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I’m David Brooks. Nice to meat you.

[ 434 ] July 11, 2017 |

HOLD ME I’M FRIGHTENED

 

There’s lots to find problematic about David Brooks’ latest column, not the least of which is the assignment of innate brightness/sophistication/good taste to people with college degrees. But beyond that, it’s the dang weirdness of the whole thing that struck me, this passage in particular:

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

A few questions:

  1. Is he implying that Mexican is an inherently unsophisticated cuisine, because the exact opposite is true.
  2. Is there any particular reason his friend could have asked about the meats/breads on the menu? I’d be way out of my depth in a New York deli, too, so I’d probably ask someone for help with the menu.
  3. Is there any particular reason he couldn’t have said something like “Here’s what I recommend” to put her at ease? (This is, of course, assuming she really did get triggered by a meat list.)

I mean…it’s just so…weird.

And then there’s this:

The educated class has built an ever more intricate net to cradle us in and ease everyone else out. It’s not really the prices that ensure 80 percent of your co-shoppers at Whole Foods are, comfortingly, also college grads; it’s the cultural codes.

Uh, dude…

(It’s the prices.)

Jesus Christ.

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  • majeff

    He discovered an overpriced Italian BMT, and thinks it’s the Italian BMT part that’s too much.

    • DiTurno

      I thought almost everyone from DC to Boston knew what soppresatta and capicola (the usual spelling) are. It’s not about class: it’s that we have a strong Italian-American food culture.

      Maybe it’s that the pronunciations don’t match the spelling: supersot and gabbagol.

      • zoomar2

        Don’t forget “Mootzaraille”

        • DiTurno

          And “scarole” and “calamat” and “mannagot.”

          • Bloix

            These are the Neapolitan pronunciations, which are about as working class as you can get. The idea that this stuff is sophisticated is hilarious. It’s bread, cheese, and ham for Chrissake.

            • CJColucci

              Exactly. I grew up hearing the southern Italian pronunciations, and the first time I went into a deli after I got glasses–I went a long time blind as a bat without anyone knowing it, a long, moderately funny story in itself — I had no idea what “cappicola” and “pasta e fagioli” and “manicotti” were. Has Brooks found the Applebee’s salad bar yet?

          • Origami Isopod

            And “rigot’.”

      • wjts

        I don’t think I’d heard of (and almost certainly hadn’t had) capicola until I moved to Pittsburgh. This is probably because I wasn’t real keen on subs in my teens and 20s rather than because such exotic foodstuffs weren’t available in Boston, Denver, Hartford, Chicago, or even Lubbock.

        • jmwallach

          Honestly as a PNWer I don’t know most of these.

          • DiTurno

            That’s because all you guys do is eat geoduck and drink great coffee and beer.

            Seriously, the PNW food scene is great, but I was surprised by the lack of mid to low end Italian restaurants.

            • timb117

              Come to Indiana, we have Olive Garden and Buca da Beppo

              • wjts

                There used to be a billboard on I-90 outside of Chicago for a restaurant called Don Quixote’s, with the slogan, “Indiana’s Only Spanish Restaurant.” I’m 95% certain it inspired this Onion article.

                • Gepap

                  That is one of those Onion articles that is essentially truth couched in farce, cause the number of people who think that all the food eaten by peoples who speak Spanish is the same, and by the same they mean Mexican, is significant.

                • wjts

                  It’s the same all over. There’s a chain of Tex-Mex restaurants in France called “Cafe Indiana.”

                • timb117

                  Joke’s on you. I can turn my head here in downtown Indy and see Barcelona Tapas, a fine Spanish restaurant! The tres leches is to die for, although I had better tapas in Denver at a conference.

                  Meanwhile, to help people continue to laugh at Indiana, the varying pronunciations of Barcelona Tapas would make most folks from Espania jump off a roof.

                  PS The Onion bit is amazing

                • wjts

                  In my defense, the last time I drove that stretch of highway was 9 years ago or so. But it definitely used to be there.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Meanwhile, to help people continue to laugh at Indiana

                  We need help doing that?

                • stargazzy

                  FWIW: I don’t know if it inspired the Onion piece or not, but that restaurant (in Valparaiso) is owned by the father of a friend, and is excellent. And its being Indiana’s only Spanish restaurant wouldn’t surprise me at all.

              • hickes01

                Buca da Beppo started in Mpls. You’re welcome, World.

            • jmwallach

              Yeah that range is chains and the high end is fusion with lots of salmon and stuff (I’ve only been to the fancy places when I was at $company that bought way more netapp than was needed.)

            • Mooser42001

              “Seriously, the PNW food scene is great, but I was surprised by the lack of mid to low end Italian restaurants.”

              And yet there are so many good Mexican, and many other SA restaurants stands and trucks. I wonder why that could be.

              • jmwallach

                Central Americans stealing our entrepreneurial spirit. Although not sure how that works down in Portland since they don’t fluoridate the water…

            • Owlbear1

              Yeah, Gluten-free noodles make it a challenge.

          • Lived on the east coast for a while and I don’t know these ingredients. Guess I went to the wrong places

        • that guy

          Look at this fucking elitist.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUWKrzsFh2c

        • LurkinLongmont

          And in those places Italians weren’t considered white until recently. So the natives idea of Italian food began and ended with Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee…

          • wjts

            For what it’s worth, none of those places excluded Italians from the “white” category when I lived there.

            • LurkinLongmont

              Nor I, and I still live here. However, a very elderly Italian uncle by marriage told me of the not so good old days………

      • mausium

        These little Thomas Friedman-esque “learning experiences” are usually fiction anyway.

      • timb117

        I’m pretty sure, as a Hoosier, I’ve never seen those words. BTW, I have a post-graduate degree

      • Manny Kant

        There’s a strong Italian-American food culture in DC? I’d say that ends in Baltimore.

    • zoomar2

      Satriale’s pork store has much better prices and doesn’t require a diploma. Plus you can have a guy whacked for free if you order the caponatina :)

      • medrawt

        But all the names will be Sicilian, so if you’re going off of the above list you might get a bit confused, and run off to your nearest Mexican place.

        • timb117

          Where you can also get someone whacked if you know the right cartel

  • sigaba

    “My friend was intimidated by foreign food so we ate Mexican. She was intimidated by soppresatta but gorditas she could handle.”

    • kaydenpat

      It’s a neat way for Brooks to place Italians above Mexicans in the non-WASP hierarchy.

  • Todd

    I remember the first time I was face to face with a menu at The Olive Garden. How can I be the one to “create” my own sampler? I’m not the chef, I’m a customer! How can a bowl of salad be “neverending”? Do the laws of physics not apply at hundreds of discrete eating locations nationwide? Why is the spicy chicken dip “angry”? Why would anyone eat sentient food in the first place?

    I’ve never talked about that experience before. Thanks for witnessing.

    • jmwallach

      Consider a point hunger on an infinite meal…

      • Phil Koop

        Cantor’s Meal would be uncountably infinite but still have measure zero, so you’d never feel full!

        • mathguy1015

          And use Banach-Tarski to get two for the price of one.

          • apogean

            There’s really nothing nicer on a hot summer day than a Banach-Tarski split

    • Jon_H11

      You might want to watch this in case you go back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qt6-0LIfUA4

    • cpinva

      i was looking at the selection of sauces for wings in a grocery store one day, and one of them was described as “It’ll Melt Your Head Right Off!”. You can, i suppose, accuse me of being a non-adventuress eater, but why the hell would i want to eat something that’s going to melt my head off? Kind of takes away from the whole dining experience for me.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        I’m with you. I don’t like pain. But my father thought it was neat when chili made him jump out of his chair and stampede to the fridge to swill milk.

    • the actual Bajmahal

      You didn’t mention the explosive diarrhea, so I’m calling “false witnessing”.

      • SomeTreasonBrewing

        Read between the lines to the bathroom.

      • Origami Isopod

        That was Ryan’s Steakhouse. Olive Garden is not good but it’s no more likely to give you the runs than any other restaurant.

  • Fiona DeLaMere

    “Nothing — and I mean nothing — is trendier than mocking David Brooks. (Talk about in-group signaling. Jeez.)” -Damon Linker

    (Yes, this is a real tweet)

    • majeff

      And, there’s no “signaling” in that tweet, of course.

      Has Linker ever not been worthless?

      • sigaba

        Twitter IS signalling, it is literally nothing but that. It is human interaction purged of all solidity and facts and all that is left is what you want other people to believe about your identity.

        • Mooser42001

          I’ve got the entire world convinced I’m a 1500 lb. ungulate with palmate antlers.

          • Aubergine

            On the Internet everyone knows I’m a purple vegetable wrinkling with age.

            • sigaba

              NO YOU’RE NOT YOU’RE AN EGGPLANT. You’re just signalling to east coast elites that you use the European name for that vegetable that Real Americans only eat smothered in hoisin sauce at Panda Express.

        • Domino

          This is why Wint ( @dril ) is the ID of twitter.

    • sigaba

      Wow a vertiable Derp Hall of Mirrors.

    • McAllen

      Perhaps, if one does not want it to be trendy to mock oneself, one should not be so easily mockable.

