Saturday, July 04, 2015

As American As

When you think about innovation, you have to recognize not just the person who conceived of something, but the one who was able to deliver on it. Plenty of people dreamed of flying like a bird, but it was the Wright brothers who made it a reality. Lots of folks thought about a flat computer, but Steve Jobs pushed his company to make the iPad. And who didn't grow up wanting to be famous, but couldn't figure out any good reason why they should be well know? If took the Kardashians to bring the vision to life.

But to only admire those who delivered on an idea is to discount a whole other class of innovator. These people didn't so much see something original, but took what's out there and put objects together in a new way where one plus one equals seven. Sometimes even seven and a half. You find this in almost every area of endeavor, from the most complex to the most mundane. At one end of the spectrum are examples like aircraft carriers and the inflatable tennis court covers. But let's not discount the forward thinker who though to glue the eraser to the top of the pencil. Or the visionary who said if I could just marry my alarm clock to my coffee maker, maybe I could wake up to a hot cup of Joe. And who was the mastermind who saw cars and drive-thru windows and said, eureka, I've got it: cupholders. Geniuses, every one of them.

Perhaps no area is as ripe for this kind of additive inventing as food. Every day highly trained chefs as well as regular people are creating new out of old. It's a list too numerous to, well, list. From Buffalo chicken to pesto pizza, from Waldorf salad to BLT's, from eggplant parmesan to chicken noodle soup, somebody somewhere said "what if I took this, and added this?" Just look at the ways that peanut butter can be mated with jelly, chocolate, even bananas. Thank you Elvis.

And so while the combination was perhaps inevitable in hindsight, it took the Carl's Jr. chain to literally put it all together. McDonald's may have perfected the hamburger, Nathan's the hot dog and Lay's the potato chip, but that's so, so, isolating. Yes, others may have dreamed of the possibilities of combining those staples. But did they have the vision to create it, roll out a full scale marketing blitz and give it top billing on their menu boards? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a sandwich that puts it all out there, one that showcases all that is great about the U S of A: The Most American Thickburger.

It starts with a good old hamburger. Of course, lettuce and tomato are added as table stakes, along with pickles, mustard and ketchup. Cheese is next: American, of course. But then they do what you did in elementary school, thinking you were brilliant: they added potato chips. And they top it all off with (wait for it, wait for it) a split hot dog. If that doesn't say backyard barbeque on a bun, I don't know what does (it also says 1250 calories and 2610 mg of sodium, but let's not spoil the party).

And they didn't stop there. If mean, if you're talking combo fantasy fast foods, why not extend that magical thinking to desert? And so the guys in the lab worked overtime, and came up with the Ding Dong ice cream sandwich. You take a Hostess Ding Dong (if you somehow skipped childhood, that's a small round hockey puck-sized chocolate cake filled with cream and covered in more chocolate), split it in two, and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream between the halves. I know, I know: you are simultaneously aghast at how bad that has to be for you, while also drooling uncontrollably.

Especially on this Fourth of July, when we celebrate those who thought of a place that was both the land of the free AND the home of the brave, isn't this what our forefathers fought for? How can you not celebrate a burger/hot dog/potato chip combination AND a Ding Dong ice cream sandwich? Do you think the Chinese would ever come up with something like that? Not a chance! Not that you needed proof, but is this a great country or what?


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves to eat just about anything. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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