I suppose it was inevitable. People have been watching their ‘carbs’ for years, or ‘carbo loading’ before running a race. When I was a kid, only chemists knew what a carbohydrate was; now, everybody does.
But we have yet to see Italian restaurants boast of Seven Blends of Complex Carbohydrates in Vodka Sauce on their menus. They still—so far—proudly speak of ‘pasta.’
Still, specialized food lingo is part of popular culture. We have TV chefs running around chattering about ‘molecular gastronomy’ (which mostly consists of freezing things with liquid nitrogen) and ‘balancing proteins.’
This is natural enough. Every profession develops an argot to separate the hip from the outsiders. But since our culture is driven by the terminally hip, foodies from all over the place have rush to adopt the buzz word ‘protein.’
By ‘protein’, of course, they mean meat. Good, old fashioned meat—flesh cut or biological matter produced from some form of scaled, or feathered, or hair-covered beastie.
I don’t want to sit down to a sizzling plate of fried protein. I want a steak. The idea of a lightly battered piece of protein does nothing for me. I want to eat fish. And who wants to wake up to a fluffy pile of scrambled protein when they can have eggs?
This protein trend would have been harmless enough had it stayed in the kitchen or on the pages of the New York Times. But it has seeped out into the streets and is now among us.
I have here an ad for a Walnut Creek, California restaurant called The Counter (free parking in their own garage). What kind of meal can we expect from this fine establishment? “10 Cheeses. 28 Toppings. 18 Sauces. 03 Buns.” And—you already expected this—“04 Proteins.”
Not “4 Proteins”—Walnut Creek is an amalgam of Napa and Silicon Valleys—but “04 Proteins.” Whoever wrote that ad must have been a computer programmer-foodie who anticipated that more proteins might be added to the database in the future.
Near as I can figure, The Counter is a hamburger joint. The protein in the picture resembles a patty: it’s slipped between an arugula-like substance, what could be a tomato, and topped by a white, crispy substance which I cannot identify. (I don’t yet have my scanner with me, or I’d post a picture.)
I suppose it will be amino acids next (they’re already well known to the fitness nuts).