David Brooks thinks Italian salami is ruining America

I’m willing to bet that at some point in their young life, his lunch companion had to be told what a “burrito”, “carnitas”, “enchilada” and “chorizo” were.

A magical thing happens when someone’s told what soppressata, capicollo, and baguettes are (things not considered ‘upperclass’ to, um, Italians) – they learn! But I suppose Mr Brooks feels learning about new commonplace things is only for the upper-class, not the proletariat.


Just such a bizarre thing to pick on as a signifier of class. Sliced deli meats? Yes, the regular guy really can never get a spot at the counter because the pesky 0.01% of America are always crowding up to the front demanding an extra pickle from the big jar. I mean, delis are one of the few places where everything being described is literally a giant, cutaway-view loaf sitting behind glass. You can just fucking point at the things you want.


Ironic thing is that the deli, at least the one I go to, is a gathering place for young, old, rich and poor. We are all equal in the eyes of the butcher!



I’d say more like David Brooks is ruining America, but that’d be giving him waaay too much credit.

I still remember fondly the time in my research writing class when the prof used a Brooks column as an example of poor argument. I almost fell out of my seat I laughed so hard. Prof and I were on excellent terms from then on.


I realize that this is David Brooks the “assigned own writings for course on ‘Humility’ guy”; so perhaps mentioning an ugly irony is more of a category error than a victory; but one thing stuck out at me:

Write an article about how the upper middle class is using cultural signifiers to discourage the poors; then embed an anecdote where Italian or French (or sound-alike) words are apparently so classy that they everwhelm the autonomic nervous systems of the economically inferior; but Mexican cuisine, and Spanish generally, are apparently so self evident and unthreatening as to make it not even worth mentioning what kind of ‘mexican’ we ate? (Edit: if anything, ‘Mexican’ is probably linguistically harder on English speakers, because some of the culinary terms may be drawn from the surviving bits of Mesoamerican languages, which are pretty alien indeed compared to Romance languages)

Perhaps if he had, say, noticed that an association with poor immigrants had made one romance language(of roughly similar difficulty to the others, for an English speaker) magically far more approachable than the others, and commented on that; but you don’t get to be David Brooks by risking careful self examination.


Brooks is a fool. American burlesque would never have survived without the ‘being hit over the head with a salami’ gag.


I had to LOL at this one. I get what you are saying, but people always classify me into drastically different categories. Even with outright fights. I have been mistaken for each of these at some time or another. People often change their entire appraisal every few days, hours, or even minutes.

Popobawa: Eh, you eat the gabagool?
Brooks: Dafuq…
Popobawa: LOL Gabagool! GABAGOOL!
Brooks: GFYS

Here’s the online menu for the restaurant that supposedly horrified Brook’s poor friend, according to Matt Yglesias.



Do you get misclassified for a prolonged time?

Thanks. Sounds reasonable to me, and I’m not very familiar with Romance languages apart from English. Not worse than a Mexcican or Greek menu. A few proper nouns that need explaining.

IMO they are all misclassifications. But yes, people are often determined to pigeonhole me for years. And shortly after they think that they have finally succeeded, they change their minds yet again.

Italian salami is divine, it could not ruin anything!


Well. There are outliers. But just to make sure: I’m taking about “fooling” members of a group as being a member of that group all along.

There is one item on there that is confusing- does ‘sundered tomatoes’ mean tomatoes that have been chopped in a particularly biblical manner, or is it a typo for ‘sundried’?


Thank you! Any New Yorker who’s spent five minutes in a deli at any point in their life wouldn’t be confused, much less terrified, by any of the commonplace things on that menu. Cripes, I used to get sandwiches with salami, capocollo, mortadella, and pepperoni at the campus sandwich place in Cincinnati Ohio when I went to school there.

Mr Brooks should take his Mexican-loving guest to an authentic taqueria for a real education. Tripita, tacos de buche, tacos de ojo, cabeza, or sesos? How about some huitlacoche?


In Matt’s tweet replies, there’s some speculation about which Mexican restaurant they went to, based on proximity, and a nearby one is called Tortilla Cafehere is their menu (no mobile version, unfortunately).


Ah yes, traditional Mexican specialties like hamburgers and cajun chicken strips! Though to be fair, I’d eat the heck out of that tamale plate.

His main argument is that zoning laws are ruining America by locking the lower class out of the good stuff. I have the feeling that he’s got the cart before the horse there, but to properly dissect it would require reading the paper that he’s citing (to see if really says what he says).

Thanks to his baloney anecdote, I don’t think I’ll make that time investment.

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I see what you did there :slight_smile:

I think he is referring to this paper (which does contain the lowering aggregate US growth by 50% claim):

Basic argument if I’ve understood it correctly - the places that generate money are expensive places to live and have restrictive rules on whether new housing is allowed. This means that poor people find it hard to live there. Which means that the productive city has fewer workers available to it, than it would have otherwise, which means it produces less than it could.

Basically, the potential workers all live where there are no jobs, because they can’t afford to live where the jobs are. If there were a way to get the potential workers where the jobs are, the country would be generally better off.

I have to admit I don’t follow their formulae at all but they certainly seem to think they can prove it.

I gather this chap is famous/notorious in the US? He certainly seems able to take a good point and bury it thoroughly.

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