    • timb117

      Linker is the lamest right winger ever. He misses that far right wingers bitch abt Brooks as much as libs do

      • apogean

        Lobsters hate this man!

        • timb117

          Hah, edit button!

    • Johnnie

      As a chapo listener I thought Douthat was the target of mockery of the moment. Guess Linker only pays attention to deadspin

      • BloodyGranuaile

        The NTY opinion page truly provides an embarrassment of riches in the ‘targets of mockery’ department

        Or an embarrassment of embarrassments, perhaps

  • Denverite

    If ham and bread caused this doesn’t-really-exist friend (like David Brooks knows someone without a college degree!) to get frightened, what did she do when confronted by “queso fresco” and “carnitas” and “tortilla”? How did they finish the meal with the piss running down her non-existent leg?

    • postmodulator

      I’ve been assuming it was his escort.

      Hey, are you reachable offsite? A recruiter is sniffing around for a gig in Denver. I’m not sure how interested I am, but it’s a pretty high-profile employer.

      • Denverite

        Yeah, sure, denveritelgm at the email address hosted by google.

      • drdick52

        I think he took his secretary to lunch.

        • Jon_H11

          I bet most NYT secretaries have degrees. I’m betting imaginary escort.

          • Lurking Canadian

            It’s New York. The hookers have degrees too.

            • Manny Kant

              Brooks lives in DC.

              • BiloSagdiyev

                That’s why he sees his escort in New York.

                • Manny Kant

                  An escort in DC is far more likely to be unfamiliar with Italian cured meats than one in NYC, I think.

    • Uncle_Ebeneezer

      The elitism of “Chilaquiles” must have really made her feel like a modern-day peasant!

    • ASV

      I can believe Brooks knows someone without a college degree, and I can even believe this person is a “friend” (for some value of “friend”), but I do not believe Brooks has a friend who freezes up when faced with the names of Italian meats, degree or no.

      • mausium

        His projecting hatred over “Mexican food” he can’t pronounce the name of is pretty transparent.

    • Bill Altreuter

      All of David Brooks’ friends are imaginary, and they all have at least Masters’ Degrees. (Actually, the same is true for Thomas Friedman’s cab drivers.) Next time Brooks wants to take an imaginary friend to lunch, I suggest they go to the deli that Peggy Noonan likes. The imaginary counterman there seems nice, and I’ll bet he has a MA too.

    • ColBatGuano

      doesn’t-really-exist friend

      Are you suggesting Brooks’s next wife (when she graduates college) isn’t real?

  • eclare

    It seems pretty classist to assume that people without a college education are incapable of liking good food.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      as we know from observing trump, a college education is no guarantee of good taste

      • N__B

        You are absolutely correct on the issue, but your example is a bad one: DJT may have been physically present at a college but there’s no evidence he got an education or was even in a classroom at any time.

    • sigaba

      It's not classist, it's simply acknowledging the reality of social codes and your elitism. Get woke.

      • knockwurst

        Exactly. Brooks is a little tone deaf, but he’s describing a culture that surrounds our new aristocracy, and those cultural barriers reinforce a class system. Try watching “My Fair Lady.”

        • PorlockJunior

          Watch My Fair Lady?
          Not bloody likely!

          • Lost Left Coaster

            Ugh. Why can’t the English learn to speak?!

      • ColBatGuano

        If she had pronounced soppressata wrong, would she have been stoned by the other elites at the deli? Asking for a friend.

    • Gepap

      Where does Brooks imply this? Is Mexican assumed to be bad food?

      • eclare

        My wording was perhaps imprecise. The inference from the article is that there are some foods (such as those listed, but also the infamous arugula and dijon mustard preferred by Obama) that can only be enjoyed by people of a certain class. That seems pretty insulting.

        • Gepap

          The impression I got from the passage, as inelegant as it is, is that there is a cultural signifier in going to a place with “foreign” foods (hence specifically bringing up the ‘foreign’ names) as opposed to sticking with “what is known”, and a lot of the blacklash here is picking on how Italian Deli meats aren’t in fact “foreign” at all, which is not an attitude I share because, well, to a lot of people those names are in fact not well known, or that somehow Mexican food should also be assumed to be ‘foreign’ to Americans, even though that wouldn’t be true either for a lot of Americans.

          • eclare

            But Brooks is explicitly connecting her unfamiliarity with certain Italian foods to her lack of a college education. He’s also assuming that her discomfort with the deli is connected with that unfamiliarty, rather than, say, the prices. Most importantly, however, is that Brooks has a history of lying about his experiences spending time with people who are not of his own social class, so there’s a pretty good chance that he made this whole story up based on his personal assumptions and biases about what a person without a college degree is likely to enjoy eating. I find that last part to be insulting, as does my working class husband with whom I have just discussed this very piece.

            • Jonathan Roth

              I didn’t realize that an introduction to deli meats was common college course.

              • rrhersh

                Only at better schools than you went to…

                • Jonathan Roth

                  Darn, should have got my meatpacking PhD at Harvard.

              • the actual Bajmahal

                Hah! My early jobs were in food service and for at least two of the ones with major corporate food chains, I had to attend Deli University… for three solid days! At the end, they gave out little diplomas and everything.

            • Gepap

              “He’s also assuming that her discomfort with the deli is connected with that unfamiliarty, rather than, say, the prices. ”

              If we assume the story is apocryphal, and there wasn’t such a friend, then it is sort of besides the point to try to get into the “mind” of a non-existent friend. And if we take his story as true, what in it would signify that the Mexican meal was cheaper? Is a $10 dollar sandwich less reasonable than a $12 burrito? (Plenty of middle-road Mexican places in NYC might charge that).

              Clearly him choosing Italian Cold Cuts as the “foreign” food has struck a nerve, but here is the question – what if he hadn’t been so pedestrian, what is the example Brooks had chosen was “I took my friend to a Filipino restaurant, and she looked at the Longganisa and the Lumpiang” and the ending was the same: would the reaction be the same here? To some extent, there would be the same question of “well, why wouldn’t a “working class person eat Filipino?” but I am of the opinion that it would not be as vehement.

              • Jonathan Roth

                It still makes the error of conflating regional ethnic integration with cultural elitism, while completely ignoring the role of wealth and capitalism in doing so.

                Any Filipino restaurant selling “spicy sausage” and “spring rolls” risks being seen as inauthentic by their customer base, and given enough time, that will include the white working class of the region, not just those who see the enjoyment of ethnic foods as a sign of sophistication or the immigrant population it sprang from.

                • gepap

                  To start with, why would a restaurant selling common and popular Filipino foods be seen as “inauthentic” by Filipinos? This is akin to saying that a Mexican restaurant offering tamales will be judged “inauthentic” – that makes no sense whatsoever. And what basis would the “white working class” have to judge the “authenticity” of a restaurant given they have no background in the authentic cuisine? The most popular and common Mexican restaurants in this country are pretty inauthentic, but I don’t see the WWC fleeing Taco Bell because the sell hard shell tacos (a completely American contraption)

                  And what does ANY of that have to do with the notion that openess to “foreign” foods is some form of class/cultural marker? A big part of the discussion now vis a vi the WWC is opposition to immigration – if you aren’t open to other people of differing cultures moving here and setting up and perpetuating their culture as well (which is certainly a subset of the whole immigration discussion) then really, how open are you to participating in that culture gastronomically?

                • bw

                  To start with, why would a restaurant selling common and popular Filipino foods be seen as “inauthentic” by Filipinos? This is akin to saying that a Mexican restaurant offering tamales will be judged “inauthentic”

                  This is a laughably false analogy.

                  The problem of the Filipino restaurant is not with the items sold. The problem is with how they are presented to the customer.

                  If you sell tamales under the name “Speedy Gonzales’s Corn Patties”, actual Mexicans looking for the real shit will assume that you sell Americanized garbage and will probably avoid you, even if you fly in mole from artisanal producers in Oaxaca every week. Likewise, Filipinos with no other Filipino restaurant options in the area will frequently resign themselves to cooking at home if your marketing tends to put the idea in their head that you’re probably making a bastardized version of their cuisine, a Filipino version of Panda Express or Taco Bell.

                  The WWC might not care as much about how authentic your cooking is, but they’re sure as hell capable of learning the word “tamales”, and forming expectations around what they’re getting at places with “tamales” on the menu. Once they’ve grown accustomed to eating tamales (which they have, in many many places), they’re not gonna trust something called Speedy Gonzales’s Corn Patties either. If you don’t think that’s how it works, try opening a pizza joint in a working-class area and see how long you can stay open with a menu full of Tomatoey Dough Frisbees.

                • Jonathan Roth

                  Thanks, I was wrestling with how to say that exact thing earlier. You said it much better than I could. :)

                • Jonathan Roth

                  My point is that it’s all just branding. An Italian sandwich shop using original Italian names for their cold cuts is differentiating itself from Subway, but that’s not necessarily signaling middle class sophistication to exclude the wwc as Brooks claims. It could also be signaling to the local Italian community, or even to the wwc in a region where Italian cuisine has been thoroughly mainstreamed. Maybe not everyone knows the terms, but enough people do that it’s financially viable.

  • wjts

    Here in Pittsburgh, the only places you get things like capicola are super-upscale restaurants like Peppi’s.

