Confronted with sandwiches named Padrino and Pomodoro

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

David Brooks has come to think that the structural barriers between the classes are less important than the informal social barriers that segregate the lower 80 percent:

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

American upper-middle-class culture (where the opportunities are) is now laced with cultural signifiers that are completely illegible unless you happen to have grown up in this class. They play on the normal human fear of humiliation and exclusion. Their chief message is, “You are not welcome here.”

In her thorough book The Sum of Small Things, Elizabeth Currid-Halkett argues that the educated class establishes class barriers not through material consumption and wealth display but by establishing practices that can be accessed only by those who possess rarefied information.

To feel at home in opportunity-rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention possess the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child-rearing, gender norms and intersectionality.

The educated class has built an ever more intricate net to cradle us in and ease everyone else out. It’s not really the prices that ensure 80 percent of your co-shoppers at Whole Foods are, comfortingly, also college grads; it’s the cultural codes.

Status rules are partly about collusion, about attracting educated people to your circle, tightening the bonds between you and erecting shields against everybody else. We in the educated class have created barriers to mobility that are more devastating for being invisible. The rest of America can’t name them, can’t understand them. They just know they’re there.


  1. Kirk says:

    Read this BS the other day, and the first thing that ran through my mind was to wonder what kind of socially-maladapted dipshit describes a high school graduate as someone who possesses a “high school degree”.

    Degree? We’re offering degrees in high school, now? I wonder why he didn’t mention her high school major, then–Perhaps it was too embarrassing to acknowledge, something like “General Studies”, or worse yet, “Journalism”.

  2. AMK says:

    Legacy genetics is a bitch. Humans are running around playing status games, and for what? Does high status translate into reproductive success?

    No. Of course not. The average wealthy person maybe one child in their life. Wealth is a gene shredder.

    There is a belief in the reactionary community that this is dysgenic. But is not the pursuit of status that LOWERS your reproductive success a form of stupidity, and is that stupidity not being eliminated?

    Imagine that I white man moves to Russia and marries a lovely girl with an average IQ of 100. The white guy has an IQ of 120. They have 5 children. All his friends in America think he is a loser. But his descendants will live on long after their’s have gone extinct. Who is the idiot?

  3. Mark says:

    So, the guy couldn’t just explain what was in the sandwiches and recommend something based on his date’s preferences?

  4. Thales says:

    Mark, it’s just easier that way:

  5. Jeffrey S. says:

    Steve Sailer posted a blog item on this and his comments were brutal (I think he is over 400 at this point.) Here are two of my favorite:

    “I find it rather conspicuous and incredible that Brooks maintains a friendship with someone who holds only a high school degree (barring some tech M/Billionaire MIT dropout). I think the more likely explanations are: 1) cleaning woman who has to grit her teeth when he expresses over familiarity in calling her “Rosita, mi Amiga;” 2) model year 2017 mistress upgrade; or 3) someone within three or four degrees of separation by acquaintance that he’d met somewhere once and asked to lunch for the predetermined purpose of observing one of Goodall’s she-apes up close.

    Also, perhaps a B.A. in Italian Salumi is available in the University these days such as it is, but “pomodoro” and “capicola” aren’t the typical subjects of academic discourse. They’re the sort of thing you’ll find out about if you live near working class Italian Americans (wherein capicola is pronounced “GABBA-GOO”) or, alternatively, pretentious fair trade artisan sandwich crafters who ruin everything. IIRC, the hated Olive Garden chain (known for feeding the denizens of Big Box Stores) serves a “pomodoro” sauce, which I think places “pomodoro” squarely within the ken of the unwashed masses.

    Carlin used to do a bit about the Brooks of the world fetishizing roasted panda loin with fresh squeezed Arugula juice and duck lip coulis as a status marker a few decades ago. But one assumes that Brooks is entirely unaware that lots of people consider him a try-hard prig that is easy to both dismiss and laugh at simultaneously as a caricature of something. A vague imitation of Buckley’s fussiness imposed upon a bland regurgitation of the day’s ruling class shibboleths wrapped up in a visage resembling an aggregation of thousands of Megan’s Law mugshots.”


