Awl writer Brent Cox has a terrible problem. He knows about this amazing dumpling house in Chinatown where you can get five dumplings for a dollar, but if he broadcasts his love for the dumpling house by tweeting or blogging or checking in on Foursquare, everyone will know about this dumpling place. Then it will show up on the Food Network, then the prices will skyrocket and the lines will get long, and everything, everything will be ruined. “If you endure all this,” he writes, “will that plate of fried dumplings be the same plate of fried dumplings that you fell in love with originally? Or will they have become fetishized into some commodity that has nothing to do with the Ur-fried dumpling in your head?”
Fetishization is the core of Cox’s concern, not just when it comes to food — though food people are an easy target:
They have their totems, like ramps or Himalayan salt, and they have their extraneous hobbies, like calculating energy footprints of potatoes and arguing over proprietary blends of hamburger meat. You may know a member of this subculture, or even be one yourself. If you have ever waited more than ten minutes for a slice of pizza, if you have ever taken a picture of a sandwich, then congratulations — your membership card is in the mail.
Cox’s bigger worry “is that fetishization begins to replace the actual experience” when it comes to everything, not just the location of the best tacos or the most hyperauthentic pizza. Which is, to be sure, an interesting, topical line of inquiry that merits conversation and scrutiny. But as Grub Street has, historically, taken many pictures of our sandwiches, we’re much more interested in this magical dumpling spot on a quiet corner, near a tennis court, five for a buck. We’re pretty sure it’s Fried Dumpling on Mosco Street. There you go — we ruined it for everybody.