12 May Why Does Every Shitty Fast Food Restaurant in America Have a Tuscan Sandwich?
Is it my imagination or is every shitty fast food restaurant in America using the word “Tuscan” to describe menu items that have no connection to Tuscany whatsoever? First, at the risk of sounding like a big, I’ve been to Tuscany so give me a shiny medal snob, let’s review what Tuscany is. Tuscany, my friends, is a region in Italy. It is known for its gourmet food and wine, medieval hill towns and obnoxious narcissistic American tourists who rent overpriced villas or fix up crumbling old homes and then write bestselling books and screenplays about how they found themselves there in cute little wherever, the village where there is no Costco, and the parking spaces are all too damn small and everything is just so, you know, like different. You’ve heard about this place, right?
I was listening to a baseball game on the radio tonight and I heard a commercial advertising Wendys’ new, $4.69Tuscan Chicken on Ciabatta sandwich. And I couldn’t help but wonder where the good folks over at Wendy’s got this idea from. Did one of their executives eat a sandwich just like it in Tuscany and think, “We need one of these damn things in our restaurants!” Or perhaps they’ve noticed that every other fast food restaurant on the planet has some sort of “Tuscan” menu item and decided, well, we had better have one too?
A quick Google search reveals the following. McDonald’s has tested a Tuscan Tomato Basil Flatbreadsandwich, and has a Tuscan Entrée salad that allows one to “Savour a taste of sun-dappled countryside…under the Tuscan sun.” Oh, pull-fucking ease, right? But wait, there’re more.
Domino’s has a Tuscan Salami & Roasted Veggie Artisan pizza; Subway has a Tuscan Chicken Melt and a Tuscan Chicken Salad, apparently because their discriminating customers need at least two “Tuscan” menu items to choose from; Cosi offers a Tuscan Pesto Chicken sandwich; Applebee’s has a Tuscan Bean with Chicken and Sausage soup (because a regular old Tuscan bean soup just wouldn’t have enough meat in it, right?); and apparently they also once featured a Tuscan Cheese Spread that forlorn patrons are still waxing nostalgic about.
But stay with me my little Tuscan wannabe, because it does get worse. Papa John’s has Tuscan Six Cheese Cheesesticks. Please write to me and explain what the fuck that’s all about. I defy Papa John to name the six varieties of cheese. (And does one really need six kinds of cheese on a freaking breadstick? And what is the connection to Tuscany- the breadsticks there have no cheese at all and are rock hard, not all spongy like those damn things.) I wish I could tell you that the Tuscan Six Cheese Cheesestick is the most laughable “Tuscan” menu item my cursory Google search turned up, but it is not. That award goes to Boston Market’s Parmesan Tuscan Chicken and Bacon Mac and Cheese, which apparently replaced their Tuscan Herb Rotisserie Chicken plate.
I might be way off base here, but I don’t think that mac and cheese is a popular dish in Tuscany. But even if it were, what would be the point of throwing bacon in there? And Tuscan chicken? What the fuck is Tuscan chicken? Clearly the product marketing people at Boston Market were on some really good acid when they came up with this dish.
The use of the word “Tuscan” in these cases is probably a really clever way to get bored suburban soccer moms to conjure up images of rolling vineyards and acoustic guitar strumming, pony-tailed Italian lotharios handsome enough to grace the cover of a Harlequin romance novel as they pull up to the drive through window. (That pile of “Tuscan” elephant dung sounds pretty tasty if you spend each day ferrying ungrateful children up and down strip mall bombed streets in a vehicle that is too large to fit inside the city limits of most Tuscan municipalities, right?)
But give each of these fast food restaurants some credit: none spelled Tuscan incorrectly. That honor goes to Pizza Hut, which apparently had a “Tuscani Tuesday” promotion in which hungry gourmands got a plate of pasta slightly larger than the late Andre-the-Giant’s ass, plus five breadsticks for $10. Well, why not call it Tuscani, this is the same company that, not too long ago, introduced a line of “Italian bistros.”
I should mention that the let’s-use-Tuscany-to-sell-random-shit-in-America deal isn’t confined to food. I used to live right near a condo development called the “Tuscan Lofts ” in Forest Park, Illinois, a place not generally known for its Tuscan-ness. (If I’m buying a “Tuscan Loft” shouldn’t the motherfucking thing be located in or pretty goddamn near Tuscany? Is that so much to ask?) And I’m pretty sure you can also find Tuscan Toilet Plungers, Tuscan Varicose Vein Removal, and Tuscan God Knows what else these days if you look hard enough. Who knows what’s next- prostitutes offering Parmesan Tuscan Rimjobs?
If I were associated with Tuscany’s tourism board, I would send a letter to any schlocky corporation sullying their brand in this manner. Guys, we’re flattered really. But please, please, please stop naming horseshit menu items after us. Perhaps they could suggest another Italian province to pick on. Umbria? Marche? Lazio? Liguria? But would soccer moms be willing to buy a Parmesan Ligurian Chicken and Bacon Mac and Cheese?
JUNE 17 UPDATE: The Mid-Atlantic convenience store chain WaWa now has a Tuscan Turkey Hoagie. Love this! Is there a single person in Tuscany who has ever even heard of a “hoagie?”