The Existential Reality Of Tofu McNuggets

In Japan, McDonald’s is introducing Tofu McNuggets: a mixture of fish, tofu, onions, edamame, carrots, and soy beans that is deep-fried and served with a ginger sauce.

I mention this not to comment on the gastronomic merit of Tofu McNuggets. I haven’t tried them, but I don’t need to taste them to know that they sound god awful.

Instead, I note this development only to point out the absurdity of modern corporate branding, and how it has become completely unmoored from roots or reality. Long ago, McDonald’s was a local hamburger joint. Then it grew into a chain. Then it became a franchise with outlets from sea to shining sea. Then someone at McDonald’s decided that the “Mc” in the original name had branding value, and the Big Mac and McRib and other annoyingly named menu items were born. Then the “Mc” branding was applied to new menu items like chicken, in the form of Chicken McNuggets. Even though the chicken was flavorless and crappy, the Mcbrand apparently had value — and Tofu McNuggets sold in Tokyo are the inevitable result.  It won’t end there, either.

And so, a little business that once probably made and sold pretty good hamburgers to locals became a mega business that sells awful-sounding fried tofu in Japan, using the same brand that means . . . what?  Everything, and nothing. In their own appalling way, Tofu McNuggets tell us something essential about our world.

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Dissing The Sneads

During our recent vacation, Kish and Russell had high times making fun of these tennis shoes.  Kish said they looked like golf shoes and called them the Sammy Sneads every time I put them on.  Russell, on the other hand, shook his head and sadly advised that shoes made by Skechers are per se uncool.

IMG_4800I bought the shoes at Kohl’s.  They were on the bargain shelf and cost a small fraction of the other gym shoes.  I didn’t know whether they are socially acceptable or not, because I pay no attention to shoe fashion.  I didn’t care whether popular people wear shoes with square toes, round toes, or pointed toes, or whether stripes on the sides are “in” or “out.”

What I did know is that I rebel at the notion of paying more than $100 for a pair of gym shoes that I wear around the neighborhood.  The prices of such shoes seem ridiculous for mass-produced rubber, plastic, and cloth creations.  Obviously, people are paying for brands and status symbols.

I could care less about that.  I admit I’m a cheapskate.  I’ll go for low cost and functionality over “branding” any time.  I’m not a runner.  I don’t play competitive sports.  I’m not trying to make a fashion statement when I go for a walk.

Give me durable shoes that fit and leave money in my wallet, and I’ll wear them happily — “Sneads” or not.