    • majeff

      I was just thinking that I can get all those things at my local Kuhn’s grocery store.

      It’s amazing how disconnected this jagoff is.

      • Kevin

        Honestly, i can buy them at my corner store FFS. Not even a full grocery store, they sell these in some larger corner stores.

        • majeff

          That’s the amazing part. These aren’t exotic. They’re everywhere.

          Except, perhaps, Applebee’s. Those poor bobos.

          • xaaronx

            You can find them at Applebees. Just look on the salad bar.

          • I misread that as “those poor bonobos” and it just made my whole day brighter.

      • drdick52

        Hell, I can get most of that in the local grocery stores here in the wilds of western Montana.

      • mamcu

        You can buy them at Publix in South Carolina unless you’re in prison, like most of our population.

    • cs

      If Brooks changed a couple of details, he could have been describing a Subway.

      • Boots Day

        There was a Subway ad on TV a few months ago that mentioned a sandwich with capicola. It must have sent Brooks’ friend into a seizure.

      • kaydenpat

        LOL!! That would be too lowbrow for him though.

      • Togo’s Italian Sub (or as I like to call it, four kinds of treyf with cheese. Yum.)

    • N__B

      That’s some pretty sophisticated streamlining.

      • wjts

        Probably why it always beats Primanti Brothers and Uncle Sam’s Subs in the Annual Big Sandwich Shop Race.

  • zoomar2

    He should have taken her to the salad bar at Applebees.

    • sigaba

      Maybe he could introduce her to Tom Freidman’s taxi driver. Though he only eats from klavkalash food carts.*

      *(Is that episode still banned because of 9/11?)

      • DAS

        Yep. One of my first thoughts also was Bobo’s “friend” (and I see I wasn’t the only one getting an “escort” vibe) sounds an awful lot like Tommy Friedman’s taxi driver.

        • Warren Terra

          I ponder what sort of person Brooks would meet who doesn’t have a college degree, and except for twenty-year-olds the answer I come up with is not “escort” but “service worker”.

          It may be relevant that when Brooks was a kid many low education service workers were Italian immigrants or the children of Italian immigrants, but now many are likely to live in a community that has few Italians and many Mexicans.

      • JKTH

        No, that episode’s come back. And yes, it all sounds as real as an Applebee’s salad bar.

      • Uncle_Ebeneezer

        Damnit, I really should have scrolled down before making the same jokes. Jinx!

        • sigaba

          I always sort posts oldest descending, this New Way has its drawbacks.

    • Crusty

      There is no salad bar at Applebee’s I know that because my butler who eats there on his day off told me, not because I eat there all the time myself.

      • jmwallach

        Days off. Next you’ll let him vote.

    • mausium

      That was their first date.

  • StinkinBadger

    This man has clearly never talked to many people with college degrees, often in the sciences, who have the tastes of small children.

    My college roommate subsisted on Poptarts, frozen pizza and hamburgers, and subs. This was not due to college poverty, as he now works for a very well known tech company…. and eats the exact same things.

    • IM

      I – like a certain president – like my flesh well-done. Very well done.

      So?

    • Jon_H11

      As a person in the sciences, I can verify this is very true.

    • Stella Barbone

      My medical school roommate existed on soda, Arby’s with large fries, chocolate chocolate chip muffins and thought her obesity was due to a genetically slow metabolism.

    • Gone2Ground

      A friend is working on a very large project for a very large tech company and has befriended the chef in the company kitchen. Said kitchen prepares very well made meals in a dazzling variety that would shame the court of a Roman Emperor.
      Yet the employees almost daily complain that chicken nuggets and fish sticks aren’t in the regular offerings.

      • mausium

        To be fair, under crunch time easily consumed “comfort” foods do fit a need.

        • ColBatGuano

          How hard is it to eat a sandwich?

    • drdick52

      You should see what the business students eat.

      • Poor children!

        • FYI Italian children are spicier than the Irish.

          Fun fact: guess what the secret meat in soppressata is?

        • N__B

          B^4!

    • Lurking Canadian

      This man has clearly never talked to many people with college degrees, often in the sciences, who have the tastes of small children.

      Can I tentatively suggest that describing other people’s food preferences as “the taste of small children” might be an example of the kind of food snobbery Brooks is talking about?

      • Origami Isopod

        Not really. It’s not elitist to get annoyed at people who subsist on a diet of fast food. Especially if you frequently socialize with them and their picky habits limit what restaurants you can go to, or what you can serve them when you invite them over.

    • Marlowe

      I guess Brooks would think me incredibly and inexplicably ignorant, but I (BA from Colgate, JD from Cornell) have no idea what any of the ingredients he mentions are. Though I sure enjoy your basic, traditional Italian sub (meatball parm, chicken parm, etc.). I guess since I am neither a foodie nor a millennial (almost 64), I should hang my head in shame.

      • An Italian BMT from subway has most of those ingrediants

        • applecor

          Ah, an old school New Yorker! Do these subways have INDs and IRTs also?

      • CJColucci

        Familiarity with Italian deli meats among non-Italians is probably based on geography rather than class. It is common knowledge among working-class Italians. Who do you think makes and sells the stuff?

        • I well remember traveling across the country and stopping in a restaurant in what Roy would call Fritters, or bumfuck, Iowa and being offered a “food from a faraway land” (text of the menu) i.e. a bagel.

    • Johnnie

      Thankfully I have stopped getting constant online soylent ads, but there is definitely a market for literally tasteless food at every tax bracket.

    • Gepap

      Wouldn’t that attitude you describe be more about sticking to foods you are comfortable and knowledgeable with and not wanting to stray into the ‘unknown’ when it comes to food?

  • Downpup E

    Dear God in Heaven, his upper class lifestyle is less real than his working class:

    To feel at home in opportunity-rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention possess the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child-rearing, gender norms and intersectionality.

    It’s a mashup of Real Housewives and a Rod Dreher hellscape.

    Edit : Dreher agrees!
    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/sandwich-david-brooks-culture-class/

    • BloodyGranuaile

      This guy sounds extremely status-anxious if he needs to do all those things in order to feel at home.

      I mean, I live in an “opportunity-rich” area, and all I need to feel at home is roommates who do their dishes and a good writing group.

      Granted, that first one on the roommates has been a challenge at times.

      • mausium

        As he can’t be a good person, he’s stuck with the cargo cult bullet points.

      • ColBatGuano

        I lived in several “opportunity-rich” areas (Boston suburbs, Research Triangle Park, Seattle) and never really worried about his status signifiers. Surprisingly, I survived.

    • sam

      I’m an ivy-educated, upper-middle class to wealthy, yuppie (for lack of a better word). When I mention podcasts to other people I know, most of them look at me like I have three heads. The person I had the most in-depth conversations about Serial with was my boss’s assistant, who was OBSESSED with it as well.

      I mean, I do Pilates, but I have no fucking clue what “pilates tastes” are. I go to pilates because my doctor recommended it.

      The only “food truck” i frequent is Mister Softee, because they have the good sugar cones, and I will drink whatever white wine you put in front of me, and that’s only because red wine gives me migraines.

      Anyone get the feeling that he’s been getting an earful from the new fiancee/wife?

      • Yixing’s Fluffer

        Changing wives doesn’t address the pre-existing condition of being an asshole. If this is how he writes after an editor has cleaned it up, imagine how he speaks.

      • kindasorta

        Is there anything more Boomer than leaving the mother of your three children for an assistant two decades younger than you?

        • Yixing’s Fluffer

          Dumping wife number two when she also crosses the dreaded 40 threshold?

          • kindasorta

            I’m hoping he chokes to death on his disappointment with the coarseness of American society by then.

        • Speaking as a millenial, I’m sad to say that my generation will be doing that in droves just as soon as marrying someone 2 decades younger than us does not breach the age of consent.

      • njorl

        “I mean, I do Pilates, but I have no fucking clue what “pilates tastes” are.”

        That’s when you lick the sweaty people doing pilates. You have to do it just right, or it is gauche.

    • Murc

      Brooks isn’t wrong about this per se, but he’s describing every culture and sub-culture everywhere all the time.

      • CJColucci

        At a certain level, this is true, but only at the level that it wouldn’t be worth writing about. Of course, not having anything to say worth saying won’t keep Brooks from turning in copy.

    • Bourdieu said everything brooks says (riffing off some ripped from the headlines new piece of glurge) in Distinction. But brooks can’t remember to plagiarize him because he probably didn’t blurb this book.

      • Downpup E

        Because it’s you, I didn’t assume you’d misspelled Bourdain, & Bourdieu looks pretty interesting. Going on the “check it out” List”, although Minuteman only has it in French. (Brooks was about 17 when Distinction came out.)

        Bourdieu’s also at #2 on the Wiki Hits list with The book was judged the sixth most important sociological work of the twentieth century by the International Sociological Association

        #1 is : Following the untimely deaths of Princeton’s first five presidents, looked up in answer to the question : When did Princeton institute sex & race preferences?

  • McAllen

    This article viewed alongside that poll that found that 58% of Republicans think higher education is detrimental to America is interesting. Conservatives hate liberal professors but love educational elitism, I guess.

    • xq

      Well, most conservatives hate David Brooks.

      • Helmut Monotreme

        Which just goes to show, they aren’t wrong all the time. See, there is common ground.

