Thursday, November 12, 2015

Double Stuff Oreos Symbolize Everything That's Wrong With America

I grew up taking the Oreo for granted. Like the tablespoon and measuring cup, the ratio of chocolate biscuit to creamy filling was a fixed measure with no need for adjustment. But like all other things American these days, the set standard isn't enough. So after some 90 years after the original Oreo, the Double Stuff Oreo was born.

That’s America, the land of the Big Gulp, the Hummer, endless breadsticks, and McMansions. It would be admirable if we were reaching for ever more greatness, but we're not. We're just gluttons reaching for more. 

In Japan a couple weeks ago visiting my son, there were ample reasons to ponder this. At the grocery store I found no such thing as a family-sized bag of Ruffles or Doritos. They sell both chips in Japan, but everything is sold in smaller amounts. The largest latte I could get at the local coffee shop was the equivalent of a standard small or “tall” latte in America. And the largest bag of Oreos available is well smaller than the standard package in the U.S. Poverty does not guide their choices. They’re simply different than us.
A typical pack of Oreos in Japan, with 3 sleeves, each
holding 9 regular Oreos. 
But make mine a diet, please, I'm cutting back.
When I was a kid back in the '60s, 6½ ounce cokes were still in vending machines. At restaurants and soda fountains there were small and large Cokes. The large was about the size of the modern-day fast-food small. Sixteen ounce, 8 pack bottles were available at the grocery story, but they were meant for sharing. Getting one entirely to yourself was a rare treat – when mom and dad were away and you could obscure the guilty party. This was not a time of poverty. America's economy was booming. People's expectations were simply lower. Now days the 6 ½ ounce Coke is a quaint historic artifact and the 32 oz. large is ubiquitous at fast food outlets. 

A study showed that Double Stuff Oreos actually only contain 1.86% times the stuffing of original Oreos. This is also very American: we’re never satisfied with what we have, and when we get more, it’s not actually what was promised.

And there’s the IPA, which stands for India Pale Ale, a hoppy beer created by the British in the early 1800s, a bit bitter with an alcohol content around 4 or 5%.  I learned to like this light-bodied beer while studying in London in the ‘80s. But at about the same time American craft brewers started tinkering with the IPA. Though it had served England pretty well for 160 years, it wasn’t . . . well . . . enough for us. Today the American IPA is far hoppier than it’s original English counterpart.

But even that’s not enough. Soon came the double IPA, the triple IPA, and yes, the quadruple IPA, hellatiously hoppy beers that tend to have names like “Sink The Bismark,” and “Hop Deranged,” with 10-14% alcohol. Even quadruple IPAs taste good – at first, but eventually the bitter bomb makes your tongue feel covered with dirty, cigarette-stained indoor/outdoor carpet.

Despite all the fun and creativity our fledgling craft beer industry has introduced to the previously boring American beer landscape, it’s penchant for useless excess reminds me of a little kid at the all-you-can-eat buffet, putting more and more sprinkles on his ice cream until the ice cream is at the decided minority.

And sadly for Americans, ice cream with mega sprinkles and a quadruple IPA don’t pair well. But who am I kidding? The "Ice Cream Sprinkle IPA," or the "IPA Ice Cream" can't be far away. Oh wait, I just googled it, there are recipes out there for IPA ice cream. I should have known.

The average square footage of an American home has doubled in the past 40 years. In my day job as a Realtor, I routinely show houses to middle class families who insist upon multiple “social spaces,” a 3-car garage, and that each of their children have their own bathroom. In their childhood, our own parents would have found this an unimaginable luxury. 

Sitting at my local coffee shop in the morning (with my medium-sized latte), I watch the moms drive by in their urban assault vehicles, multiple video screens hanging in front of the back seats so the kids won’t get bored on the way to school. I’ve asked lots of locals over the years why they drive such big cars. The standard answer: safety. This always blows my mind. We live in one of the flattest places on earth, in a county with not one single gravel road, and in wealthy communities with some of the best snow plowing equipment in the world. And yet more ridiculous, big trucks and large SUV’s tend not to make lists of the safest vehicles (being top heavy they roll over more easily in evasive driving situations).

The truth is pretty simple. Big is a fashion. Big is our style. Big is what we do. In America, if your stuff ain't big, you’re a loser.

What does all this do to us? The average American emits twice the carbon dioxide pollution of citizens in other developed western nations and we're twice as likely to be obese than a citizen of Europe and six times more likely than the average Japanese.

“We’re #1. We’re #1.”

And of course the Double Stuff Oreo wasn’t enough. Now we have the Mega-Stuffed Oreo. Where will this all end? You have to assume that ten years from now will we all be solo commuting to work in our own private busses, drinking Septuple IPAs, living in 10,000 square foot homes, and eating burger-sized Oreos.

Buy Kurt's new novel The Salvage Man

Buy Kurt's first novel Noblesville

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