The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

October 15, 2009

I See a Taco and I Want to Paint it Black

Filed under: Food — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 10:58 pm

Let’s face it, if you’re running a fast food taco stand, there are only so many different permutations of things you’re going to be able to make out of the twelve different ingredients that constitute 90% of the stuff on the menu.  Since the stuff is usually pretty cheap, these places can usually get away with a few things like taking their taco, sticking it on a flat tortilla shell instead of a curved taco shell and call it a tostada (and probably even find customers who swear that one is vastly superior to the other,) but in general, customers are finicky, and eventually they’re going to start to get sick of the standard-issue tacos and bean burritos.  The trick is to find ways to make the customers think they’re getting something new and different, without actually having to come up with anything that’s too new and different.  After all, most of the money being made by this type if business is on volume, and bringing in all sorts of extra ingredients for one-off special items gets expensive after a while.  So what  do you do in this situation?

Well, they can always start by messing around with the color pallete.  From Taco Bell, purveyors of (sort of) fine Mexican fast food comes the all new for a limited time Black Jack Taco, by far the darkest taco you’ve ever seen.  The website describes the item thus:

“A crunchy black taco shell filled with seasoned beef, zesty pepper jack sauce, shredded lettuce, and a blend of three cheeses:  Cheddar, Pepper Jack and Mozzarella.”

Aside from the obvious change from the standard-issue taco (we’ll get to that one in a minute) the major innovation here seems to be the inclusion of Pepper Jack cheese and some sort of sauce, which I’d guess is probably the same vaguely sour cream-like sauce that’s somehow managed to find its way into half the items on the Taco Bell menu at some point or another.  Based on that description, I suppose they could call the thing a Jack Taco, but I suspect that a certain pointy-hatted fast food executive would presumably take issue with Taco Bell’s use of that name (I do not believe the name is in current usage, but I do know Jack in the Box has used it before.)  Thus the need to add something to the name, and the need to modify the product to make the name actually (sort of) make sense.

Which brings to this taco’s most, shall we say, distinctive feature.  While thinking of foods that are served black, I couldn’t come up with a whole lot.  I thought of licorice, black beans (an item which might presumably be seen in a place like this but would probably ruin their image by appearing vaguely healthy,) blackberries, black coffee (which is more brown than black really,) blackened catfish and a couple more items that I’ll refrain from listing here in the interest of preserving the appetites of my readers.  Somehow, I don’t see tacos on that list, or anything bearing any resemblance to tacos for that matter.  In fact, I can only think of a few reasons why a taco would need to be black:

  • Taco Bell is trying to find ways to improve their market share with the highly coveted “Goths and Degenerate Gamblers” demographic;
  • Those red Volcano Tacos they were selling last month messed up the Feng Shui, and they needed to add a dark color to the menu to bring it back into balance;
  • This is an elaborate scheme to try to salvage a bad day at the taco shell factory;
  • They needed some sort of Halloween item on the menu, and the name “Taco of the Damned” bombed badly in the test markets.

Anyone got any other ideas what might be going on here?  And while we’re at it, has anyone been foolhardy brave enough to try one of these things?

Might As Well Just Bag the Whole Thing

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 8:13 pm

Lately, the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag has become a frequent topic of controversy.  For years now, plastic bags have been derided as a baby whale suffocating monstrosity by environmentalists, and as a result, efforts have been underway to curtail their use for some time now.  These efforts came to a head last year when the City of Seattle attempted to impose a 20 cent tax on each plastic bag used within the city.  Although the Seattle bag tax got rejected by a significant margin by the voters in a referendum during this year’s primary election (apparently even Seattleites have their limits when it comes to taxes, not since the notorious “latte tax” proposed in 2003 and rejected by  nearly 70% of Seattle voters have I seen people that mad about a tax) it appears that bag taxes and outright bans on plastic bags have been imposed in a number of areas already.  Since I make it a point to try to keep this Blog as free of politics as possible (believe me, you do NOT want to get me started on anything political here)  I am not going to bother discussing the arguments for or against this type of policy, but I do have to say that I can at least see where they’re coming from.  Plastic bags seem to be one of those necessary evils that make life easier, but also bring their own set of problems along the way.  In my case, this is the big one:

Yeah, I know.  I really need to stop making posts that involve displaying the contents of the deep dark corners of my apartment, but I’ve never really figured out what to do with these things, so mostly they end up accumulating.  If you just throw the things away, you get yourself tossed into the category of eco-fiends inhabited primarily by toxic waste dumpers, baby seal clubbers and Republican senators.  In spite of the fact that these bags are generally made out of recyclable materials (HDPE, recycle code 2,) for some reason the recycling bins here explicitly say not to put plastic shopping bags into the bins.  Some of the local supermarkets actually have plastic bag recycling bins, but I rarely remember to bring bags to be recycled. 

Another issue that I have with this is that often when I go to the store, I end up using the self checkouts.  As long as the store isn’t too crowded, I find these to be a nice little timesaver, but for some reason, every self checkout that I’ve seen seems to provide nothing but plastic bags.  Given the option I think I’d actually be more likely to use paper bags most of the time, since you can at least put them in the recycle bin without feeling too guilty and theyre generally a lot easier to reuse.

Then, of course, there’s the reusable bag option.  In the past couple of years, reusable bags seem to have become a lot more popular, although I still don’t seem to see a lot of people using them.  In fact, aside from one or two of the big blue bags I picked up from Ikea (which don’t seem to be useful for much more than trips to Ikea) I haven’t ever really bothered with these, but when I went to the new Trader Joe’s in Redmond last Friday when it opened (I’ll have to do a post on this later), they packed the groceries I bought in this reusable bag, one of a number of styles they had on offer.  When I think about it, it actually makes a whole lot of sense.  I could stop accumulating ridiculous amounts of plastic bags that I’ll never reuse, and maybe I could even get myself off the seal clubbers list.   Now I just need to figure out how to actually remember to bring the things with me when I shop…

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