        • eclare

          It pains me to say it, but anyone who can unite us in these divided times the way that David Brooks does must be viewed as a national treasure.

        • mausium

          Only because his racism is too coded.

          • eclare

            I know some hard core “working class” conservatives – the kind of people he likes to write about – who find him incredibly condescending and basically wrong in all of his assumptions about their lives.

            • CP

              Well, unless you were at the Applebee’s salad bar, you wouldn’t be meeting the right kind of Working Class Conservatives.

        • CP

          Honestly, I’m not above bonding with “most conservatives” over shared contempt for their upper classes, be it David Brooks, Mitt Romney, or whoever the RINO-of-the-month is.

    • Emily68

      Does this mean that 58% of Republicans won’t lift a finger to send their kids to college?

      • Lurking Canadian

        No, but it does mean 58% of Republicans would vote in favour of some kind of “Get the Damned Liberals out of our Nation’s Lecture Halls” policy, enacted by the Trump/DeVos Department of Education. Maybe make all federal funding to a university contingent on showing that the proportion of Bible-believing Christians among the faculty matches the population at large?

        You know, on human rights grounds?

  • Karen

    Okay, this kind of food was brought to these shores by a bunch of very poor and largely illiterate peasants escaping 19th C upheavals. Italian nobility do not eat deli sandwiches; they eat elaborate things prepared by trained chefs.

    More than that, though, WHAT KIND OF ASSHOLE TAKES SOMEONE TO LUNCH AND DOESN’T ASK WHAT THE FRIEND LIKES FIRST????? This is not Hapsburg Court protocol; this is basic decency most people learn in middle school. Or earlier.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      it’s a power thing, I think

      • sigaba

        His resolution was a power thing too. He could have just said, “don’t worry, it’s all just ham.” Boom, done, let’s eat.

        But no, he had to put the whole burden of the interaction on her and make her the reason they were going somewhere else.

        • IM

          Let’s hope the friend is imaginary.

        • Helmut Monotreme

          Sausages, and most deli meats were until recently, poverty food. They are the slaughterhouse making sure that every part of the pig except the squeak can be sold. Why is it surprising that anyone would be nonplussed to have to pay boutique prices for the cast off bits of carcass that these deli meats are made of?

          • Gepap

            Lobster was poor food once (I mean, what fools would eat giant sea bugs?) – what is an isn’t gourmet changes.

          • Sausages are not poverty food–they are a way of preserving meat for months between slaughters.

    • majeff

      More than that, though, WHAT KIND OF ASSHOLE TAKES SOMEONE TO LUNCH AND DOESN’T ASK WHAT THE FRIEND LIKES FIRST?????

      THANK YOU!!

      That was part of my reaction, too. I’m going to not only think about kinds of foods, but costs, and I’ll usually toss a couple suggestions out to get a feel and then find something more agreeable before we get to the place. I want us to have a good time together, so we’ll pick a spot we both think will make that happen.

      I guess that’s not part of a Yale humility course.

    • epidemiologist

      I can never get over how these silly articles publicly tell an embarrassing story about a friend or family member. Brooks thinks it was insensitive of him to take his friend to a sandwich shop, and thoughtful to notice their discomfort and go somewhere else… Where does calling his friend an uneducated rube on the opinion page of the NYT fall on this scale?

      • ColBatGuano

        He probably assumes that since they lack a college education, they lack the ability to read.

    • mausium

      The one who’s paying for their company.

    • the actual Bajmahal

      Italian nobility maybe, but what about the Earl of Sandwich?

  • Ellis_Weiner

    Wait–the sandwiches had names? How can that be? Sandwiches aren’t people–are they? Or pets? Have I ever been to a place where the sandwiches had names? Or the pizzas? Or the fucking corned beef/pastrami specials?

    • wjts

      Not just names, names like “Godfather” and “Tomato”, but in Italian. No wonder the poor peasant was so discomfited – there’s no way to translate such abstract concepts into the grunts and squeals of alarm that form her natural vocabulary.

    • bowtiejack

      I believe the Supreme Court may rule at any time that sandwiches are people. Republican people.

      • Lurking Canadian

        That would require a legal answer to the question of “What is a sandwich”. Getting the Supreme Court tied up in that debate could occupy them so thoroughly that they would never again have time to come up with bullshit like Sibelius, Citizens United, Hobby Lobby and so on. Somebody ought to get on that.

      • mausium

        Also, they can vote.

      • You can’t force any of that gay arugula or fancy gay mustard on a God fearing murkin sandwich

  • medrawt

    There’s a lot of weird bullshit going on here, but I’ll say one thing that maybe cuts through this “Italian deli unfathomable, Mexican [or ‘Mexican’] food safe” thing –

    I have noticed that a lot of people aren’t comfortable with being in a situation – especially re: food – where they’re ignorant of what stuff means, and uncomfortable revealing their ignorance by asking; staring down an unfamiliar menu and desperately hunting for chicken breast, if you like. One of the better gifts my parents gave me was trying to make sure I would be comfortable in a lot of different settings, and part of that is not being embarrassed to ask “oh, I have no idea what this is, could you tell me about it?”

    I don’t want to generalize that this comfort with being ignorant on the way to learning is a class thing, but in my anecdotal experience, it lines up somewhat.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      the thing I try to keep in mind- on both sides of the equation- is “there are no stupid questions- there are people who will try to make you feel stupid for asking, though”

    • DAS

      My parents didn’t have a choice in giving me that gift. My food allergies quickly made me comfortable asking questions, and also limited my food choices enough to the point where I’m willing to try almost anything if I’m not allergic to it.

    • majeff

      But, let’s be honest, who’s more likely to have spent a fair amount of time in an Italian sandwich shop: a working-class person with a high school diploma or an elite WASP columnist for the New York Times who writes about Applebee’s salad bars?

      • medrawt

        Well, I find the specifics of the example bizarre. And as sigaba said above, it’s all just ham, for Christ’s sake.

        • drdick52

          And available in my local Albertons. In fucking Montana.

        • mausium

          Hey, he went through the trouble of reading the menu! He knows many words!

      • Gepap

        Depends where that person grew up – why is everyone assuming Italian delis are a common staple of the working classes?

        • majeff

          It’s not the “Italian delis” so much as “sandwich shops” being more particular to working class neighborhoods. Many of those sandwich shops are more likely to make use of such cured meats.

          ETA: Per below, who’s more likely to spend time in a Jimmy John’s, David Brooks or working class folks? These aren’t exotic, unknown things.

          • Gepap

            I wouldn’t say sandwich shops are some inherently working class establishment – there are plenty of “working class” neighborhoods in NYC (which is wonderfully diverse and also highly segregated internally) in which deli type sandwich places are not the default working man’s lunch place (Washington Heights being one – for the Dominicans there, you go for frituras, either at a store or a cart, or the 6 dollar lunch specials at the counters most restaurants will have), and in such a neighborhood if you have a place with a deli counter, they will have ham, salami, turkey – but don’t expect soppressata or capicollo on that menu.

            • bowtiejack

              I live in NYC (hey, Washington Heights as it turns out!), but I moved here from Texas. It took me a long time to realize that NYC is in reality a large collection of villages, each with it s own foods, etc.. That’s why every 10 blocks or so you have a new commercial cluster with a deli, a dry cleaner, a bar, and so forth.

          • Gepap

            Jimmy John’s specifically labels itself as “gourmet sandwiches”, which is a wonderfully pretentious claim but does speak to their aspirations, and in the “working class” (such a wonderfully undefined term) areas I am personally aware off, chain restaurants are not the go to places, since if the idea of a “working class lunch” is getting the most bang for your buck, a lot of chain restaurants are not in fact the cheapest option.

        • Three_nineteen

          They are where I grew up — in the “heartland” or “flyover country”. I lived in a lower-to-middle class area that just happened to have a large Italian population. On the other hand, I never ate Mexican until I was an adult.

          Brooks is not describing snobbery, he’s describing intimidation in the face of the unfamiliar and fear of being ridiculed for being ignorant. Most places, probably including that shop, would have gladly explained to the woman about the different meats and cheeses and given her tastes to help her decide, and then she wouldn’t have been ignorant any more. But she chose to keep her ignorance and go back to the comfort of plain old every day Mexican food like a real American.

          • Solar System Wolf

            When I was growing up in the “heartland,” Mexican food was considered extremely exotic, at least until Taco Bell and Chi-Chi’s started moving in. I took my mother to a Mexican restaurant and she was scared to try anything. Then she ordered the chicken “mole” (not mol-ay). She has a college degree, BTW.

            • Uncle Kvetch

              I grew up squarely middle class in suburban Philly, and my family’s first contact with Mexican food was when they started selling Ortega taco fixings in the local supermarkets in the ’70s. My husband grew up in the mythical WWC, but in southern California, where cheap Mexican takeout, canned refried beans in the stores, and so on had been staples for decades.

              Brooks is so out of his depth here it would be funny if it weren’t so infuriating.

