Thursday, October 23, 2008

Guest Blogger: John Short (Keeping it Real with Pop Culture and Food)

In honor of John's pending Halloween visit to see me in NJ/'s his turn to have a say on Smart Cookie. Stay tuned for the adventures of John in New York, which often includes me getting no sleep, hearing things like "you're lame," and of course...Crif Dogs. I'm hunting for Halloween costumes right now. woo.

Pop culture and food.

It seems as though the two are natural friends, like the squirrel and the hedgehog – embraced in order to satisfy ones craving for pleasure. Sometimes food even bears some of the same phrasing as pop culture. For example, there’s popcorn which has both the prefix “pop” and an obvious connection to movies - and offers double points if you buy Pop Secret pop corn. What’s the secret anyway? You used extra salt and butter? Take it to the grave. I mean really, there’s only so many things you can keep secret in the world of popcorn, especially with Redenbacher and Newman lurking on the same grocery aisle – heard they’re ex-CIA. Some people refer to all carbonated beverages like Coke and Pepsi as “pop”, and never mind the fact that these people are inherently wrong, an undeniable connection to the world of music, movies and television is born of this unholy vernacular.

The list continues with pop tarts, forever replaced by toaster strudel, pop rocks, which may or may not cause death when mixed with the aforementioned beverage “pop”, and blow pops, which is science’s perfect candy creation. You get the point. Pop culture and food have a long romantic history together and will undeniably have a rousing future together as well, but before we get into the speculation of what their beautiful union will hold in the years to come, let’s take a closer look at their past together: the good, the bad and the super-delicious.

The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. How awesome is he? Pretty awesome. In fact, I don’t even like marshmallows and I think this guy is one of the greatest combinations of food and pop culture ever. He’s a fake corporate logo in the form of a confectionary giant who ends up exploding his sugary insides all over New York. He’s the physical embodiment of multiple pop culture layers (commercials, logos & movie characters) and candy. Plus, don’t you think it would be really fun to just hang out with him and ride around on his shoulder? I do. Provided of course he wasn’t possessed with demonic rage and an agenda that only involved destroying whatever city you happened to live in.

Moving along. French dining is sometimes considered the epitome of culinary excellence, and perhaps the finest example of this widely-held belief is featured in the cinematic classic Better Off Dead. John Cusak’s thoughtful mother prepares a sumptuous feast fit for Louis XIV himself in order to give the neighbor’s exchange student some American hospitality. Course one: French bread. Course two: French fries. Main topping: French dressing. And to drink: Peru (Perrier). It’s classic. The perfect ingredients for a recipe of hilarious, cinematic fine dining. Other awesome pairings include the Jack Rabbit Slim’s diner scene in Pulp Fiction, “it don’t got no bourbon in it or nothing?”, Weird Al singing “Eat It”, collecting California Raisins at Hardees (or Carl’s Jr. depending on where you live) and Kevin McAllister in Home Alone asking the Lord to bless his delicious macaroni and cheese dinner and the people who put it on sale. Those are just a few glimpses of the lengthy courtship between Pop Culture and Food - some of the early dates where Pop Culture was really taken with Food but still a bit scared to go all the way and wanted to take things slow, while Food bragged to all his friends about nailing Pop Culture in the back of his parents’ Camry. But he felt bad afterwards and cleared everything up in front of the guys because he respected her. True story. But it wasn’t all fun and games back then, they had their share of differences; arguments about who was right. Remember “Cheeseburger in Paradise”? Is that the worst song of all time? It really might be. I can’t think of too many worse ones.

And what about that movie where Sarah Michelle Gellar is a chef with magical powers or something? Remember that? It was ridiculous impregnates bad idea and they have a baby named that movie. Or how about Mr. T. cereal? On the surface it seemed like a great idea – Mr. T. pities the fool named malnutrition and fights it to the death with a delicious, but muscular, cereal. What we got was a poor excuse for a Corn Pops and Cap’n Crunch hybrid that was neither good nor tough, and surrendered to the sogginess of milk after just a few minutes. Sad really. It’s not what Mr. T. envisioned for the breakfast entrĂ©e of little kids across America.

So you see, while pop culture and food are certainly blessed with fine memories of shared experience, they have not always had such an amicable affair. Yet, it is those battles and moments of poor judgment that make each success that much grander. As we move forward in a world of harmonious food and entertainment, remember that for every Mayor McCheese or Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine it took a can of Lil’ John Crunk Juice to get there.


John Short is co-creator and a regular contributor to the entertainment-based website

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