You probably thought there would be some kind of dramatic event that would take the U.S. down as a superpower. World war. Greece-level financial implosion. Zombie apocalypse brought on by flawed military research and/or our efforts to battle our own mortality.
But you’re wrong. While we were all zipping up our Forever Lazys and settling in for a Toddlers and Tiaras marathon, our best days were slipping away little by little. How do I know? Because we are enjoying the kind of disgusting decadence that the Roman empire enjoyed even as its power declined. But instead of orgies, we have Arby’s.
There is simply no way that a country can consume the creative combinations of processed meats and cheesish substances that we do and remain in power. When the majority of a nation’s brainpower is split between how best to fry something and how best to combat the subsequent heart disease epidemic, it’s going to slip in the ranks.
And maybe it won’t be so bad to be a second-tier economy. Look at Spain, it’s been decades since they were a player on the world stage, and now they all go home for lunch to nap. But I’m sure that historians, centuries from now, will try to assemble a timeline of America’s collapse. And I can name five pivotal moments that they should include.
2000: Olive Garden Introduces the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl
Olive Garden is proof that many people would rather eat an insane amount of something O.K. than a normal portion of something good. It’s this desire for quantity over quality that leads us to consume 14,000 calories worth of salted bread while waiting for our refillable entrees of noodles and “authentic Italian” canned Alfredo sauce. The exact moment where we said, “This isn’t very good. Oh, I can have more? Then I love it!” was the beginning of our decline.
2009: KFC Creates the Double Down Sandwich
Upon hearing the initial concept of the Double Down, I didn’t think it was too bad. Ever since Dr. Atkins released his revolutionary carb-cutting diet of meat, cheese and lettucs before dying of a totally unrelated heart attack, everyone’s been looking for ways to cut out the bread. Of course, usually when they do that, they’re not replacing the bread with fried chicken, but whatever, it’s still less carbs. But then, upon seeing it, I realized that the Double Down is just an answer to America’s biggest problem with one of its most favorite foods: fried chicken is delicious, but you can’t smear mayo on it. And the second American citizens put their college degrees to work to solve that problem, we fell just a little bit farther behind China.
2011: Fried Butter On a Stick Spreads to the Iowa and Wisconsin State Fairs
Fried butter was actually featured at the Texas State Fair in 2009, but it spread to Wisconsin and Iowa in 2011, offering more Americans the chance to experience the joy of wheezing on a Ferris Wheel. Iowa took it to a new level by frying a whole stick of butter and covering it with a honey glaze. Who knows how they’ll top themselves this year? My guess is deep fried butter wrapped in bacon and served with a gallon of nacho cheese.
2012: Taco Bell Merges Doritos and Tacos in the Dorito Loco
The Dorito Loco is the food that made me think, briefly, that I understood vertical integration. Turns out I still don’t, but whatever trend is happening here will kill us all. Once Yum! Brands figures out how to wrap a Dorito Loco in fried chicken skin, they will be unstoppable. As will America’s collective diarrhea.
And speaking of Yum! Brands…
2012: Pizza Hut Stuffs Crust with Hot Dogs
I worked at Pizza Hut in 2001, during the failed “Insider Pizza” debacle. If you recall, that took the idea of “stuffed crust” to a new extreme by stuffing the entire pizza with a layer of cheese. Rarely, after speaking with someone who had just consumed it, did I hear phrases like, “I’m really glad I ate that” or “I’m ready to take on the world!” Mostly their sentiments were nap-focused. And it’s hard to remain a superpower when half your population is napping. Just ask Spain.
BUT WAIT! You guys, I have great news! I heard about this and assumed that it was coming out in the U.S. (because, well, duh) but it’s not! It’s being introduced in the U.K.! They’re the ones on the brink of collapse. Our best days are still ahead of us. We’re number 1! We’re number 1!