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Economic Crisis

Appetite for Obstruction: Fattening Resistance to the Mortgage Crisis

Can Americans mount resistance to the depredations of Wall Street bankers simply by doing what they do best — stuffing themselves silly?

Sometimes I’m sad the bubble burst. Fortunately, Americans’ bubble-butts endure. ¶ The age of lenders pushing jumbo mortgages gave rise to eateries pushing jumbo portions — The Cheesecake Factory, as well as Claim Jumper, which I remember fondly from my salad days in Arizona (and when I went I was about the only one eating salad in the place). A California chain famous for its obscene portions and Gold Rush theme, Claim Jumper opened its doors in 1977. Its website promises that “when you step inside a Claim Jumper you will discover an environment that is warm and comfortable.” Which is quite true; patrons are greeted by roaring fireplaces and over-sized booths of  soothing faux mahogany. The lighting is low, and the exposed woodwork makes you feel as though you happened upon some Teutonic hunting lodge nestled deep in a fairytale forest.

The machinic din of masticating mandibles dispels all illusions of comfort and relaxation, however. Dining at Claim Jumper is work. The portions demand the utmost intestinal fortitude — and elasticity. Sandwiches like “The Motherlode” require that you consume pounds of ham, roast turkey, tri-tip, bread, pickles and Thousand Island dressing. The “Honey Blonde Fish and Chips” looks like half the seasonal haul of Portugal.

But taking the cake is … well … the cake: the “Chocolate Motherlode” is six shortening- and sugar- laden layers of chocolate cake, chocolate chips and chocolate fudge nearly a foot in length.

Let them eat cake: Claim Jumper's "Chocolate Motherlode" feeds the uprising.

It was always good fun to visit Claim Jumper on a Friday night and witness a porcine couple grimly eating their way through a Motherlode. The determination on their faces was almost melancholy, as though they were backhoeing all that bleached white flour into a spiritual void they knew they could never fill. You just knew they were trying to reward themselves for 70 hours spent working in a featureless cubicle or behind a cash register. Perhaps it was during one of those visits that I came to realize the bubble had to burst, that such lugubrious excess couldn’t last forever. At any rate, visits to Claim Jumper proved object lessons in unsustainable consumption.

Claim Jumper is still in business. But it might not be for long, if bailout after bailout augurs austerity for the hapless homeowner now bedeviled by negative equity. Perhaps the place could trade down, swapping the fool’s gold of Velveeta for oozing Cheddar, say, and in this way survive. This would, however, mean a diminished gustatory experience, to say the least.

An alternative to adulterating Claim Jumper’s kingly fare is simply to opt for humbler but no less liver-throttling dishes. My candidate for the downmarket substitute to the Motherlode would have to be that breakfast of champions, the slinger. During my oats-sowing days, no bout of pounding dollar pitchers on The Landing, Saint Louis’s riverfront bar scene, would have been complete without the pre-dawn ingestion of the vaunted slinger, that last-call, mega-calorie manna which makes the city’s famous greasy spoon, Eat Rite, unique.

Boozers throughout “The Lou” clamor for this gutbomb, whose ingredients are eggs, hash browns, a hamburger patty, Cheddar cheese, onion and chili.

Rogues' calorie: The Saint Louis slinger a budget option for gluttonous resistance.

More alimentarily adventurous types can opt for the super slinger, which tosses a beef burrito or tamale on the peak of that delicious mess.

But whether you stay regular or go super, you will be pleased at how it gives your bed-spin-induced chunder greater body and texture. And don’t worry, the slinger’s Everest-high fat content means its self-lubricating action easily scoots that inevitable uh-oh! down even the most anemically flushing toilets.

I recommend a fifth of Jägermeister as the aperitif best suited to bringing out the slinger’s (or, indeed, the super slinger’s) many complexities.

I present these dishes as a public service intended to raise awareness of good ole American-style overeating, which might just prove the most effective mode of home-foreclosure resistance; because it’s one thing to throw someone out of his house, but to have to cut him out is another thing entirely.

Indeed, Americans’ gluttony, long an object of derision throughout the world, may prove their greatest weapon of resistance.

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Anton Steinpilz

Rob Horning

Ylajali Hansen