I’ve been living in San Francisco since November and I’ve just about fucking had it with the so-called foodie capital of America. Listen up gastro-cowards: you can take your healthy, free-range, vegan, vegi, pesci, locovore, halal, kosher, organic, all natural, probiotic, low carb, no carb, fat free, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, soy free, soy, antioxidant, agave, raw nonsense being passed off as food and you can shove it up your exceptionally healthy ass. Come on white people, get it together. When are you going to get over waking up on Saturdays at some ungodly hour, trekking to brunch with your unemployable bohemian buddies who say made-up shit like “boughetto” and overtip from white guilt?
When did we lose touch with our roots? Remember when gourmet meant purple ketchup and the only crème fraîche in your life was encrusted at the bottom of a tube sock? Before your attempts to impress everyone at the feminist labor rights collective bike workshop with your unremarkable palate, you scarfed down dinosaur-shaped nuggets and beefaroni in front of the TV without a care in the world. Whatever happened to microwavable babysitter cuisine? I remember. Come with me.
Deep in the health-conscious heart of San Francisco stands a monument to the inner fat kid we abandoned to go live in the Bay called Butter. Sitting pretty on 11th and Folsom, the stucco yellow walls thump with tasteless classic rock. Inside, a big fat truck cab stares you in the face, the walls are covered with outdated nostalgia, and it smells of movie-theater popcorn. Known to the gentrified locals as “two turntables and a microwave," since 1999, the food place (calling it a "restaurant" would be giving it airs) has a sticky, faded menu featuring the finest in cheap frozen comfort foods. Nothing is over $5 and it's all served nuked or deep fried (because try as you might, you can’t sauté a Twinkie). The bar, overrun with flavored vodka, throwback softies, and cheap, watered-down beer as far as the eye can see, reminds us all of the kids we once were, the children who got drunk on the sly and crammed ourselves with inedible processed foodstuffs.
These dishes don't taste like food. They taste like horrible childhood memories. Come with me as I illustrate each individual horror as I experienced them.
Mac 'n' Cheese + Latchkey Tea (Long Island Iced Tea and Strawberry Soda)
Mom and Dad are gone for the night, and you’ve masturbated so many times that nothing’s coming out anymore, so it’s off to the kitchen where Mom’s left half a pot of starchy macaroni topped with mild cheddar cheese sauce, bubbles of unmixed powder floating around. You consider spooning it into a bowl, but you don’t because you’re not a sociopath. On the way to the TV, you do a double-take as you pass Dad’s liquor locker. Ding, ding, ding—it’s slightly ajar. So it’s back to the kitchen so you can fill up your dinosaur mug with one of everything. Dad’s got vodka, rum, tequila, gin, and triple sec, but when you taste it, your testicles zip back up into your body, and you run right back to the kitchen to dilute your dirty Long Island iced tea with as much strawberry soda as you can find. Three hours later, Mom and Dad find you passed out, dino mug knocked over, and a half-eaten pot of mac 'n' cheese upside down over your genitals. They’ll never forgive you.
Tater Tots + Tiki Trash (Coconut Rum and Fruit Punch)
It’s the second week of summer camp at the Lake Wohali Recreational Enclosure and for the ninth breakfast in a row you’ve grabbed nearly five portions' worth of tater tots and nothing else. You’ll lose your mind when you realize they’re just bite-sized hash browns, but that day will come a long time from now. Today the overcooked shredded potato is hot and crispy all the way through, as though the camp chef has given up on even pretending he gives a shit. You pocket the remaining three portions and go ask the head counselor for something to drink. He pours you a cup from the water jug from last night, totally unaware that the younger, more hormonal counselors have been filling the water jugs with coconut rum sold to them by the camp chef, then fucking each other raw dog in the bushes. You don’t know any of this, and can barely taste the rum on top of the overly sweet and tangy fruit punch as you cram a fistful of potato in your toothy preteen mouth.
Deep Fried Mac 'n’ Cheese Bits + Bitchin’ Camaro (Spiced Rum and Dr. Pepper)
You just turned 17 and have a wispy shit-stache to prove it. The popular kids at school all make fun of you, but not for long because your dad’s giving you his 1997 Subaru Legacy Outback Wagon, and the floor is about to be littered with clove butts and handjob residue. Dad forgets a bottle of spiced rum in the glove compartment, and since you don’t drink anything else, you feel it pairs well with Dr. Pepper. You are an innovator.* Drunk with power, and rum, you fever-nightmare an anthropomorphic dish of mac 'n' cheese frying to death in a bubbling lake of oil. You later try to recreate your nightmare for lunch, and ask mom if you can use the deep fryer. She refuses, but you know you’re onto something. She will never be proud of you.
