Monday, October 4, 2010

Pizza Hut in Rio...A (Bad) Sign of the Times :(

There was a time when I would have done anything to have a lunch in Rio de Janeiro. Or a dinner. The food was so honest, rich and flavorful. And very inexpensive. Rio had its own style of food, yeah, lots of beans and rice, but great seafood, wonderful meats, understated desserts, plenty of cheap, cold beer, and, almost always, a very home-grown ambience in just about every restaurant and cafe.

Well, those days are fading fast. No question the old-style eats are still around, but they don't seem to be of the same level of quality as they used to be, the portions smaller, the prices higher. Yeah, they still exist.

However, what frightens me is that more and more foreign, mostly from the good ol' USA, chains are opening up. Within a few minutes of my hotel, which is located in a very un-touristy part of town, are a Domino's Pizza, a Subway, a KFC and a McDonalds, among others I can't recall.

And last night I read a review in Brazil's largest news magazine, Veja, of a Pizza Hut in Rio. And it wasn't just a review, it featured a "call out" with a giant photo of a nasty, grotesque Pizza Hut pizza, which seems identical to the billion pizzas they serve every year in the US.  Gross, some of the worst pizza I've ever had (long story as to why I ever tried it...).  The review praised PH's wonderful pizzas, the crusts, the toppings, everything. Not once did they even mention the ridiculous prices for such imported tastelessness: how about THIRTY DOLLARS for a large supreme????!!!!!  You have to be kidding???!!!  Now, I don't know if PH coupons Rio like they do at home where anyone paying "rack rates" for PH pizza is an idiot, when, with a coupon you can get a pizza for about half or even one-third the MSRP. Nope, I doubt they offer such enticements here. Sadly, Cariocas have been duped again by American crap. They happily pay astronomical prices for some of the world's worst pizza, just because it is branded with a "famous" name from Gringolandia. On an online food forum, I saw a reader's comment about this very PH in Rio which proclaimed that the PH pie was "the most spectacular pizza I've ever eaten."

Pelo amor de deus!!!!

Are you kidding? The most spectacular pizza?  Now, what makes this idolization of America's contribution to the growing heap of the world's worst food is that Brazil actually has some fantastic pizza. Admittedly, the pizza in São Paulo is far better than in Rio, but still, Rio has some pretty decent pizza, and it's found all over the city. To simply discard this native pizza for something clearly inferior just because it comes from the USA is sad, ignorant and doesn't bode well for the traditional cuisine, including pizza, of this great city.

On that same web-based food forum, I read a discussion of another import, Outback Steakhouse, which is taking Brazil by storm. What is funny is that they think the food is Australian! Ignoring the fact that Outback is an American fantasyland theme restaurant chain based in Tampa, Florida!!!! Is their proximity to DisneyWorld just a coincidence? I think not!  Again, the absurdity is that Rio is generously peppered with home-grown restaurants which feature damn good steaks and other cuts of beef, pork, etc. I guess their weakness is not having a "bloomin' onion" on their traditional menus. Ahh, Australian food at it's peak!!!!

This obsession with things Gringo extends to just about every aspect of life here. And it ain't good. I saw a t-shirt worn by a twenty-something female last Saturday night which said on the front, something like:

"My project of Friday
is finished.
Now I'm ready for the good

On the back was printed a gigantic ladybug, outlined in glitter! Very girly. Totally ridiculous. I couldn't figure out who this shirt was marketed to. The ladybug eliminated the grunge crowd. The language on the front threw out the kids' market. So, do buyers just not know what the front says? Do they think it's funny? What is this????

The inventory of other such silly-gismic shirts is seemingly infinite. As I see others, I'll report back. Yeah, I know we have incorrectly used Italian, French, etc printed on t-shirts in the USA. I've seen a few. And if I see the Italian plural of sandwich, "panini", used in the singular on a menu again, instead of the correct form for ONE sandwich, "panino", I may go postal. But I am pretty certain that, on the whole, Americans are not obsessed with Italy, France, or even Brazil, the way Brazilians pine over, and adopt the very worst of American cultural expression. Though we do a pretty good job of screwing up things when we do borrow....

Now, just to make my perspective clear: Americans are far more advanced in discarding the authentic expressions of their culture in favor of the paper-cutout versions of cuisine, music, film, clothing—for example—and being led by the nose by multinational corporations’ propaganda and brain washing. So most restaurants get prepackaged everything from the likes of Sysco instead of buying potatoes and peeling them in-house for mashed, fries or whatever. Even guacamole comes in a can for restaurants! This is true even in many, perhaps MOST mom+pop cafes and restaurants. One day at the legendary, but very basic, small town BBQ joint Mueller's in Taylor, Texas, where they still make the sausage themselves, I saw a delivery guy drop off bags of precut coleslaw mix. That certainly burst a bubble or two. America, you should be proud of your advancement to a world of totally processed and prepackaged cuisine! Congratulations. You are now exporting your great evolutionary wisdom to the rest of the world.

Now that I've pissed off all the Brazilians (and many Americans too), I'm gonna close. Will have another post soon lauding one of Brazil's best forms of cultural expression: SAMBA!!!

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