Fried chicken, fresh fish and broccoli

Nothing says “abject personal despair” quite like dining at Taco Bell.

Something went very, very wrong in your day/life when you find yourself selecting tonight’s dinner from a neon menu of vaguely Spanish-sounding words, each mysterious item accompanied by tepid “border sauce” packets emblazoned with insipid phrases in lieu of flavor.

Border sauce packet: I’m in the mood for love!

Me: You taste like metal.

Even a fast food aficionado such as myself has to draw the line on culinary masochism somewhere, and that somewhere is right at “the border” of Taco Bell.

So it’s with a macabre fascination that I saw the good people at the superfluously exclamatory Yum! Brands food company roll out the latest dish in the perplexing “meat instead of bread” campaign, the Naked Chicken Chalupa.

It’s a taco, wrapped in a fried chicken simulacrum of a tortilla. What did carbs ever do to these people?

It has been about one month since this Frankentaco was unleashed upon the hungry and self loathing patrons of Taco Bell and already Yum! Brands scientists have decided this creation is far too dangerous to be left in civilian hands.

As if driven out my the changing of the moon the Naked Chicken Chalupa faces its sunset sometime in March, according to Taco Bell. I assume the timeline was left indefinite since no one knows how long it will take to hunt down and destroy the last of these beasts, or how many lives will be lost in the process.

Fans of the woebegone chalupa have, naturally, taken to a petition drive at Change.org to add the Naked Chicken Chalupa to the regular menu. As of this writing (March 2, 3:23 a.m.) the petition boasts a roster of 62 supporters.

Quick aside: Do you think this is what Change.org’s creators had in mind when they made the site? Fast food stunt menu items being saved from the brink of “who cares?” and returned to the few, the sad, and the hungry?

Recognizing the obvious national momentum behind keeping this … thing … on their menu Taco Bell has hinted/threatened that the chalupa in question will return at some unspecified date to once again wreak havoc upon the taste buds of America.

Don’t get me wrong, the Naked Chicken Chalupa is patently disgusting in form and function; but it seems indicative of something more pervasive and disheartening than stoned people daring one another to ironically order one, then unironically eat a half dozen.

How is this thing new?

This Frankenfood is simply a regular food item (taco), swapped one core ingredient for another (chicken for tortilla), given an idiotic name (Naked Chicken Chalupa) then marketed as if it was something new.

Fellow Yum! Brands restaurant KFC went down this same road with their Double Down, a sandwich with chicken instead of bread.

That’s not a new item, that’s just taking chicken you already had, throwing some cheese and bacon between a couple pieces, and hoping enough ad dollars will get people to think its something new and exciting and not the best way to get rid of product since Oreos started selling their busted-up, rejected cookies as ice cream toppings.

Think that fast food is the only culprit? Think the “foodie” world is immune to such blatant manipulation and greed?

Project Poke, a sushi restaurant in Fountain Valley, California, which I’m certain is as pretentious and square-plated an affair as any restaurant that calls itself a project, recently released a “new menu item” that is being heralded as “your next beautiful Instagram food trend.”

Right off the bat you know whatever menu item that follows has been meticulously crafted to hit a precise market share of people that believe their tastes somehow exclude them from being susceptible to advertising directed at specific market shares.

The item in question: the sushi doughnut.

Your first thought, as was mine, may be: They put fish on a doughnut? How could that possibly be good?

Worry not! The Project has released a video to explain this wondrous new innovation in food.

You see, first they start with sushi rice, which they form into a ring … like a doughnut. Then they put a bunch of stuff that you would expect on sushi (fresh fish, cucumber, avocado, etc.) on top of the sushi rice … then it’s a sushi doughnut and you’re a fool if you think otherwise.

How, exactly, is that a doughnut? That’s just sushi somebody pressed into a ring!

Social media is filled with such inane statements like “how can something so wrong be so right?” and “forget the cronut. Sushi doughnuts are an actual thing now.”

No, Stylist Magazine, sushi doughnuts are decidedly not a “thing.”

I’ll bet it’s pretty good sushi, the videos make it look like some quality ingredients and excellent prep. But considering this is the exact same menu item that Project Poke was serving yesterday and will serve again tomorrow I don’t think it crosses even the meager threshold of being a “thing.”

This “thing” is just yesterday’s sushi squished into a circle and sold to wired up dumb-dumbs high on their own sense of self importance congratulating one another on their proximity to the cutting edge … of a pretty basic marketing campaign.

At least with Taco Bell you kind of expect to be lied to about the food. The last thing I want when I’m about to pay someone to serve me uncooked fish is lingering doubt about their honesty.

The Frankenfood chalupa is about to disappear into the sunset, one can hope the “sushi doughnut” will soon follow; probably after its former cheerleaders begin to clamor for the latest newly “invented” menu item called Broctella, which is a jar of Nutella with a bunch of broccoli jammed in it.

Broctella. It’s totally a “thing” now.

——

Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or wburns@timesrepublican.com.