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A Diet Coke and a George Saunders, please
May 15, 2014 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Cultivating Thought: Cups and bags at Chipotle (previously) will now feature stories and essays by famous authors, including Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Steven Pinker, Sarah Silverman, and Jonathan Safran Foer, who came up with the idea for the series and will be curating it as well.
posted by Cash4Lead (74 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is awesome. Please, internet, don't snark at this.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:14 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I can't help it sorry :(

Because as neat as this is, it reminds me that writing used to be worth money, like people had to pay in some way to to access it, and now it's literally garbage.

Still, better written on trash than non-existent yeah?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:25 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Didn't Starbucks already do this?
posted by maryr at 9:25 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


It'd be interesting to study whether this results in slower table turnover, as patrons sit there a bit longer reading their own and each other's stories.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:26 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Jonathan Safran Foer makes dining at Chipotle even more insufferable.

Sorry. I had to do it
posted by cazoo at 9:26 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Someone reanimate the body of Dr. Bonner to write all the copy.
posted by The Whelk at 9:26 AM on May 15 [14 favorites]


I can laugh at the thought of someone "curating" burrito wrappers if I want to, you are not the boss of meee
posted by elizardbits at 9:28 AM on May 15 [29 favorites]


Chipotle: The TED Talk you can swallow!

Didn't Starbucks already do this?

In-N-Out Burger.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:28 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Surely, there must be some Mefite's restaurant that can print excerpts from MeFi Projects.
posted by michaelh at 9:29 AM on May 15


Please, internet, don't snark at this.

Yeah, that's not gonna happen. I mean, they gave Malcolm Gladwell a cup!
posted by FJT at 9:30 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]


::daniel plainview voice:: I'm an ideas man!
posted by gorbweaver at 9:32 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


"Would you like to Gaddis-size your Diet Coke for an extra 99 cents?"
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:32 AM on May 15 [15 favorites]


For Sale: Burrito wrapper, never read.
posted by gwint at 9:33 AM on May 15 [30 favorites]


it reminds me that writing used to be worth money, like people had to pay in some way to to access it, and now it's literally garbage.

I don't know, it's not that much different than the bazooka joe comics, just a different brand and target demo. Plus, if you were to make it an example of how the only way writers can make money is to write on garbage, you would probably have to look further than this list of the (sour) cream of the literary establishment.
posted by Think_Long at 9:33 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I don't know, it's not that much different than the bazooka joe comics

You are my hero today.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:36 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


what interested me is 800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds having access to good writing. A lot of those people don’t have access to libraries, or bookstores. Something felt very democratic and good about this.

I was kind of nonplussed by this. Bookstores maybe, but surely most towns that have a Chipotle also have a library? Unless he meant a lot of those people don't go to libraries, or don't have a library card. Don't get me wrong, I can see the difference between making stuff available at a library and putting it right in front of people who are having lunch. But I don't see this as a question of access. There are 10 times as many public library branches in the U.S. as there are Chipotle locations, and I know they are not evenly distributed, but still.
posted by payoto at 9:38 AM on May 15 [9 favorites]


Lysol, are you listening? You have a very captive audience you're not serving at the moment..
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:39 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Chipotle's greatest contribution to the world has been to put an end to the previously rampant "chipolte" mispronunciation.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:42 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


It's a shame these aren't glass glasses like the Happy Days/Warner Brothers/Hanna Barbera glasses I used to collect as a kid.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:43 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Eh, you're way behind the times, Chipotle. People have been using my book as a coaster for about three years now.
posted by Legomancer at 9:44 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


I feel sorry for people whose best option for Mexican food is Chipotle.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:48 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]




I only eat at Chipotle for the articles.
posted by neroli at 9:52 AM on May 15 [21 favorites]


Because as neat as this is, it reminds me that writing used to be worth money, like people had to pay in some way to to access it, and now it's literally garbage.