            • I grew up in Boston and my spouse in New York, his parents are born and bred New Yorkers. Certain foods, like Thai food, came into the US (at least on the east coast) long after my in laws food tastes were set. I was introduced to Thai in my twenties and it blew my mind. By my forties I knew Thai food well enough to guess at the things available while ordering on the phone from a strange restaurant “Do you have Nam Sod? Ok, we’ll have an order of that. And papaya salad? Yeah, that too. How about Nam tok?” My mother in law, hearing me, was astounded. “How do you know they will have those things? And what are those things?” She was quite familiar with what used to be called “red checked table cloth” italian (dinner foods) and less familiar with lunchtime foods (deli foods). Its all about when and where certain foods entered your life and the life of your community–everyday? festival? exotic? made by people like you with your ethnic heritage?

          • CP

            Brooks is not describing snobbery, he’s describing intimidation in the face of the unfamiliar and fear of being ridiculed for being ignorant

            Which is pretty much what the conversation about “class” in this country has been reduced to – things that are perfectly innocuous in much of the country, and that the local white working class finds entirely familiar, are suddenly dubbed “elite!” and “fancy!” because that chain, or that type of food, didn’t happen to make it to Appalachia.

            • ColBatGuano

              Well. it’s that or actually discuss income inequality and they can’t have that.

    • Lost Left Coaster

      I love food that I don’t understand but I don’t like asking questions about what it is. So if I am faced with a menu that I don’t comprehend, I just pick something and hope it wasn’t sheep balls or, if it was, that they are delicious.

      • I told my spouse to order andouillette when we were in paris, think it would be a kind of andouille sausage like that in New Orleans (stupid me!) it is basically the scrapings of the sewer into a casing. The stench was unbelievable. We are both very adventurous eaters but low spice/high offal is not one of our categories.

  • Kevin

    My grocery stores have always had a deli meat section, and they’ve had those Italian cold cuts forever. Capicolo is one of my favourites. Those are in now way weird or “expensive” meats that a non-college educated person would be afraid of. My mother (grade 9 education, long time factory worker), certainly never had a problem buying those.

    Christ this is so stupid. Guys like Brooks really have never met a working class person, right? There is no way this story is even true. Does anyone buy that David has some infantile friend who is frightened by common cold cuts?

    • Uncle_Ebeneezer

      On the flip side: I’m college educated and the son of a Sicilian, mom from Long Island and I would have to google a couple of those examples just to be sure. Picking Italian cold cuts was probably not the best choice for Brooks’ fictional taxi-driver, liberal dinner party friend. PS- I’m old enough to remember a time when Real ‘Merkins would spend their $ at Applebys…

      • Kevin

        That’s funny, I’m not even Italian (Portuguese), but I grew up with these meats. Give me a plate of salami, prosciutto and capicolo, some cheese and bread, and I’m a very happy man!

        My college education didn’t teach me about cold cuts. What an asshole Brooks is.

        • Uncle_Ebeneezer

          Despite my Italian lineage I had no idea what capicola was before I took a deli job during college. I still have to ask my non-Italian wife “which meat is the one I don’t like?” when we are shopping.

          • Kevin

            Capicola was my favorite (after prosciutto, which probably doesn’t count since it is obviously the best). And it was made famous on “The Sopranos” since they all pronounced it “gabagool”. I didn’t learn until this year that gabagool was their way of saying “capicol” (they drop the A).

        • BloodyGranuaile

          I am part Italian and grew up in a heavily Italian area in NJ, but I just really don’t like cold cuts and I especially dislike ham, so while I recognize all the names I can’t tell you what makes them different from each other.

        • Linnaeus

          What you grow up with makes a difference. I wouldn’t have known the names of some of those foods, but would Brooks have known what gołąbki, mizeria, pączki, and bigos are?

          ETA: He did go to the University of Chicago, IIRC, so maybe he would have. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t.

          • N__B

            Of course Brooks knows what mizeria is. It’s the state he induces in his readers.

        • reattmore

          You didn’t take Cold Cuts 101 your freshman year?

          • wjts

            At Chicago, in the old Common Core days, it worked a little differently. You’d choose one of a number of different year-long Humanities/Lunch Food sequence of courses, usually in your first or second year. I took Greek Thought and Gyros, so I never really learned about delis. But other sequences, particularly Human Being and Cold Cuts or Readings in World Lunchmeats, emphasized them pretty heavily.

            • Gepap

              The new core kept the year long humanities/lunch food sequence unchanged – it was the year long social science/gourmet food shopping course that got cut from 3 to 2 quarters. Social Thought and Artisan Cheese now barely goes beyond Adam Smith and Frech Rind Cheeses.

              • wjts

                That’s a shame. I remember my Classics of Social and Political Tapas class fondly.

                • Rand Careaga

                  I want to take your comments out to lunch.

            • reattmore

              I took physics and gyros, and learned to build a gyroscope.

          • Drew

            His study buddy was Rick Perry.

    • eclare

      I am as confident as I have ever been about anything that this story is 100% made up.

      • mausium

        Isn’t that a requirement to being a highly paid opinion writer?

  • Jon_H11

    More evidence for my conspiratory theory that the super-rich are putting all their media weight into making sure the wealthy-but-not-1%-ers spend their time naval gazing and morally mortifying themselves or fearing the plebes as opposed to joining to lower quintiles in taxing the obscenely rich.

    Upper middle class people are incredibly egoistic–everything has to be their fault or their triumph. If you’re say, a multi-billionaire paying an effective tax rate of 5%, and you perceive that the well-to-do rubes who read your your paper of great repute might be wising up to the fact that they have more in common with their deli clerk and auto mechanic than they do with their 3 layers removed boss with multiple yachts. And that they may realize the fact that the structure of the system where they, their deli-clerk, and their mechanic pay a higher tax rate than the billionaires is unfair and should change. What do you do?

    You make sure to re-engergize their estrangement from those below them, so they’ll cling to the tit of their masters. The conservatives among them will feel haughty and elite and worry that they’ll be up against the wall just as the Rothschilds. The liberals will love the opportunity to castigate themselves for the specks in their own eyes, while conveniently ignoring the logs in their neighbors’. And you get to keep a perpetual super-human income, while the majority of the country lives hand to mouth.

    • ColBatGuano

      Yeah, that Reeves book seems like a sparkly item to keep the most reliable voter population from turning their eyes on the very wealthy.

  • Denverite

    To feel at home in opportunity-rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention possess the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child-rearing, gender norms and intersectionality.

    Just for the record, we’re certainly in the socioeconomic class that Brooks is referring to, and (1) I don’t know what barre is, (2) we bought our baby carriers from garage sales and secondhand twins groups, (3) I listen to a podcast maybe once a month when I remember how to get to the podcast page on The Ringer, (4) I don’t drink tea, (5) when I drink wine once a week or so, it’s half a glass of whatever my spouse is drinking with a meal, (6) I know what Pilates is but have never done it, (7) I have never read David Foster Wallace and have no opinion on him, (8) according to most reputable sources, we’re completely ruining our children, (9) OK, got me there, we probably do have gender norms that place us firmly in the group he’s talking about, and (10) I’m not really sure what intersectionality is without looking it up.

    Also, I go to Whole Foods maybe once every couple of months when I want to cook trout and they’ll de-bone it for me. (Safeway says that they’ll de-bone it, but I haven’t had good luck with the follow-through.)

    • Stella Barbone

      Sprouts sells it deboned.

    • eclare

      What David Brooks is describing here is a certain type of asshole who may or may not exist in the real world. But I can confidently say that, as an upper middle class D.C. based attorney, I have never met this person.

    • Daglock

      Now I have to hide my dislike for the writings of David Foster Wallace? To keep my social status from slipping another notch? Horrors.

    • reattmore

      I don’t know what barre is

      At a guess, I’d say barre techniques are practiced by barristas.

      • wjts

        I assume it’s something those savages in eastern Pennsylvania do.

        ETA: Wait, is it a ballet thing? I think it might be.

        • Someone told Brooks that “yoga mom” isn’t the class signifier it once was.

        • Caepan

          We hainas (look it up!) may be savages, but at least we know what the fuck cappicola and prosciutto are – AND we know how NOT to overpronounce them when ordering a hoagie. (And we don’t order “subs.” We order hoagies, “cuts” of pizza, and we call green peppers “mangoes” for some long-forgotten reason.)

          And as an Irish-American who grew up in an Italian neighborhood, I invite David Brooks to vaffanculo.

  • AlanInSF

    I get my fancy-named Italian meats at Costco, while browsing among the safely-comfortable demographics of Costco shoppers. I’d love to see Brooks’ explanation of that.

    • jamespowell

      Glad I saw your comment, I was about to say the same thing. I buy all my sandwich meats at Costco where I am in surrounded by throngs of Trump voters, many wearing the iconic caps or hostile RW t-shirts.

  • Becker

    Although, yes, it’s the prices, the cultural codes do play a part as well. Upper middle class types who fancy themselves high-brow do have their own shibboleths. I’m not agreeing with Brooks’ oddness, but I do share this sense of feeling, for lack of a better word, stupid when it comes to things that friends of mine are knowledgeable about and which escape me, this sense of not belonging.

    In my case, and with the friends I happen to have picked up, the knowledge gap usually involves things like wines, which grocery stores one shops at, education and travel. This doesn’t really reflect well on me, I guess, but I’ve had my share of hangups about being ignorant in a lot of areas, about not having gone to college or traveled outside the country. I try to shake it off and ask questions when I don’t know what someone’s talking about, which is quite often, but no matter how helpful someone might be, there’s this horrible feeling I get that I’ve just marked myself as an outsider.

