2014's fast food atrocities
Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.
The food of Rome is the gustatory reflection of a city whose history encompasses the glory of an empire and the squalor of a tiny provincial backwater, the excesses of Caligula and the holiness of saints, the refinement of court cuisine and the simple, earthy cookery of pilgrims and the poor. It’s almost shockingly powerful, almost primal, revolving around organ meats, garlic, black pepper, juniper berries, sausage, pork and cheese. Eating a Roman meal is like experiencing an earthquake or an orgasm or Mardi Gras.
In my mind, no dish better encapsulates the experience of Roman cuisine than Spaghetti alla Carbonara — the Roman charcoal industry’s gift to the world. As the story I’ve been told goes, the charcoal sellers lived in the towns in the hills of Lazio outside Rome, cutting wood and charring it before carrying it in sacks down to the city to sell. The work was almost unbearably physical, and demanded hearty food to keep up one’s energy — hence, the birth of this almost unbearably rich pasta dish.
How much of that is truth and how much the product of the Roman love for poetic fabrication I don’t know, but whatever its history, it’s my favorite meal on Earth, a marker of important events in the same way that others use champagne or cigars. When served, conversation around the table ceases, replaced by moans and grunting. It’s a pleasure too good to ever be called guilty.
A note on ingredients: I call for pancetta, an air-cured Italian pork belly that’s a cousin to bacon. I love its chewy sweet-saltiness, but most Romans would insist that you use guanciale, cured pork cheek, whose soft, buttery unctuousness produces a different texture and effect. Pancetta is widely available, usually presliced in thin sheet; I prefer to buy it from an artisan salumi producer that sells it in a cylindrical roll that allows me to cut it into small dice. Guanciale is less widely available. Both can be bought online from Boccalone, a San Francisco artisan salumeria, and in well-stocked Italian markets.
Also, this recipe uses minimally cooked eggs. All the usual caveats apply; I recommend sourcing eggs from responsible producers that are unlikely to have salmonella problems, but if you’re worried about uncooked eggs, this may not be the recipe for you.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
*Mise en place is essential for this recipe. Have everything prepared before you start!
Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.
KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.
Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.
Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.
Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.