You should see what happens to my newspapers.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:53 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]


I think Yelp reviewers should start commenting on the quality of the prose on the wrappers. "I would have given the meal 5 stars, but that Malcolm Gladwell article on the burrito wrap was garbage."
posted by Area Man at 9:56 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Is this commodification of an artified commodity?
posted by ChuckRamone at 9:56 AM on May 15


It's cute, but I hope this doesn't mean they're getting rid of the lipsum bags.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:00 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


I can't snark at this, because it's way better than the current copy on Chipotle's bags and cups, which go on and on about the wonderful ingredients in their burritos and the refreshing, quenching delight of Coca-Cola®. I already bought a damn burrito, you can stop advertising now!

Nothing can top the Lorem Ipsum bag, though. Unless they put the Treaty of Westphalia on there.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:04 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Commodification is right. This is just part of the project and ambition of companies like Chipotle to lend themselves some of the feel of being "more than just a company." You saw this with their ad about the factory farming dystopia. Now you're seeing it with this stab at artistic significance in their dining experience. There's probably a great term for this in MBA-speak that I'm not aware of. If you look at the rise of Starbucks, it was as much to do with the middle-brow pretensions of "performing a certain person's idea of a coffee shop" as it was anything to do with coffee. It certainly makes sense for Chipotle to try to tap into this growing market of Jonathan Safran Foer-like middle class yuppies who pretend to be really really concerned with the brands they're engaging with and the dining experiences they're subjecting themselves to, or whatever. tl;dr they know exactly what they're doing, and it's not about educating the ignorant masses who don't have access to libraries or book stores, poor things.
posted by naju at 10:06 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]


There's probably a great term for this in MBA-speak that I'm not aware of.

Authenticity.

But, so what? Unless you feel their customers should be punished with bland packaging I don't see the downside here.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:15 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, I feel weird jumping in to defend a big fast food corporation. On the other hand, pretty much everything I know about the company indicates that Chipotle actually does give a shit. They bought themselves back from McD's because they had some sort of "vision" for the company, and while I may not be super excited about more Malcom Gladwell text surrounding me in my life, I don't quite get the cynicism I'm seeing from people. There's an assumption that "this obviously has to be marketing, how could it be anything else", and while I can't really refute that point, I don't buy it.

I'm reminded of Bill Hicks on Marketing (the anti-marketing market is a good market!), but I'm not sure who's on what side here. It's like the whole world has adopted the marketers ideology, even if we don't actually like or agree with it.
posted by DGStieber at 10:22 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


But, so what? Unless you feel their customers should be punished with bland packaging I don't see the downside here.

No, instead they're punished with the continuing sub-McSweeney's-ification of literature as bland lifestyle accoutrement. ;)
posted by naju at 10:23 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


The Kilgore Trout wrapper only has "wide open beaver" in large block letters.
posted by dr_dank at 10:31 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I feel sorry for people whose best option for Mexican food is Chipotle.

Oh, man -- only yesterday, I was forced to cool my heels for a few hours in one of those outlying communities that used to be a farming town in its own right and is now largely a characterless sprawl of developments served by franchises. But I found a little carniceria / bodega with rather sweet little dining area and the actual Mexican version of fast food, and walked in. Damn. Charming in an accidental way, perfect food, incredibly nice friendly people working there. It made me happier than any eatery I've stepped into in a long time, and it'll be years before I slip back into franchise quasimex again.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:32 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


this growing market of Jonathan Safran Foer-like middle class yuppies

I guess I am one of these? I really like Chipotle and I really like JSF. Hell, I really like pretty much all the writers they chose. I've defended Chipotle before here and I won't now, other than to say that while I do get the impulse to lash out against anything corporate, I also think that's a sort of an unchecked and uncharitable read.

The whole idea that good art must live in a completely different realm from Big Industry is a really recent privilege art has acquired, and it has given a lot of folks the false impression that aesthetic value is somehow inversely related to commodification. But most of the great art we love today is the direct result of some sort of cooperate underwriting - whether the Catholic Church, the government, really rich people, etc.

