The recent New Yorker Food Issue is chock full of great stories to dig your teeth into—Lauren Collins on the quest to eat the world’s hottest chilies, Rebecca Mead on the hyper-competitive Greek yogurt industry, Julie Kramer on avant-garde Italian chef Massimo Bottura—but one of the most fun parts is a series of personal essays about take-out food, filed by writers like Donald Antrim and Gabrielle Hamilton.
Zadie Smith’s essay, “Take It or Leave It,” is particularly interesting in light of the ongoing debate about tipping in this country—namely, whether it should be abolished all together. Smith explains the bemusement with which Brits view the practice, explaining how too much time spent Stateside has caused her to tip back home, winning her nothing but strange looks (and certainly not any friendlier service).
Most tellingly, her argument seems less rooted in the ideas of fairness and living wages that drives the conversation here, and more in the inherent value of the service industry to society. On this matter, Smith is the anti-Danny Meyer—she just wants her coffee, thanksverymuch, no smile necessary:
Clearly, there are some key cultural differences here—in Britain, delivery is still generally limited to Chinese takeaway and pizza, whereas in the U.S. you can press a few buttons on your computer and “a boy will bring a single burrito to your door”—but Smith still offers an alternative take on the whole service-industry kerfuffle. Namely: Life already blows, and paying people to pretend to be nice to us isn’t going to change that.
[via New Yorker]