Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The poster child for the devaluation of the dollar is Mac and Cheese

The poster child for the devaluation of the American dollar is Mac and Cheese.

I'm not going to be politically correct when I say, "Everyone knows that mac and cheese is poor people food." Now that I've gotten that out, I just want to say I've eaten a lot of it in my life, it's extremely affordable, and offers little nutritional value and mostly fat, fat, and more fat. That's why it tastes good. Does America have an obesity epidemic? Why yes it does. But I'm not here to talk about that, or why Americans buy so much of this, I'm going to rant about how mac and cheese is now the staple in fine food restaurants.
It seems that fine food establishments (consider steak houses like Flemings for example) all now have gourmet mac and cheese offerings on their menu. I've ordered quite a few of these. You know what the secret is? Some off-the-collar ingredient that they already have to order "in bulk" to cover their steaks and to stuff other things with. Outback is now offering "Mac and cheese with lobster" which will just be mac and cheese with chopped up lobster bits that they couldn't use on anything else. But you can see this crap everywhere. "Mac and cheese with truffle infusion."

"Oh you just took mac and cheese and chopped up mushrooms in it. How much you charging? $15 bucks a side dish? And you got some bread crumbs to top that with?! Baby sign me the hell UP!"

Another great restaurant here in SLC that I like to visit called Zy has some snooty mac and cheese dish. Again, it has prosciutto (or ham to the layman) or something like that stuffed in it to justify the expense. 

It reminds me a lot of house flippers. You know the kind (I'm getting increasingly frustrated by them, because I'm looking for a good value in a house to own). These house flippers are like vultures, pounding on doors, running teams of people, pressuring owners to sell, and scooping up properties the instant they go to short sale so a Joe like me who has a day job and just wants to own a house...if I'm a second late...the value is gone with five bids on it.

So what do I have a beef about with house flippers...the fact that they think they can throw one ingredient in a pile of crap and increase the price by $100,000. Seriously. This seems to be the case on a house I was interested in. Seized for $140, coat of paint, new carpet, granite countertops and new cabinets and that's it. No landscaping or nothing. And boom back on the market in four weeks for $240,000. WTF?!

All while the houses around it are in the $140,000 range. How does that even work?
Imagine going to a nice brunch with your significant other. The waiter comes out and charges you for bottled water when all they are doing is filling up the same bottle in the back with tap water. Then they present their new $15.00 specialty. "Will you be having the Charms de la Luck?" Sure you say and order it.
They bring out a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, only instead of the normal marshmallows in it, they've cut up a package of Circus Peanuts.

I would scream!!!

But that seems to be happening all over the United States. It's called ripping people off, and I'm getting sick of it. Where is the value? I don't think it exists anymore (yes, I know this is a pessimistic attitude).

As authors we work (sometimes for up to a year or longer) to produce a story that costs $2.99 to buy. THAT's a frickin' value. America used to be about value. Now it just seems more and more (outside of authors) that everything is about ripping the next guy off, about taking a shortcut, about hiding expenses or charging outrageous amounts for something that should be really cheap to produce.
Cheap ass work. The person who did this on a new house should be
caned like they do to litterbugs in Singapore because cement is the most
expensive ingredient, and they knew it would hold up for two years. By
that time, they are long gone, and you are stuck with a bucket of crap.
I see it in concrete driveways that start to flake after just two years. Do you know why concrete flakes? It's because the person that poured it shorted you on your cement (an ingredient in concrete that costs the most money).

I was in a house recently rewiring a light switch for my job. I took off the cover plate (which was mysteriously cracked-like why would that happen?) and discovered that a three-box was actually a two-box and a one-box wedged together and all bent to force the faceplate to fit (which is why it cracked over time). The contractor knew exactly what he was doing and cheated the homeowner by doing a crap job.

My friend James and I have a meme that we do whenever we hang together. It's called, "Where does a rich guy get his money?" The answer is always the same: "Off the backs of the middle class."

Think about that the next time you go on a date with your loved one and splurge for a nice restaurant, and you see Mac and Cheese on the menu. Ask yourself, where is the risotto? Well that would be too hard to make money on now wouldn't it?

/end rant

Have a great Wednesday. :)


  1. Thanks Mike, I needed this. I love living vicariously through your rants :) I get ya here Dude, I really do.


  2. Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. We went through a lot of that stuff when we were trying to buy our house, which is why it took so long. It was funny, though, the market was still going down when we were trying to buy, so we were losing bids on houses to flippers who would come in, do their thing, and try to sell at a higher price but couldn't and would end up having to sell the house for less than they paid for it. It made us laugh every time.

  3. I guess I just don't eat at the mac and cheese restaurants. It's probably served a lot at 'Southern-fried-everything' joints and I don't eat like that.
    Appliances and cars don't last long due to cheap parts either. It's all about cutting corners and everybody does it.