I too want to live in a George Maciunas-esque communist utopia where everyone makes art and no one gets paid (truly, I do). But we don't live in that world and we won't. So I am more or less okay with a bit of slightly unholy matrimony between somewhat ethical capitalism and relatively good literature, especially when it means I get to eat delicious well-sourced carnitas while reading George Saunders.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:34 AM on May 15 [11 favorites]


There's an assumption that "this obviously has to be marketing, how could it be anything else", and while I can't really refute that point, I don't buy it.

Of course it's marketing. Chipotle's a business; they market things. That's what marketers do. OTOH, as marketing goes, this all seems pretty inoffensive, if a little silly in it's feel-goodery. Unless you're Jonathan Franzen, then you're all "Grrrr. Won't do it! Won't! Won't!"
posted by octobersurprise at 10:41 AM on May 15


I'm starting to wonder if some people go to McDonalds for the authentic fast food experience.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:44 AM on May 15


the WPA paid writers. that was good. this feels like shit, honestly. but congrats to the writers, i guess
posted by angrycat at 10:45 AM on May 15


the WPA paid writers. that was good. this feels like shit, honestly.

And I think we all feel this to a degree, because we like to think that when it's government funded it's somehow more neutral or not marketing, that it somehow imbues the art with more disinterestedness, which we feel art ought to have to be good art, but that isn't really true. The WPA had an agenda too, just like the NEA does now. It's still marketing, it's just marketing for the American brand, as opposed to some company, in the same way that Bach is marketing for Jesus or whatever.

Art is always, always tied to politics and capital in some respect. I think it's more interesting to look at artworks from within that context than to dismiss them because of it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:51 AM on May 15 [9 favorites]


Huh, no Nicole Krauss cup.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:53 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Lutoslawski, cool! You're engaging positively with the brand you like. Win-win.

I've grudgingly accepted my favorite bands' songs being played in commercials because hey they have to get paid somehow, and at least it's mostly about providing a good musical backdrop to whatever's going on. But this has the air of people directly huffing the fumes of their own cultural self-importance, and insisting that it's "really important" somehow. There's something more than a little obnoxious about it. I think it's marketing directly to the MeFi demographic, actually, so it's hard to talk about what I find obnoxious without accidentally insulting a lot of people reading this comment. Oh well.
posted by naju at 10:55 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Actually, the interesting question about this (I'm tempted to say the only interesting question, but I'll keep my presumption to a low boil) is the question of what rights the authors have retained here. Some? None? That I'd like to know.

Also: You know how tough this makes being a say, Toni Morrison or a Foer collector? No collection will be complete without one.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:02 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


"It was the best of times it was the worst of time, please pull around to the first window."
posted by Fizz at 11:03 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


And yet when I publish my fanfic on the underwear at Victoria's Secret, I'm banned from the mall for life and jailed for three to five years. IT IS HARD TO BE A WRITER.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:05 AM on May 15 [10 favorites]


If I wanted to read while eating at Chipotle, I'd bring a book. Which I typically do! Really, all Chipotle needs to do is make me a tasty damn burrito for not too much money and provide a little space for me to sit down and eat; anything more than that is basically off-mission for a burrito joint. I wholeheartedly support the company's efforts at making fast food somewhat healthier and more ecologically sound, insofar as that ties into the main burrito-making mission. But I can't help but see this initiative, along with the Chipotle-branded Hulu program, as Starbucksian brand creep at its most overweening.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:06 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


FWIW naju, I personally am totally not insulted, and I sort of struggle with my own feelings about this because yeah, like I said, I really get the impulse to say Fuck Cooperate America and your golden children of contemporary American literature. In many ways, I like Chipotle and Safran Foer and Steven Pinker et al in spite of my grar about money and class and chain restaurants.