    All I’m saying is, I sympathize with this possibly fictional friend of David Brooks, and know how she feels, because I’ve felt it too.

    • majeff

      Oh, cultural capital and the anxiety that accompanies new situations in which we are lacking such class-based capital are real things.

      But Brooks is, at heart, dishonest. He’s not the least bit interested in the ways that social, economic, and cultural capital intersect to produce barriers to class mobility. He’s far too interested in class immobility. He’s just got to mask issues of economic capital with cultural capital.

      Gourmet sandwich shop = economic capital

      Italian sandwich meats, and the cultural capital along with them, are fare less significant here. His companion is comfortable with “ethnic” food. But, he makes it about the “ethnic” difference of food instead of the obvious economic features contained in “gourmet.”

      His hackish mendacity can’t be separated.

      • majeff

        This is one of those areas where the sociologist in me gets pissed off as fuck at the faux-sociology of Brooks.

        • We’re living in a funny world kid, a peculiar civilization. The police are playing crooks in it, and the crooks are doing police duty. The politicians are preachers, and the preachers are politicians. The tax collectors collect for themselves. The Bad People want us to have more dough, and the good people are fighting to keep it from us. It’s not good for us, know what I mean? If we had all we wanted to eat, we’d eat too much. We’d have inflation in the toilet paper industry. That’s the way I understand it. That’s about the size of some of the arguments I’ve heard.

          Jim Thompson

      • bowtiejack

        “He’s just got to mask issues of economic capital with cultural capital.”

        Nailed it! Absolutely nailed it!

        • Justin Runia

          Yeah, this is the Vance / Chua gambit of “oh, I don’t have much of an opinion on Capitalism, we’ve got to look at Teh Culture”, a way of distracting by turning the conversation to essentially metaphysical subject matter. Like, you could get into a deep read of culture and how it’s intertwined with and constructed by prevalent economic structures, but it serves Brooks to pretend that there’s an impenetrable wall separating those two subjects, it helps to have a fence to toss uncomfortable facts over.

          • Uncle Kvetch

            Yep, this this this (meaning majeff, mausium and Justin Runia above). Better than I could have put it.

      • mausium

        Of course it can’t. His career is the sort of well-paid “virtue signaling” he would rail against if someone had the audacity to talk about yoga in front of him.

      • ColBatGuano

        Thank you. His dishonesty in this column is immeasurable.

        • So its a median brooks column, then?

      • Brilliant comments by all!

  • D. C. Sessions

    Interesting idea of an “educated class.” My family (self and three children) counts seven bachelors’ degrees, four Masters, and one PhD (to date). None would claim to be familiar with the menu as described.

    Apparently, Brooks’ “educated class” is much more like the right-wing “urban latte-drinking elite” than anything to do with education.

  • N__B

    I’d be way out of my depth in a New York deli

    Don’t be afeared. Do what the natives do: point at what you want to eat and grunt. If you accidentally point at another diner, it’s considered polite to ignore the screams and blood spatters until the fresh kill is on your plate.

  • Joe Paulson

    Brooks is the type that you don’t sympathize with even if he has some point because he expresses it in this sort of pathetic way where he comes off as an asshole.

  • dave

    Given Brooks’ previous lies about his restaurant experiences I am going to just go ahead and assume that none of this ever happened.

    As I made my journey, it became increasingly hard to believe that Brooks ever left his home. “On my journeys to Franklin County, I set a goal: I was going to spend $20 on a restaurant meal. But although I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu — steak au jus, ’slippery beef pot pie,’ or whatever — I always failed. I began asking people to direct me to the most-expensive places in town. They would send me to Red Lobster or Applebee’s,” he wrote. “I’d scan the menu and realize that I’d been beaten once again. I went through great vats of chipped beef and ’seafood delight’ trying to drop $20. I waded through enough surf-and-turfs and enough creamed corn to last a lifetime. I could not do it.”

    Taking Brooks’s cue, I lunched at the Chambersburg Red Lobster and quickly realized that he could not have waded through much surf-and-turf at all. The “Steak and Lobster” combination with grilled center-cut New York strip is the most expensive thing on the menu. It costs $28.75. “Most of our checks are over $20,” said Becka, my waitress. “There are a lot of ways to spend over $20.”

    The easiest way to spend over $20 on a meal in Franklin County is to visit the Mercersburg Inn, which boasts “turn-of-the-century elegance.” I had a $50 prix-fixe dinner, with an entrée of veal medallions, served with a lump-crab and artichoke tower, wild-rice pilaf and a sage-caper-cream sauce. Afterward, I asked the inn’s proprietors, Walt and Sandy Filkowski, if they had seen Brooks’s article. They laughed. After it was published in the Atlantic, the nearby Mercersburg Academy boarding school invited Brooks as part of its speaker series. He spent the night at the inn. “For breakfast I made a goat-cheese-and-sun-dried-tomato tart,” Sandy said. “He said he just wanted scrambled eggs.”

    http://www.phillymag.com/articles/david-brooks-booboos-in-paradise/#hdy9glRJBf3xTWB0.99

    • demitallanyway

      That was such an excellent takedown of him. I remember how it hurt his feelings, which he publicly expressed. What a dork.

    • wengler

      What a prig. Considering how many of the international elite send their kids to Mercersburg Academy, that Inn probably isn’t too cheap to stay at either.

  • TPO62

    Brooks: “The most important is residential zoning restrictions”

    If government just got out of the way, none of this would be happening.

    • Daglock

      Apparently, Brooks has a hard time distinguishing between correlation and causation. If it weren’t for zoning restrictions, I’d have my 1979 Winnebago parked on my highly-affordable vacant lot in Beverly Hills.

    • Gepap

      Brooks ins’t wrong about land use being a big driver of inequity.

      • Tyto

        Absolutely, and I’m sure Bobo will get right on the drive to substitute use regulations with form-based zoning in his quiet little neighborhood. Also, I understand he is all over the idea of reparations for the blatant and unrepentant racism of HUD and FHA lending policies in the mid-20th Century.

  • sam

    Seriously. The only difference between the apparently bougie place Brooks went to and a gazillion hole-in-the-wall places in any decent italian neighborhood is the prices (I was going to say “little italy”, but in NYC that’s basically an overpriced tourist trap these days – still pretty good food, but the prices are also kind of ridiculous).

    I mean, I took a colleague from Pakistan to Eataly once. Despite an ACTUAL language barrier, he somehow managed to eat fairly robustly – I had to explain one or two things on the menu just for clarity. (and he recently sent me a note asking me to remind him of where we went so he could explain it to someone else).

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

      There are several places in Philly’s Italian Market that carry all this (and then some), and it’s about the most unpretentious place on Earth.

      • sam

        The Italian Market was one of the better things about going to school in Philly.

        (Well, except for the time my roommate got her wallet stolen there.)

  • randykhan

    So what we know about Brooks’ “friend” is that she isn’t Italian and didn’t grow up in any of the thousands of places in the U.S. with big Italian populations.

  • HugeEuge

    I’m not a great Brooks fan but I think both general point of his column today and the example being mocked above are spot on. I know plenty of people here in non-urban non-suburban America who would be ill at ease/intimidated in exactly the way he describes his friend at the upscale sandwich shop. Likewise the points about college and education et al creating important social markers that further entrench inequality. Class distinctions are a real thing and about 98% of what I read in comments (or posts) at LGM re the WWC is no more convincing than anything Bobo has to say on the topic.

    • Jon_H11

      The issue I have with him is the implied solution. It seems like an act of misdirection to me. I would think LGM commentators would agree that the solution to inequality is a mix of tax policy and programmatic reforms to boost the welfare state. Snobbishness is a (minor) symptom, not the disease.

      Brooks brings up some of the same points we’d bring up (re: class barriers), but the inevitable solution he’d propose is economically neutered; basically that people shouldn’t have been as mean to that folksy (multi-millionaire Yale grad) George W. Bush. We should worship some Zeitgeist of middle america that just so happens to be a very effective tool for allowing the very wealthy, through the Republican party, to perpetuate that very inequality. Thus inequality remains a problem and the cycle can being anew.

    • Then I can’t imagine why you’d keep reading.

      • HugeEuge

        Thin skinned much? But to answer your implied question, I generally agree with the politics expressed here and I read lots of informative and interesting posts on comments on political topics. But the WWC stuff often reads like arm chair anthropology.

        • mausium

          And yet you enjoy the rantings of a faux-sociologist, because it hits all the right notes with you.

          • HugeEuge

            So the mote in my eye is responsible for your poor reading comprehension?

            • DrS

              individual blocking fucking rules
              hardly knew you, shithead.

            • mausium

              It’s not hypocrisy, your attempts to observe social science are wholly “old guy yells at cloud”, not objective fact.

    • mausium

      Using a fictional interaction to justify your “side” in the culture wars and as a form of “TAKE THAT LIBERAL AMERICA we love IMMIGRANT FOOD (but fuck mexico, seriously)” makes this a stupid column along his other stupid columns and if you enjoy picking out that kernel of corn in his turds, your taste is your own.

