‘The Bourgeoisie’s Burden’ — review of the Shake Shack Bacon Egg & Cheese & StumpTown Coffee @ Delta Terminal, NYC
There comes a time in a man’s life when he has to take a step back from his standing desk and wonder: I am doing all I can for this planet? For me, that time was this morning, in the JFK delta terminal, with 7 minutes between connecting flights. In those few minutes, I went from the sideline to the frontline in the fight against climate change, by ordering a Shake Shack Bacon Egg & Cheese with Stumptown Coffee.
I know what you’re thinking;
I know. But bear with me. Expecting this to be nothing more than the classic airport dining triad of almost off-putting levels of cleanliness, value, and taste, I felt a chill pass through my Patagonia puffy when it hit me that this wasn’t just a food experience, this was about something bigger: Eating a Shake Shack Bacon Egg & Cheese is like having a conversation with conservationism.
Allow me to explain: perusing the minimum 23% post-consumer recycled menu (just kidding, apparently we’re supposed to ‘Think tabletops sourced from reclaimed bowling alley lanes, walls made of reclaimed antique barn wood siding and booths featuring lumber certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council’. Seriously), I noticed that my sandwich was going to be crafted using ‘Niman Ranch farm fresh eggs’! Well, I’m a knowledgeable consumer and I’ve never even heard of that farm (or their holding company, Chicago-based ‘Natural Food Holdings’ (or their holding company, Hilco Equity Partners (da fuq is a holding company anyways?) But I HAVE heard of THEIR parent company, Purdue, famous for being, well, dicks to chickens))
So, anyways, I’m sure Niman Ranch is great, they must be way ahead of their times! I bet the chickens even get maternity leave and PTO. The menu also announced that my meal was going to be made with the ‘highest quality ingredients!’.
With bated breath (fun fact! fewer than 1/127 breaths are bated) I awaited the start of what was sure to be a highly educational experience.
The sandwich itself is remarkable, obviously the work of an intelligent designer, imbued with far more calories than I’ll ever need, a shining, glistening, palm-oil coated monument to the bountiful planet that we should all worship. But the Shake Shack Bacon Egg & Cheese isn’t just lip (maybe it’s Maybelline)-service. It delivers where it counts (shareholder value), never missing an opportunity to remind the diner that the time for action is now, or, right after you finish this sandwich.
The potato bun is a delicate and flakey reminder that we’ll need to protect our roots if we want to consume our way out of topsoil erosion, and also that, incredibly, we have not yet lost the ability to develop foods absent corn products.
The eggs are substantial, yet malleable, just like the retaining walls we’ll build to prevent sea-rise from encroaching upon Nike’s 100%-child-slave-labor-free-upon-last-inspection-in-2009 green-shoe-facility in the Philippines.
The cheddar was, admittedly, disturbingly yellow, like the color of big bird after a trip to the tanning salon. Supposedly, Shake Shack issues warnings above 200 yellow 5 parts per million, but the app said everything was fine, so, ya know, YOLO.
It’s time for an inconvenient truth. The bacon…well…while seemingly tightly integrated into the sandwich’s core structure, over time, the pieces worked themselves free of the sandwich, slowly, at first, like an ice shelf sliding into the abyss, to be consumed by the maw of my mouth’s unstoppable greed and lust for salty, fatty delicious. Hardly realizing what was occurring until it was too late, in one fell swoop (fun fact! over 80% of swoops are fell, the rest being categorized as ’migrant workers’) the entire shelf collapsed and was gone. In that moment, I was left with a feeling of deep loss and introspection. For if only I had known, perhaps, I would have done more. 😔 Was this my canary in a coal mine? Was I going too fast, consuming too much, too quick, thinking only of my short term satisfaction instead of my long term satiation? I had to change something, and change it quick, if I wanted to get anything out of the remainder of my sandwich, now a broken, battered wreck of it’s once bountiful self.
In moments like this, I am comforted by the cheap, easy access to limitless energy. I am talking, of course, about Coffee.
Coffee. So cheap, so accessible, right there for the taking. While going through my stages of grief (bargaining for more bacon), I realized that what I needed most was a quick infusion of black gold. So I opened the taps wide and poured myself a 16oz. Can you believe it! Down to $1.80/gallon! Sure, my buddies keep telling me ‘green tea is better for you, we just need time to transition and get off our addiction to coffee’ but that shit is weak sauce! Do you know how much I’d need to replace my current coffee consumption?? It’s just not feasible, it’ll never scale, it’s ridiculous…unless…(note: have my people connect with Elon’s people, and whoever is running Brazil this week)
After a few moments, my mood became increasingly sanguine (right click to look up in google) & I had the energy I needed to decimate the remainder of my resources. In the end, I was left, not only with a compostable wrapper that I could use in my roof-top garden, but also a profound realization: let’s worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Let’s focus on the now. Let’s celebrate what we have (can buy & consume)
Is the Shake Shack Bacon Egg & Cheese perfect? Hell no, but neither is our power grid, and that’s worked out so far. With the right amount of cheap, easily accessible coffee, we have plenty of time to work out improvements. Besides, I have a bunch of really smart friends at the Culinary Institute of America. I’m sure they’ll have ideas soon, right? Everyone else got to eat Shake Shack for years, it’s my right to eat it just as long as they did before I change my behavior.
In the end, what being a contributor to the Shake Shack mission taught me is that being hungry isn’t just about basic bodily needs, it’s about eco-justice. Why eat, when you can be a responsible masticator. Tonight, I’ll sleep soundly under my Pendleton blanket knowing I can make a difference. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but any day that I’m on a quick layover in the JFK delta terminal and have no better options.
“The Shake Shake Bacon Egg & Cheese w/ Stumptown Coffee: don’t just care about the planet, do something about it.” $11.60 while supplies (a PR team wearing $700 shoes, a small army of ‘social media’ interns/NYU marketing grad students, and probably investments by a Russian oligarch or Saudi princes or Malaysian general or some sketchy shit like that*) last!
* ALSO minimum wage labor supported by government subsidies in the form of food, low income housing, healthcare, and genetically modified, antibiotic blasted, also government subsidized corn products.