  4. Your post reminds me of the time I went to a restaurant in Detroit that was all dressed up as first class with prices to match. The servers had on tuxedos and a towel over the arm. The place was all fixed up. However, the food was the same as a greasy spoon. Lol..People were falling for it.

  5. When I moved to Mexico, I expected to see food smothered in cheese like in the States, but nada. Only a light sprinkling of queso fresco. I've heard Oprah's favorite food is five-cheese mac'n'cheese. I see a connection.

  6. Skip the chains! Of course Flemings and Outback have crappy macaroni, they have to serve an unsurprising menu to a huge amount of people as fast as possible. On the other hand if you go to somewhere local you get actual macaroni and cheese that involves baking the macaroni. I still pine for the macaroni at Hugo's in West Hollywood. It isn't better because of some odd ingredient (unless you count peas) but because they take the time to make a good meal. These big places aren't even about using low cost ingredients, offal is cheap but doesn't exist at Cheesecake Factory, so much as they don't want to shock people's palates. I'm not saying you will never get a bad meal in an independent restaurant nor are they unconcerned about maximizing profit. However, they are more likely to show you something different for a side other than macaroni or if they do they are more likely to knock it out of the park.

  7. As an outsider, it does seem like in America the guy who rips off others and gets away with it is revered as some sort of business genius.


  8. I've noticed when I shop, the mac and cheese/ramen aisle is always the most crowded. :(

  9. I've never really liked mac n cheese. I had a similar experience though at the oil change the other day. It used to be the sticker they gave you to put on your windshield was plastic-ish and would generally peel right off. But in the last year or so they've started to use these cheap ass paper ones that don't come off for shit. So now they've got to take a razor blade and scrape the old one off to put the new one on. All so the oil change place can save like a nickel while charging me $50 for an oil change. Then it was the same thing with this water bottle I bought. They put on these stupid stickers that wouldn't peel off, so I have to spend a half-hour scraping at it with my fingernail. Pain in the...finger. Again, just to save some a-hole 5 cents.

    And then Wendy's launched it's new "value menu" which in the old days when Dave Thomas was still around you could get a Biggie size fry or drink for 99 cents. Now you get like five fries or a teaspoon of soda it seems. And really now they have like 2 things that are 99 cents, which is only so they can say that it starts at 99 cents.

    Everywhere you go it's just paying more for less. And yet the people at the oil change, the Wendy's, the grocery store, etc are they seeing a dime of that? I doubt it.

  10. I've never eaten that sort of food and don't know where the attraction lies. Value? Every business is there to make money. That's the facts. It's up to you and I to find something that appeals and we can afford. 'Buyer Beware' comes to mind.

  11. This really hit home as the concrete work that was done in my condo lot not even two years ago is already a total mess. Amen to this rant!

    I also had to laugh because I was just looking at the menu for a new trendy restaurant I want to check out for dinner, and $20 mac & cheese was on the menu.

  12. It is not just in America, that the rich becomes rich because the middle class does not get a chance to catch up. In India a lot of times the rich political leaders actually pay unemployed gang leaders to start a riot in the name of religion. Then when they go and give speeches against communal riots and make a promise of fixing things up, they pay the same people for their propaganda.
    I just wish that these people use their brains and refuse to harm others, then a lot of growth could take place.
    About Mac and Cheese - - - I remember paying 59c cents for a box and sometimes even 99c for a tripple pack.

  13. This way of doing business extends to a lot of other things. Can't tell you the number of cell phones I've gone through over the years, but then my husband's explanation is that if everything is made to last, we won't have to go out and buy another one anytime soon.

  14. I think you should add soup to this restaurant rant. It's all the vegetable bits no one will eat cooked up in butter so it tastes yummy.

  15. That was a great rant. My wife wanted some shrimp and noodles the other day and I went to Olive Garden to get it. I had to order the shrimp as an appetizer and the noodles as a side.

    Noodles? $11.00

    Damn. I can't afford noodles anymore.

  16. I was in a restaurant thew other day and mac and cheese was on the menu for twelve bucks. Seems a bit high priced for something you can make for a buck.

  17. Which is why I never order pasta or chicken at a restaurant, and salad only if it's twice the size of my head. It costs the place about 2$ to make these dishes, and they sell 'em for up to ten times that amount. Ridiculous.

    I never quite understood the whole Kraft Dinner thing. It takes just as little time to boil macaroni and melt some yummy gooey real cheese on it, instead of orange goop. Plus you can add pepper and spices, and onions, and anything else you want. It's not that much more expensive either (well, depends on the cheese).

    My two cents :-)

  18. OMGosh this was awesome! There must be something in the air today because I sent a long rant to Huntress because I couldn't post it anywhere else. (I figured you needed a break from my rants;)

    Anyway, love and agree with the whole mac and cheese thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm a southern girl and make a mean smoked Gouda mac and cheese, but I'm trying to feed 6 people cheap!

