24-Karat Fare

Gold-coated chicken wings at Ainsworth.

The recreational ingestion of gold has reached its peak as a form of conspicuous consumption: gilded chicken wings; cappuccinos sweetened with gold-flecked sugar cubes.

Gold-plated sugar cubes.

The habit of eating of this glittering yellow metal dates back to long before the age of social media. It was consumed by the pharonic Egyptians and Victorian aesthetes.

But is it safe to eat? In its purest form—24-karat— it’s harmless. But according to one theory put forward in certain conspiracy-minded circles, it boosts brain activity to superhuman levels and so, the Illuminati plot to keep the metal’s price high enough that the average person can’t afford to sprinkle it on food like salt.



Fresh Food At The Drop Of A Coin

A trio of lemon meringue pies (two quarters only) sit inside vending windows at the Horn & Hardart automat on Third Avenue and 42nd in New York.

Eatsa is an eatery in San Francisco that has no waiters or an order taker behind a counter. It has no counter.

Diners place their orders on their tablets or phones. The grub appears in a box that goes dark when the order is ready for pick-up. All meals are quinoa-based and a bowl of each is priced at $6.95.

At the time it opened, three years ago, it was touted as a restaurant of the future for being almost fully automated.


Fully cooked meals, ready at the push of a button, became a reality at the turn of the 19th century.

In July 1912, Joe Horn and Frank Hardart opened a new kind of dining establishment in New York’s Times Sqaure whose walls were lined with banks of little chambers that served you the full panoply of prepared, all-American grub—everything from a ham-and-egg sandwich to macaroni-and-cheese to an apple pie. It’d opened in Berlin in 1895. It was called the “automat.” The diner would drop a nickel or a quarter, turn a knob, lift a small window and take out a plate.

By the 1940s, there was a chain of such outlets all over the borough. People flocked to them. In their resplendent dining rooms, outfitted with stained glass, marble floors and decorative chrome coffee dispensers, New Yorkers of every color and class rubbed shoulders.

On entering, diners would head to one of the restaurant’s “nickel throwers,” seated in a glass booth behind a wooden or marble counter. The fare was ready-made but it wasn’t, what we today, understand by fast-food. It was freshly prepared, the dishes stocked from the rear by an assembly of kitchen staff. Orange juice was squeezed fresh. Horn & Hardart brewed its own beans.

The automat began to disappear in the 1950s with the growth of drive-in restaurants and carhops.

Eatsa could well be a reincarnation of the automat, but as Joshua David Stein observes in Eater, the greatest difference between the automats of then and now isn’t that technology has supplanted waiters, but that the diners,  themselves, have become machine-like. It’s simply, a place to “inhale one’s lunch while checking Instagram” before returning to the lofty start-up they came from.

Business, Food

There’s Glory In Failure

Every now and then, a product flops so terribly that it becomes memorable for that very reason.

Take Colgate’s Beef Lasagna. Back in the 1980s, the toothpaste brand took a crack at selling a TV dinner. It was a spectacular debacle. But little did that have to do with its taste and flavor. It’s difficult to eat a pasta meal prepared by a company that makes oral detergents. And Colgate had made the error of making its forte clear by putting its logo on the box.

Another doomed enterprise was BlāK, a coffee-flavored Cola-Cola, launched by the soda giant in 2006.