    • nominal

      What you’re missing is that education, money, etc. have NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS EXAMPLE. It’s a bad example.

      Let’s just take the “Italian deli v. Mexican food” angle. Brooks says fancy deli meats are for the rich and educated, but Mexican is for the poor and illiterate. That’s not at all true. If I took your average Iowan to get a Torta or a Cemita they’d just look at me blankly and run for the hills. But they sure as hell know what salami is, right? “Mexican” and “Italian deli” don’t say anything about class or education.

      And it’s a typically Brooksian bad example, one that’s supposed to reinforce stereotypes that isolate various groups of people. Bad in every respect.

      • Scott P.

        Yes, this is just a reheated version of his “blue state culture vs. red state culture” tripe.

        • Tripe? This isn’t a french blog, is it?

    • Uncle Kvetch

      Class distinctions are a real thing

      Yes they are, but forgive me if I can’t summon a more polite response than “no shit.” And that’s precisely the problem with Brooks: he thinks he’s on to some groundbreaking revelation here, when all he’s doing is rehashing what social theorists like Bourdieu were writing about 40 to 50 years ago. And yet he still gets treated like the Times’ resident deep-thinker.

      • ColBatGuano

        And while he’s acknowledging those class distinctions, he’s waving away the actual problem of an economic elite that controls 80% of the wealth and has no interest in giving it up.

      • HugeEuge

        I agree your point but how many readers of NYT op-eds, much less the broader public, have even heard of Bourdieu, much less put in the effort to read and try to understand it. I only did it because he was cited 15-20 years ago by an anonymous reviewer on a paper I’d submitted and I needed to read him in order to address the reviewer’s critique.

        Fair enough that Bobo gets shat upon for pop sociology or for presenting a friendly reasonable face for horrible policy or for obfuscation about the overwhelming economic component in the social disfunction he loves to write about or for a host of other things. But fuck me if there wasn’t a nub of truth in what he wrote about Bobos or, much more importantly, the hardening and recreation of class distinctions, inequality and diminished social mobility in the USA based in part on things like social and cultural capital. His stuff on evangelical mega churches was pretty early in terms of coverage in the national press and, fuck me again, the trends he described among those tens of millions of people are a big part of what put Trump in office.

        So pissing and hating on Brooks is all good entertainment, but his eye is not always off the ball. And it’s just one person’s experience so who knows how generalizable, but I interact fairly regularly with people who don’t just hate Whole Foods, and don’t just hate what Whole Food stands for in their minds, they hate what they believe to be the people/attitudes of the people who shop there. Projection? No doubt in part. But what I hear from those people (the haters, not the shoppers) tracks closer to what Brooks has to say than most of the comments pissing on him in this thread.

        • ColBatGuano

          Sure, there may be a nub, but it is the smallest of nubs when it comes to explaining why those haters are in the economic condition they are. Pretending that fancy delis or ballet classes is the root of their distress is to wave away the true nature of the problem. Just because they feel it doesn’t make right or true.

        • Uncle Kvetch

          Thanks for the reply — you’re far more charitable than I am (and that’s not a bad thing).

          As CBG says below, there may well be a nub of truth in the column, but it’s swamped by bad faith: I simply don’t believe that this took place the way Brooks describes it. In fact, as I wrote elsewhere yesterday, there’s simply no way that this joint, should it exist, actually had sandwich names like “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” on the menu without any description of what they are. I’m an overeducated effete liberal living and working in Manhattan, and I have no idea what the hell a “padrino” sandwich is supposed to be. And googling was no help, since every hit was just another link to Brooks’ column.

          • I live near a very expensive sandwich shop–totally alienating place–all the sandwich names are bizarre (casey’s rough ride, eliana’s delight, that sort of thing). So, naturally, there is a complete list of ingredients afterwards because no one would know what was in them otherwise and the counter people don’t want to have to explain a million times. Names like Padrino or Pomodoro are like the old deli names where a sandwich is named after a celebrity or a local feature–they are always described in excruciating (or delightful) detail because they are local, specific to the restaurant.

        • Hey, I mentioned Bourdieu in this very thread! So what’s your point again? That some WWC people and poor people hate the elites one step above them in the food chain? That they have class/culture anxiety when they imagine other people’s life styles, but can’t be bothered to push back against the real drivers of inequality in the country because their antipathy circles around meaningless ideas about food/culture/sex/abortion/god/guns/gays? So–nu?

          I shop at whole foods because I like the groceries they have and I can afford them. I fail to see what that has to do with some asshole who “hates” me because of what they “believe to be my attitudes.” I have plenty of attitudes, and even a lot of policy beliefs–which are diametrically opposed to the guy who owns whole foods and to trump. Why are these imaginary WWC asshole haters, who project their own rage and insecurity onto me, at all to be taken seriously by me? I don’t shop in whole foods because I like abortions (but I do!) or because I support immigration and muslims (though I do!).

          The very fact that you, and they, elide my shopping with my political beliefs is the shoddy trick that Brooks is playing in his column. Its not sociological reportage–its part of the propaganda push.

  • drdick52

    And once again David Brooks wins the Upper Class Twit of the Week Award. The condescension in that piece is nauseating.

  • DN Nation

    Friggin Publix deli has all those things.

    (“Friggin” more for Brooks being a vapid twit; not an insult on the Publix deli, which is great for what it is.)

  • DiTurno
    • Becker

      500 comment sub-thread ensues…

      • DiTurno

        Probably, but I didn’t mean to do that. I just think the article is worth reading.

    • DN Nation

      I’m sorry that Freddie has to live through that; it doesn’t absolve him of such classic Freddie takes as “defending Donald Sterling is a hallmark of true leftism,” “back in my day, gays KNEW how to be flaming,” and “you centrist neolibs are Bad and Wrong for how you’re arguing against neo-phrenology.”

      I both want him to continue getting help and to STFU.

      • DiTurno

        Agree.

      • reattmore

        Does not absolve him; to some extent explains him.

    • DAS

      Very good description of hypomania. Being Bipolar II myself, I agree that a lot of people don’t get mania. What’s really annoying, though, are the mixed states: I rarely am depressed in the classical sense, but am often — well not sure if it’s a mixed state or some form of anxious depression (which is an important distinction if I ever need any medication stronger than an antihistamine which functions both to keep me a bit sedated and keep my allergies at bay: what works for anxious depression can induce mania in a mixed state and what works for a mixed state won’t necessarily be as helpful for anxious depression) — both upset/sad/anxious and hypomanic at the same time.

      Fortunately for me, my disease is very mild compared to what Freddie DeBoer describes. I’m barely across the border from cyclothymia into Bipolar II. But even still, my own struggles (as well as struggles of relatives who have mental illness bad enough to require treatment and bad enough to interfere with them holding down jobs, etc.) make me acutely aware of how badly (and how penny-wise and pound-foolish we are about how) we handle mental health in this country.

    • kateislate

      Thanks for flagging, there are some lines in there that resonate pretty strongly.

    • reattmore

      Hard not to feel some sympathy for him.

    • stepped pyramids

      Best thing he’s written. Rings true to me, too.

  • Anthony Bruck

    A small matter, but there is no such thing as a high school degree.

  • Denverite

    Maybe Brooks should take his lunch guests to someplace nicer than Jimmy John’s.

    https://www.jimmyjohns.com/menu/#/subs/vito/

    Genoa salami, capicola, ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo & vinaigrette.

    • Gone2Ground

      Yeah. I’m pretty sure even Subway carries capicola and uses the term “baguette.”

  • Friends don’t let friends read David Brooks.

    • DiTurno

      What about hate reads?

      • mausium

        Still leave Ad impressions!

  • Just_Dropping_By

    Is he implying that Mexican is an inherently unsophisticated cuisine, because the exact opposite is true.

    You seem to be assuming that Brooks took his friend to an actual Mexican restaurant and that they didn’t just go to Qdoba, Chipotle, or some other chain place with a narrow menu selection.

    • Hogan

      Taco Bell’s Five Ingredients Combined In Totally New Way

      LOUISVILLE, KY–With great fanfare Monday, Taco Bell unveiled the Grandito, an exciting new permutation of refried beans, ground beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and a corn tortilla. “You’ve never tasted Taco Bell’s five ingredients combined quite like this,” Taco Bell CEO Walter Berenyi said. “The revolutionary new Grandito, with its ground beef on top of the cheese but under the beans, is configured unlike anything you’ve ever eaten here at Taco Bell.” The fast-food chain made waves earlier this year with its introduction of the Zestito, in which the beans are on top of the lettuce, and the Mexiwrap, in which the tortilla is slightly more oblong.

    • Denverite

      Speaking of, you’re probably already aware, but if you haven’t been to Adelida’s on Broadway and Louisiana, you should go. It’s very good, and it specifically caters to people in the restaurant industry (e.g., a second happy hour at 10:00 so wait staff can do it), so I figure it’s worth my business.

    • mausium

      The reason why it is more than plausible, David brooks couldn’t be bothered to know and recount what they ate.