    And don't get me started on the housing market. It seems like everything in that area works better for someone else, never me and my family. I've bought 2 homes (top of the market) and sold both of them for huge losses. It's not worth it and I plan on renting the rest of my life. Let someone else fix everything and deal with the headache. I'm tired of it all and think I'll try my hand at being a pain in the rear tenant.

    My rant by the way was about lazy writers. People who self publish simply because they can't be bothered to put time and real effort into making a product worth selling. And yet they sell it. And then they expect me to say nice things about the crappy writing and support them as they try and whip out a draft and finished product in 2 months!! By all that's holy...

  19. Sadly there will always be people who want to rip others off by adding a flashy gimmick to what should be a low price product. It's the nature of capitalism, isn't it?

    In the UK I've never seen such a thing as macaroni cheese with lobster on a menu, but it would make me laugh! I get it for the kids sometimes and it's something like 80p a packet.

  20. It's a nice rant. I get tired of feeling ripped off all the time. Everything is cheap and useless it seems these days. Like new furniture is made so cheaply, I'd rather go find old stuff made from real wood. Then at least I feel like I have something worth the money I paid.

    I don't eat out much, so am unaware of the mac & cheese phenomenon.

  21. What irritates me is going to a restaurant with a child and seeing the actual Kraft logo on the kids menu next to the $7 price tag for Mac and Cheese. Most of the time they don't even give you a side with the M&C dish so you are paying $7 for 1/3 of a box of Kraft and a glass of milk. We only made that mistake once and will never be doing it again.

  22. You should see what the kitchens look like in some of these places. I worked several years in the pest management industry, and I can tell you some of the most expensive restaurants, have the dirtiest, roach infested kitchens you could imagine. It's like walking over an invisible barrier from the lush and fancy seating area, to the trenches of the kitchen. All the money goes into creating the illusion of splendor to impress the clientele. Problem is, not much money is left over for proper storage and prep zones in the kitchen, not to mention basic hygiene and pest management strategies. After a couple years working in pest management, I could walk into a restaurant and tell you if they had a roach infestation based on smell alone. I've walked in and then walked right back out of one restaurant because of this. Not sure if I still have a nose for German cockroach infestations, but if it's bad enough, I bet I could tell. It's one of my superpowers.

  23. I love your rants, Michael. Makes me feel like I'm not the only hothead around.

    From what I can tell, there are still serious craftsmen/women around who take pride in their work, but they're not cheap because their end results are solid and they usually stay very busy. So it's true that you get what you pay for, and a lot of people aren't willing to pay for the best plumber, electrician, mechanic, or whomever -- but I'm not including honest people who get ripped off by con artists. So many developers and homebuilders these days build on the cheap. I know construction workers who can tell you horror stories of houses they've worked on for big time developers. It's one reason why I live in a 1939 building -- the construction and details are superb, and it's in far better shape than semi-new homes in the neighborhood.

  24. I like your post... mac and cheese really isn't big at all here in Australia. Not sure I've even had it to be honest...Hmm. I can see why restaurants are doing it though, more bucks I guess. I'm guessing most people aren't silly to pay so much for it though.

  25. I only do homemade mac and cheese. Since I'm not big on cheese.

    Ah well. It's because we let them get away with it. If no one ordered the overpriced mac and cheese, eventually they would take it off the menu.

  26. This post taught me two things. One, I should really stick with my dream of moving to Canada. And two, I could open up a really fancy restaurant and just sell whatever is in my freezer while giving it a French name. Good rant! :)

  27. I rarely eat mac and cheese, but sometimes get a craving for it. I don't make it at home since my wife doesn't like it, but I'll get it maybe once a year at Boston Market. Haven't tried any of the "premium" restaurant versions--just can't bring myself to do it.

    Now circus peanuts! I know a lot of people hate them but they are still a fond memory from childhood. They don't seem as good now as they did back then.

    Wrote By Rote

  28. Grrrr... our concrete is flaking... !!!!!

  29. We've run into several instances of product value issues. It's sad, but true.

  30. This makes me snicker. The bar near my house does a very nice mac and cheese, and you can get quite a sizeable quantity of it with a beer for a meal under $10, which is a rare thing indeed here. Anyway, they also have a ritzier version of it, which this very night I overheard the bartender recommend to two giggling young ladies who asked him "what is your favorite?" He somehow managed to tell them -- with a straight face -- that the "steak mac and cheese" was what he would consider the best item on the menu. I was snickering into my beer -- it's also the most expensive dish on the menu at around $22 and I would be willing to bet good money isn't nearly as good as their guinness stew or shepherd's pie.

    But oh well, the things people will believe.