Indians brought corn here from Mexico, Germans brought hogs, English settlers brought apples and cattle and the Chinese brought soybeans. Yes, our corn dog is a fusion of German and Mexican cuisine.
4.) “Top states for truth in labeling.” Iowa deserves to be ranked at the bottom of this list. Our powerful Farm Bureau fights any small gain for truth, particularly when it comes to identifying genetically modified organisms. Since almost all Iowa corn is now a GMO, and soybeans are catching up fast, the theory is “what they don’t know won’t hurt them, this year.” CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1934.