    “I just responded to this at Rod Dreher’s site (where he shares an anecdote of his own-unintentionally humiliating a plebe with middle class food). Its bunk.

    I often don’t know what is meant by menus. I don’t know the cheeses or meats at Italian restaurants. I often don’t know what they are talking about when they describe the specials. I don’t know what regional dishes are outside of the region I live (I’m not sure what grits are). I have trouble keeping track of the different pasta shapes at Olive Garden.

    The answer to this dilemma is to….ask the waitress, hear her explanation, and then order food.

    The language on menus is not a class marker. It is a marketting gesture to add sophistication or artistry to ‘spaghetti noodles’ or ‘ham sandwich.’ The same thing occurs when you buy paint colors at Sherwin Williams (or select a color for your car)-invented words for various shades of green, blue, gray, etc. You experience it when you try to pick a deodorizer for the bathroom (summer breeze or pine essence?), when you select a particular laundry soap, when you pick a particular toothpaste .

    What the anecdotes do illustrate is that some people-even some adults-are insecure in social settings (more properly, we all are insecure in certain social settings-but some are more insecure than others). Misunderstanding can, in insecure people, be a cause of stress-again, most of us felt that way when we didn’t know what we were doing at age 18 (the feeling that everybody is staring at you when you don’t know the process for buying food at a serve-yourself cafeteria). And it may very well be that lower classes are more likely to be insecure adults than middle/upper middle classes.

    But lots of people are insecure-as mentioned, the very young. Often, the very old (because they are confused). When one is in a foreign country. When one is in a new, stressful environment (first day of basic training, for instance). And, apparently, many lower class folks when in a restaurant with Italian words on the menu.

    But these are not evidence of social phenomena or have class warfare implications -David Brooks can rest easy concentrating on the crease of other men’s pants, and not worry about alienating the lower classes (well, actually he can’t). They are simply evidence that sometimes people feel uncomfortable when they don’t know what they are doing. The Italian clerk speaking Italian at the gelatto shop in Rome isn’t doing so in order to make you uncomfortable-he is doing so because he speaks Italian, and you are uncomfortable because you don’t-not because you make less money than he does.

    In this case, a cigar is just a cigar, and sopressata is just sopressata.

    Incidently, I’m solidly upper middle class, and I don’t recognize a single anecdotal word-sopresseta, Padrino, Pomodoro, capicollo or striata baguette (I guess technically I know what a baguette is). If I go to the same deli, I would probably do something shocking-like learn what they mean-so that the second or third time I went, I’d know. No class warfare implications, or American social stratification issues need be involved.”

  6. Slovenian Guest says:

    It’s ironic because there is no such thing as classy finger food, no gentleman eats with his fingers, or dances sober, I have yet to be given a knife and a fork in ANY sandwich shop.

    This story is straight out of Seinfeld!

    But I must admit, I too frequent a classy foreign sandwicheria called McDonalds, and I too must sometimes explain what a McCountry is to people, so sad…

    (it’s pork, cheddar, onions & mustard)

  7. Mark says:

    McDonalds? But that is Scots/Irish cuisine. You cannot expect anyone with just a High School degree to appreciate it.

  8. Slovenian Guest says:

    It also shows that Brooks is beta, to borrow a term from Heartiste, because ordering food for someone else is a power move, especially women and in another language! It’s almost a standard move.

    But on the other hand, how would a cuckservative know that? Taking charge goes against his whole grain.

  9. Skye Walker says:

    There’s always a chance that Brooks made the whole thing up. This one really reeks. Two hungry people left a restaurant over such a triviality? I doubt it.

  10. Graham says:

    1. Did Brooks always intend to turn into one of the Bobos in the worst possible way?

    2. Is Brooks really this much of a prat?

    3. Does not realize that all this faux-continental stuff, though perfectly tasty food and easy enough to tackle linguistically as noted above, has always been and remains a status marker of the try-hard nouveaux riches?

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