Pete Wells’s scathing review of Chef Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar has people agitated. Half are wondering why a Time Square chain eatery would warrant a high-brow New York Times restaurant review. A rebuttal to Wells’s article could be, “When you went to review it, did you think that Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders would end up being a sophisticated meal?”
With or without Fieri’s influence, we already are a fusion inspired bunch. We eat a lot of absurd, slapstick dishes. And the review comes at a time when we are even more tolerant of mixing and mashing: the holiday season.
If you think about it, Fieri is the crazy uncle you visit once a year for Thanksgiving, who lives in a stationary, faux-cabin trailer home. He uses Busch as lighter fluid while grilling up turkey legs. (“The only part of the bird worth eating,” he might say.) He has a pet raccoon named Jessica that he lets roam free in the backyard, because he learned from his divorce that you can’t cage a wild thing.
When it comes time to sit down for dinner, he lays out a spread of dishes inspired by his cabinet and late night Google recipe searches. On the table is a Shipwreck Casserole: a four-star-rated find consisting of potato slices, crumbled hamburger meat, rice, and celery layers, doused with a can of condensed tomato soup. The belle of the vegetable ball is Fancy Fixins Cauliflower: steaming chunks of albino broccoli in pimento, soaked in a sugar, thyme, and cider vinegar broth. Dessert is a straightforward Cream Cheese Pudding Delight, a Jell-O instant sugar and cool whip concoction served in a chilled Tupperware.
After the last plate has been scraped clean, there is a warm glow emanating from your gut. You don’t feel particularly refined, especially with a crumpled paper napkin laying limp on your lap. The TV blaring in the adjourning room prevents you from being alone with your thoughts.
But, if you did have a quiet moment to assess, you might concede that there is a larger, exceedingly-prevalent subtext at work that excuses much and isn’t afraid to admit that a trip to Flavor Town does not require first class accommodations. Happy eating!