Nachos in the Media: The Ask Blames ‘Chos

22 July 2010 by Jon Poritsky Category: nachos in the media
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Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask is the kind of book that is easy to love and easier to hate. Overstylized to the point of frustration, it takes awhile to see its value. Ultimately, it is the Generation-X novel, hitting on the insecurities of today’s thirty-somethings, a generation that is notoriously overeducated and underproductive. But why, for the love of salsa, would I even bring it up on NachosNY? Early in the novel, the protagonist Milo Burke hits on this cultural observation, referring to his college days:

I suppose there was a certain glory in it, this slumming with the middle and upper-middle classes. Maybe not the glory of rushing a Nazi mortar position, or braving municipal billy bats to stop a war in Indochina, but the privileged of our generation did what they could, like the rest of us. We were stuck between meanings. Or we were the last dribbles of something. It was hard to figure. The fall of the Soviet Union, this was, the death of analog. The beginning of aggressively marketed nachos.

Aha! This is related to ‘chos! Lipsyte could have chosen any product to make his point, but for some reason, he picks our favorite cheese covered platter. As insecurities go, he is dishing a big one about Gen-Xers. They are neither as altruistically productive as their grandparents nor as economically influential as their parents. Unlike Baby Boomers, they don’t drive the market, the market drives them, which leads us to that nasty bit about nachos. They have been shoved down our throats, per Lipsyte.

The first question I have for Mr. Lipsyte is who are these nefarious offenders, these bull-headed hockers of ‘chos? Perhaps Doritos, a brand that has duped a nation of snackers into believing orange powder is “nacho cheese”. They have only gotten worse over the years, infusing faux guac and “buffalo wing” extracts into the mix. I love Doritos, but don’t call them nachos.

Maybe Taco Bell should be thrown on the pyre as well. Not only has the former Pepsico subsidiary driven the Mexican fast food economy in the U.S. for four decades, but Glen Bell, their eponymous founder, actually innovated what we think of as Mexican food. The hard shell taco, for example, is an American invention, but when a talking Chihuahua sells it to you, you figure the Aztecs must have munched on these things eons ago. Nachos tend to elude Taco Bell commercials for two reasons: 1) They require far too much work to eat when compared to a chalupa and 2) Nachos sell themselves.

Which brings us to the crux of Lipsyte’s argument: it is a generation of dolts that requires “aggressively marketed nachos”. NachosNY is in it’s infancy, but if we have learned nothing else in our time exploring the dark corners of snackage, we have learned that people love nachos. Anyone who has been to our events knows that neither land nor sea will stand in the way of adoring chip and guac fans.

The flip side of this is that we have fallen for it; that we have bought into the ad-men’s work so well that we have come out the other side at marketers ourselves, shoving the best nachos in NYC down your throats. While this is possible, I finished reading the book and, without ruining anything, I can say with some certainty that Milo Burke didn’t exactly come out of the 1990s intact. Perhaps we just love nachos, perhaps everyone does. Maybe the marketers skipped it because, as I said before, nachos sell themselves. Maybe Milo, or Lipsyte for that matter, never actually ate a plate of New York’s finest ‘chos. Give us a call, and let’s see if we can’t change your mind.


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