I also feel annoyed by too much of an import of "really important-ness," because my general feeling is more of a 'hey, this is kind of cool, I'll be interested to read some of these things because it really beats the 'caution this beverage is hot' type stuff' than a 'this is groundbreaking' thing.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:06 AM on May 15


No no please don't put literature where people might see it!! Art is too fragile to survive normal folks' gaze! How can I fetishize the book now!
posted by bleep at 11:10 AM on May 15 [8 favorites]


So now we're overthinking the bag the beans come in?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:10 AM on May 15 [14 favorites]


The Miranda July cup won't actually hold liquid, but it will be whimsical.
posted by Bromius at 11:11 AM on May 15 [8 favorites]


this has the air of people directly huffing the fumes of their own cultural self-importance, and insisting that it's "really important" somehow. There's something more than a little obnoxious about it.

If anyone thinks any of this is "really important," then they're huffing something. But the assertion that this is particularly obnoxious, because, I don't know, it's tainting kulchur with hot steaming mammon or something seems like just a different way to insist that this is "really important."

I've never even been to a Chipotle. Or read Jonathan Safran Foer. Oh God, I'm so deprived.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:21 AM on May 15


in the same way that Bach is marketing for Jesus or whatever.

I'm really glad you said that. It's amazing what a shitload of perspective on centuries of cultural history it gives you when you put it that way.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:22 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Fuck Co-operate America

Google Ron Paul
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:26 AM on May 15


Also, you want to see literature marketed in a ridiculous manner? Ok, I give you GATSBY: A Broad Product Line-up That Fulfills Men’s Fashion Sense.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:28 AM on May 15


it's tainting kulchur with hot steaming mammon or something seems like just a different way to insist that this is "really important."

I'm not expressing myself all that well. I can't stand Foer or Gladwell; some of the other stuff I find amazing (like Saunders and Morrison.) But what I like is not the point. I'm not anointing these guys a pedestal that should not be touched by crass commercialism. What I am doing is placing this within the context of a company projecting an image, and marketing to a select group of people - people whose egos are stroked by their lifestyle / class-signifying reading being spread to the masses, people who are excited to engage with brands who seem to be "more than just brands." It's stroking lifestyle choices in the same way the McSweeney's brand has proven itself so well at, or Apple when they play Feist or the Pixies in their ads. It's all just part of the same culture-capital war on minds and hearts. It's fine, I guess, it's not the end of the world. There's just a thread about it, so I'm expressing my opinion.
posted by naju at 11:39 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


maryr: Didn't Starbucks already do this?

Sys Rq: In-N-Out Burger.

Starbucks had "the way I see it", including some controversial quips. In-n-Out is annoying because they're cryptic/insider references, because they're not quoting scripture but simply referencing verses.

See also: A Chicago donut shop is printing Mitch Hedberg's "Receipt For Donut" routine on its receipts, stopped doing it briefly after there was a ton of media coverage and instead opted for a short Simpsons quote, then went back to Hedberg's bit because everyone liked it so much (or something like that).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:45 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Not to be outdone, McDonalds started a program where with every Happy Meal a Bay Area backpack hip hop lyricist will come out and rhyme about your kid while one of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz makes a beat with soda cup lids.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:47 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


I would fly to the Bay Area just for that experience.

Printing (potentially) interesting literature on cups and wrappers? Eh, cute gesture.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:49 AM on May 15


naju: What I am doing is placing this within the context of a company projecting an image, and marketing to a select group of people - people whose egos are stroked by their lifestyle / class-signifying reading being spread to the masses, people who are excited to engage with brands who seem to be "more than just brands." It's stroking lifestyle choices in the same way the McSweeney's brand has proven itself so well at, or Apple when they play Feist or the Pixies in their ads. It's all just part of the same culture-capital war on minds and hearts.

