It’s that time of year, when we at The New York Times roll up our elbow-patched tweed sleeves and wade into the soulless morass of year-end listicles. This year, our “25 Best Foods of the 21st Century (So Far)” garnered mass rebuke in the comments section, a hallowed space which is usually a paragon of civic debate. The writers of the list sat down with a Times reporter to shine a light on their rationale.
For the record, why isn’t chocolate on the list?
Chocolate has given some very delicious performances in the past 20 years, but it’s also been featured in some foods that are downright disgusting. Sure, we can all agree on staples like hot chocolate, Godiva truffles, and brownies. But that doesn’t make up for the huge missteps chocolate has taken over the years. Take the Three Musketeers bar. Most people don’t even remember that chocolate was in that. It was, though — and it was abominable. The inside of those things tasted like shaving cream sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. And folks seem to overlook Hydrox, chocolate’s grotesquely overwrought attempt at impersonating an Oreo. Those of us who had to eat those in Hebrew School are scarred, possibly for life. Not to mention the many people who were offended at the appropriation of kosher laws.
It seems like you’re penalizing chocolate for being a more common ingredient than the other foods that made the list. If it’s in more things, chances are greater that not all of those things are going to be superlative, right?
No, we have nothing against being common. In fact, we at The Times have our fingers on the pulse of what normal, everyday people like to eat. If you don’t believe us, just check out our Cooking section, which has an entire recipe collection devoted to how to use up your leftover fermented leeches.
Are you implying that chocolate is too low brow for your taste?
Just the opposite! That’s why we took into account the fact that chocolate has been featured in award winning delicacies, the likes of which are far too ostentatious for our humble tastes. For instance, the chocolate soufflé at Manhattan’s number one dining destination, Per Se, helped the restaurant earn a Michelin Star.
So wait, earning a Michelin Star is the reason chocolate wasn’t ranked?
Yes and no. When a food receives critical acclaim like that, our antennas immediately go up: it’s a chance for us to prove we’re more discriminating than the most elite group of restaurant critics in the world. Of course, we wouldn’t snub the soufflé on a whim – each of us went to Per Se dozens of times to order the souffle on NYT’s dime. At least one of those times it fell short of expectations, we are sorry to say.
What has reader reaction been like so far?
We’ve been shocked that so many people are die-hard chocolate fans. This sad chapter in our newspaper’s history has revealed that most people don’t even know what chocolate really is – because if they did, they would agree with our decision. We thought people would be angry that we left out other foods, like canned tuna fish. Weirdly, that seems to be fine with the public.
What are you hoping readers will take away from the list?
That there are some really underrated foods out there that are worth trying. Just because you’ve never had a pig’s foot dipped in crunchy chile oil doesn’t mean it’s not very, very high quality. We also included gelatin on the list because gelatin has been holding marshmallows, Jell-o molds, and fiber gummies together for YEARS without getting the recognition it deserves. We also added fruit roll-ups, because those make us happy.
This list is really beginning to seem like the enumerated caprices of two eccentrics who have access to unlimited free food.
Did you actually think we’d use objective rating criteria to come up with our rankings?! The taste buds want what the taste buds want. And look, maybe if it had been a list of 26 foods, chocolate would have made the cut.
Well, this certainly has been eye-opening. Thanks for your time.
We’re grateful for the chance to explain ourselves on the record, an exercise we consider to be self-conscious, postmodern meta-journalism and not in any way a masturbatory recursion that encourages even more people to read the original article.