  • ASV

    Maddening to read stuff like this and then hear that I’m the one living in a bubble. The biggest reason for people to not shop at Whole Foods, I guarantee, is that there isn’t a Whole Foods near where they live. In the entire state of Wisconsin there are three. Who’s driving from the south side of Milwaukee to the near-north side or Wauwatosa to buy groceries on a regular basis? Are there no college grads in Fond du Lac? Or do they trek down to the west side of Madison once a week and load up their Priuses with pricey cured meats? Second biggest is the prices.

    • Nubby

      I disagree, the biggest reason to not shop at Whole Foods is the customers.

      • Linnaeus

        Here in Seattle, the biggest reason to not shop at Whole Foods is that you can go to PCC Market and get most of the same stuff for the same prices (or lower) and PCC isn’t run by antiunion assholes.

    • wengler

      Second biggest is the prices.

      Nah. This is first by a long way. I remember a place where I used to live had two grocery stores across the street from each other. One was the ‘nice’ one, one was the ‘poor’ one. I went to both to compare. They carried the same type of products, but the nice one had better carts and wider aisles while the poor one had broken carts and narrow aisles.

      The food was the same and I’m not paying 20 bucks extra for a premium grocery shopping experience.

      • ASV

        That’s fine; my point is most people don’t live near a Whole Foods, so it doesn’t matter what the prices are. They’re not in any sense ubiquitous, even if you live in a decent-size metro area. I mentioned the example of Milwaukee; also, if you live in the Illinois side of metro St. Louis, you’re at least 15 minutes’ drive from one, and more likely 30-40. If you live in upstate New York but not Albany, you’re out of luck. Fresno has the only one in the southern half of California’s central valley; there are none in Michigan west of Lansing.

        • Drew

          If you live upstate, you’ve got Wegmans, the only grocery store you’ll ever need.

  • Scott P.

    As many have said, I am not sure what class has to do with it. It might well be regional; I grew up in Nebraska and never encountered either capicola or soppressata as a kid. I only discovered what they were by googling stuff they talked about on shows set in NYC. And I have a very sensitive palate, so I would have been less likely to try something unfamiliar (am a bit more daring now).

    Maybe … maybe the person he took out to lunch was his Mexican housekeeper???

    • Jon_H11

      Many have had to explain to uncomfortable dates what grits and fat-back are. Not exactly high-class markers.

      • Denverite

        On the plus side, I’d rather be talking about fat-back than back fat with a date.

        • Lurking Canadian

          Talking about back fat is a good way to make sure there isn’t a second date.

      • DAS

        What’s a grit?

        Seriously though, grits and fat-back not exactly high-class markers, but not necessarily low class markers. My MIL and her family are African-Americans who live in GA (the family is from the fall line, but most of them live in the Atlanta area even though they maintain second homes in their old community). Except for my MIL, who is not exactly the golden child of the family, many of them are quite well-to-do … but they certainly know from grits and fat-back.

        • Jon_H11

          That’s the point, it can be a regional thing more so than class.

  • i’m not going to read Brooks’ column, but maybe she knew what that stuff was and just didn’t like it?

    give me an option and i’ll decline the smelly cheese and sour meat slathered in oil sandwich.

    • DAS

      Except for the “so-not kosher” part and the “I’m allergic to cheese” part, smelly cheese and sour meat slathered in oil sounds to me like the best kind of sandwich. ;)

      • stepped pyramids

        It really is. Especially if there’s a lot of pickled peppers on there too.

        • Drew

          Let’s be lunch buddies

  • Brooks needs to study his talking points. Republicans now think education is bad for the country.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/college-campus-free-speech-republicans-conservatives

  • N__B

    “Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop.”

    Sounds like someone needs a course on humility.

    • eclare

      I see what you did there.

    • You complete me.

      • N__B

        As a sheer coincidence, that’s what I said to my lunch sandwich yesterday.

  • Gepap

    I find that openness to foods one hasn’t had before to be a big signal about cultural openness.

    I will use my upper “middle” class relatives in Panama as an example (since I think it is useful to use a non-US anecdote to break up the monotony) – in Panama, Indian food is not that common, and since it is rare, a lot of people have no experience with it. I was able to convince some of my more culturally liberal relatives to try the Indian restaurant in the relative well off neighborhood they live in, and they liked it. My more conservative relatives would never make that venture, because there is a more strident reluctance to try the ‘foreign’ foods they haven’t been exposed to. I do find that a lot of people have no interest in trying foods that for some reason are outside of their common experience, regardless of pricing.

    • Scott P.

      I’d agree with this, and this is something connected to class and education. But that would be an attempt at a sophisticated analysis, which Brooks is incapable of doing.

    • Drew

      I don’t find this to be much true. One of the most inquisitive and open minded people I know hangs drywall for a living. He turned me on to Ethiopian food.

      My mother has multiple advanced degrees and doesn’t like to get much more advanced than burgers and hot dogs.

      Sure it’s anecdata, but I don’t think it’s less valid than the sweeping claims you’re making. I think they’re just lazy stereotypes, to be honest.

  • Cheap Wino

    How is it possible for anybody to read this and not have the main takeaway be, “Wow, what a pile of flaming dogshit?” Beyond whatever inane class nonsense he might be peddling the premise is such a load of garbage — who’s buying Brooks’ sham?

    • jmwallach

      I skipped the article on principle.

    • mausium

      His employers.

    • DAS

      Upper middle class people who themselves would never, ever actually hang out with anyone who’s not of their class/educational level but who want to think of themselves as being more open minded and less prejudiced than all those “PC liberals who think they are so accepting but in reality won’t accept anyone who is not of their class/educational level”.

      • Drew

        It’s the ole “don’t let your liberal friends/family guilt you, because as I will demonstrate, they’re the REAL classists/racists, etc”

  • Timurid

    (It’s the prices.)

    It wasn’t the confusing Italian names that were scary, it was the numbers next to them.

    • Jon_H11

      The best part of this is the implication that Brooks (Net Worth est >$10 mil) wasn’t going to pick up the tab. Probably true.

  • The coastal elites do love their capicollo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR0OPOMea1Y

  • ThresherK
  • nominal

    I remember going to the grocery store in Butte in 1981 and getting Sopressata from the deli there. In Butte. In 1981, before the flood of rich Californians to Montana. Standing in line with a bunch of ranchers and miners and stuff, not a one of them quaking in fear from the scary salami.

    Is it possible Brooks has some sort of subtle amnesia? That he literally doesn’t remember simple facts of life, and so just writes articles based on what the rest of his brain thinks like SHOULD be like?

    • AlanInSF

      Arugalaphobia.

  • majeff

    Best sociological shade at Brooks ever:

    https://twitter.com/TobiHaslett/status/884773641057169408

  • This waitress must not have gone to college.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EHFRYVxhd8

  • Interesting article about gabbagool/capicola and how an ancient Italian dialect is being kept alive by idiot bros from Jersey.
    https://twitter.com/HarryTuttle11/status/884807452306411520

  • Machine Earning

    Yeah I mean ok, the stereotyping and education praising/bashing going on the Brooks piece are pretty next-level. Without wanting to contribute to that, I used to live in Philly and would eat in South Philly all the time. Soppressata salame and striata breads are, let us say, not foods I associate with MD/PhD academic superstars. Probably the people furthest from an academic background I have met in my life are most familiar with that cuisine.

    But fine, pick a variety of regional or ethnic cuisines, and then wonder to what extent familiarity with a spectrum of these cuisines is a reasonable proxy for highest level of education attained. That glorious experiment should last about 5 minutes in any professional setting, and if your hypothesis was that a positive linear correlation exists, you will learn the joys of making a marginal contribution to science through experimental failure.

    As has been pointed out here again and again, this is almost strictly an economic issue. Most cuisines that a normal person would willingly eat that are out of the mainstream American chain restaurant fare are approachable ethnic cuisines, so in general the people most familiar with them would have a regional or cultural affinity. To have a passing familiarity with several certainly doesn’t require any understanding of the cultures of origin or their histories, merely the interest and ability to eat out a lot. To assume that this is related to education more than income, or at least that the tie to education is stronger than the between between income and education, is pretty weird.

    And while we’re congratulating ourselves for our highness of brow, let’s not forget that in the example offered here, we’re talking something you could easily mistake for pepperoni and bread. We’re not exactly having frogs dried out on wooden cubes in baths of saltwater as you will find in old world Chinese cuisine, are we. That actually would have been correlated with education at the time, by intention in a heavily caste-based society, and knowing about it today would require at least some amount of non-fiction leisure reading in an altogether economically useless field, which I suppose as an activity might be correlated with education. So there, reading about ancient dessicated frogs makes his non-point better anyway.

    I know a lot of people with ivy league doctorates who have awful taste in food and no cultural awareness at all, but none with taste so bad that they like David Brooks.

    • andrekenji

      Ironically, salame and baguetes are pretty popular among the so called working classes of Latin America and Western Europe.

  • CP

    Is it me, or is it incredibly weird to be holding up Italian food, of all things, as elite, trendy, exotic, and otherwise alien to the White Working Class? All over the Northeast and Midwest, and in at least some other parts of the country, “Italian” is as White Working Class as it gets.

    • AlanInSF

      I was going to take my high-school educated working class white woman friend to a bakery, but I was afraid she’d be confused and intimidated by “rugalach,” so I took her to 7-Eleven and got her a Little Debbie instead.