*But soon you will discover weed.
Deep Fried Corn Dog + Prom Night Punch (Apple Vodka, Lemon-Lime Soda, and Cranberry Juice)
It’s 3:30 AM on prom night and you’re sitting in a hotel room you didn’t pay for with the girl you didn’t ask. She passes you a sickly sweet and tart drink that tastes like a watermelon-flavored Jolly Rancher, and the more you drink, the less you see her as a chubby disappointment from gym class. The virgin boner pressed against your tighty whiteys has enough potential energy to flick a quarter 30 feet, and in an effort to relieve the pressure you offer her a bag of mini corn dogs your mom packed in case you got hungry. She is not impressed. You optimistically pull out your own mini corn dog in an attempt to be brazen, and before you know it she is on top of you. You both attempt to maneuver your penis into her, thrusting blindly into the folds of thigh meat, but her girth well exceeds your length, and you are unsuccessful. Classical mechanics wins again. You die three days later, a virgin.
Frito Pie + Bottle Service (Pint of Beer, Minibottle of Amaro Digestif)
You are a fatty in a fedora. Although any normal person would view your eating habits as deranged, you consider yourself a man of the world, well-versed in the finer things. While your friends order hamburgers, you pull the waitress aside and order off the menu. A layer of Fritos, a layer of chili, and a layer of cheese. Her hands tremble as she takes down the order, and the Quebecois chef quits on the spot. You will tip 3 percent. This road trip to Alberta means you can finally drink, so you order what your dad always gets, a pint of PBR, and what your mom always gets, a minibottle of fernet. You are a fat idiot and will eventually remove your fedora to discover premature hair loss brought on by karma.
Deep Fried Twinkie + Junkyard Dog (Vanilla Vodka and Root Beer)
You are fatter than the fedora guy. Born clinically obese in a booth at Hometown Buffet, you’ve never known another life. You view the skinny as a waste of space, and would proudly pay double fare to fly, if there existed an aircraft capable of supporting your weight. For your 21st birthday, you are served a deep-fried Twinkie with a single candle in it, which is blown out every time you shift due to the air you displace every time you do so. You want ice cream–flavored liquor, but settle for vanilla vodka. Your gravitational pull knocks an A&W off the shelf and into your drink. It is the best day of your life, just like every day of your life. You live to be 100 years old.
Chili Cheese Nachos with Jalapenos + Hubba Bubba (Grape Vodka, Citrus Soda, and Cranberry Juice)
Your friends came over, not because they like you, but because you have a ton of video games. In an effort to impress them you spend a half hour making your favorite dish, chili cheese nachos topped with soggy jalapenos, but when you pop your head in the living room to ask, “Snacks, fellas?” you are ignored for neither the first nor the last time. Defeated, you raid the fridge and mix squirt, cranberry juice, and what you think is grape soda and run to your mom’s room to cry it out. Hey, Jeremy, maybe all that crying is why you don’t have any friends in the first place. Grow a dick, kid.
Canned Spaghetti + White Trash Driver (Vodka, Orange Drink)
You are a shitty dad. Too wide awake after a 22-day Percocet bender and delirious with hunger, you rip open the cabinets to find a solitary can of SpaghettiOs collecting dust from the last time your son came to visit. So long ago. You can barely remember his face, he must be in his late teens now, nearly a man. You peel open the can and empty it into a mug, then put it in the microwave. You stare blankly at the rotating tray and consider all the mistakes and missteps that have lead you to this moment. Before the 90-second wait is up, you are already searching for something to dilute the open handle of vodka sitting among a sea of spent bottles and nitrous capsules. You find a Sunny D behind the fridge. You cry behind the fridge. You black out behind the fridge. The SpaghettiOs are untouched.
Jalapeno Poppers + Tang-Tini (Orange Vodka, Triple Sec, and Orange Drink in a Tang-rimmed glass)
You are an orangutan in a business suit. In the late 90s you were the mascot for Tang, but since that cocksucker John Glenn drank that shit in space, you’ve been out of a job. Down on your luck, and an orangutan, you drown your sorrows nightly in an ironically cruel combination of orange vodka, triple sec, and orange drink. Every few waking hours, you rail a line of Tang, letting the sickly sour postnasal drip pool in your throat before you hack up another blood-tinged orange loogie. While you're slumped against a wall in downtown Toronto, a kindly Canadian offers you the remains of his lunch. But alas, you're an orangutan and cannot stomach jalapeno poppers. You eat them anyway and diarrhea into a fountain.
Another place to eat food: