First there were Doritos Locos Tacos, then the Cronut, and now the Ramen Burger. If you look at the recent history of food-related stories that have transcended the small sliver of the sandbox we called the food world, it’s not hard to see a trend: The reign of the Frankenfood is in full effect. How did a pastry at a small shop in Soho, produced in quantities of just 300 a day, make it to heights of the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and the spare seat on Heidi Klum’s private jet? And how did a taco inside a Doritos shell sell more than half a billion units in a year?

It’s easy to say “media hype” and move on, but as always, that’s only part of the story. The obsession with culinary hybrids reflects something much deeper about the way we think about food, not to mention our broader cultural values.

To figure out what that might be, let’s investigate exactly why America can’t get stop freaking out over mashup foods.