By Joseph S. Pete
New York City takes a regional, perhaps provincial pride in the bacon, egg and cheese on a roll at every cat-stalked bodega, the most banal breakfast sandwich imaginable in a glorified convenience store. McDonald’s serves it, Burger King has it, basically every fast food restaurant in American offers it. That’s why it’s so exciting Subway came out with a breakfast menu. with deli ham, fresh veggies and less orthodox fare a few years back. That’s why there was a little thrill when Wendy’s came out with breakfast offerings with fried chicken, maple syrup, and a Breakfast Baconator that claimed to change the game. But the most disruptive of all was when Taco Bell rolled out a Tex-Mex breakfast, a mass-market alternative to the standard bacon, egg, and cheese on a biscuit or the sausage, egg, and cheese on a croissant. Lo, a tortilla! A thin and unobtrusive alternative to the buttery biscuit, to the chewy, doughy bagel and flaky, crumbling croissant. Finally, there was some soupçon of variety in the drive-thru lane when you drove in the wee morn to your soul-deadening job in the city where every day was the exact same, an automatic carbon copy fueled by greasy junk food. Everyone loves to claim a rightful spot in the golden radiant beam of exceptionalism while peddling more of the drab pablum of the fond and familiar as though there’s an endless appetite for mythologizing the mundane in a world where sameness prevails but everyone wants to consider themselves special.
Joseph S. Pete, whose plays have been staged in Detroit and Salem, Massachusetts, was once named poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest. He long avoided fast food in favor of nutrition and self-respect but returned to it like a boomerang during the pandemic.
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