In BAD: or, the Dumbing of America, Paul Fussell draws a distinction between bad things and BAD things:
Bad is something like dog-do on the sidewalk, or a failing grade, or a case of scarlet fever--something no one ever said was good. BAD is different. It is something phony, clumsy, witless, untalented, vacant or boring that many Americans can be persuaded is genuine, graceful, bright, or fascinating. . . . Bathroom faucet handles that cut your fingers are bad. If goldplated, they are BAD.
And, he procedes for some 200 riotous pages to enumerate the many BAD things that can be found in today's culture, from BAD advertising to BAD television.
I was reminded of his book last week on a flight from Atlanta to San Francisco, during which I was handed ("tossed" might be a better word) my "snack" for the flight, which in today's times of airline belt-tightening is what passes for the inflight meal. Removing the plastic wrapper from the tray revealed a small bag of some sort of highly-spiced cracker-like doodads and a little plastic cup whose foil top read, in big letters, "Havarti". So, basically, cheese-and-crackers, but cheese and crackers that have gone uptown.
Or so it seemed, until I actually tasted them. The cracker doodles were so awful I could barely swallow one--very, very salty, with an overwhelming layer of powdered artificial flavoring blown onto the exterior. I put them aside, thinking, "at least I can eat the havarti."
But, upon closer inspection of the fine print on the foil wrapper, I noticed it wasn't Havarti at all. It was "Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread Havarti-type Flavor." The first ingredient in the "havarti" was actually "cheddar cheese". Apparently, to make “Pasturized Process Cheese Spread” with “Havarti-like flavor”, you take plain old cheddar cheese and add to it water, cream, milk, and whey--to make it more fluid, I suppose, and better suited for packaging in a little plastic cup. Then, throw in some unspecified “natural flavor”, salt, and calcium propionate and—pow!—instant class.
Honestly, what would be so bad about some plain old crackers and cheddar cheese? Saltines would have been just fine—a little boring, maybe, but at least would have been edible. And, the most boring and washed out of supermarket cheddar cheeses would have been better than the so-called Havarti.
Why pretend that American airline travel is more elegant than it is? As Joe Bob Briggs pointed out in his classic column "Sardine Me!" , we are not willing to pay enough. So how about a good ole pack of Lance crackers instead?
At least there was Walker's shortbread in the snack pack too--wheat flour, butter, sugar, and salt. It's just as pretentious a thing to serve as the faux Havarti ("Imported from Scotland!"), but at least it tastes good.