And it's been going on since the "Cultural Revolution" of the 1960s, if not earlier (fascinating excerpt from The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, by Thomas Frank). This is not to say that it's not annoying when you (first) notice it, but that it's been going on for decades (if not longer), and each generation seems to only notice when their media is co-opted for commercials.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:04 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Cool. Now, when is someone going to do this with math?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 12:08 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


I'm well aware and I've read that book, FWIW?
posted by naju at 12:08 PM on May 15


I'm not sure about comparing this to Renaissance painters getting paid by the church. Disregarding any differences in quality, the comparison flattens the historical context and interpolates our modern conception of "rich people" onto a more alien time.

Chipotle has no divine mandate or aristocratic bloodline (estate tax jokes aside), the church of the ancien regime did not use the scientific method to develop effective ways of selling food to wage laborers.
posted by gorbweaver at 12:29 PM on May 15


Well, not food exactly...
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:33 PM on May 15


I think this is great, just like when I thought putting poetry up in the subway was great. You have a captive audience, might as well give them something good to read instead of just more advertising for the thing they are already eating.
As giant corporations go, I think Chipotle is doing pretty well in terms of putting money towards ideas instead of just greenwashing or doing PR stunts. Paying authors, choosing organic on a huge scale, etc are good ideas and the way more businesses should run.
posted by rmless at 12:45 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Chipotle's greatest contribution to the world has been to put an end to the previously rampant "chipolte" mispronunciation.

You wouldn't know that from talking to my relatives.
posted by aught at 1:03 PM on May 15


If Chipotle wants repeat customers each cup should be a snippet of a longer story, with a new snippet available every week for only that week. Collect them all and at the end of a year you've got a complete George Saunders novella. The cup bottoms could be coded. Mail them in and Chipotle sends you a free, certified, limited edition book version of the story. If you miss a few weeks you have to pay a dollar per missing cup to get the book.
posted by plastic_animals at 1:14 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]


naju: I'm well aware and I've read that book, FWIW?

Keen! How was it? I've only read the excerpt.

My point was that it's fine to get upset at cultural appropriation, but (for others) to realize that this is nothing new, and is not likely to stop any time soon. That doesn't mean you should stop pushing against it, if you think it is a thing to fight, but remember that your fight is not new.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:20 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I forget which, but one of Banana Yoshimoto's stories was originally published serially on subway posters in Tokyo.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:26 PM on May 15


But yeah, I for one am outraged that literary heavyweights the likes of Judd Apatow, Bill Hader, and Sarah Silverman should be reduced by association with such crass commercialism.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:28 PM on May 15


I feel sorry for people whose best option for Mexican food is Chipotle.

I've eaten at many "authentic" Mexican restaurants, in many parts of the USA, and maybe one of them had a burrito that I like as much as Chipotle's.

I don't really know or care if the food is real Mexican food or not; in fact, I assume that what Chipotle does is not the real thing, because all of the real Mexican places serve a sloppy wet burrito on a plate, and you have to eat it with a fork. The "dry" type of burrito from Chipotle is the perfect food item, in my opinion.
posted by JeffL at 1:42 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]




I feel sorry for people whose best option for Mexican food is Chipotle.

Yeah, this is kind of absurd. I live in LA, and while there certainly exist many better places there also exist many, many worse. Hole in the wall "authentic" or whatever isn't automatically better.
posted by flaterik at 4:10 PM on May 15


I've eaten at many "authentic" Mexican restaurants, in many parts of the USA

Umm, "best" was the word used, not "authentic". For me, Chipotle is okay, but bland and constrained. They can't do what the hole in the wall taqueria does and put in more interesting meats like chorizo or even buche or lengua. And Chipotle can't throw something wild either like what the Kogi did with Korean BBQ in a taco. And that's okay, because Chipotle is fast food and fast food is about consistency. Chipotle did to the burrito what Starbucks did for coffee. It slightly shifted the window for quality and expectations of this kind of food.
posted by FJT at 4:11 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


This is amazing - Chipotle Cup Stories: Beyonce & Solange
posted by naju at 9:58 AM on May 16 [4 favorites]




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