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NYT Columnist Thinks People Without College Degrees Can’t Read Menus

David Brooks seemed mortified over his decision to take a friend “with only a high school degree” to a “gourmet sandwich shop.”

David Brooks

In an effort to chastise himself for failing to connect with people not in the upper-middle class, New York Times columnist David Brooks managed to level an incredible insult at people not in the upper-middle class.

Brooks shared in his Tuesday column how mortified he was to lead a friend “with only a high school degree” into a “gourmet sandwich shop” in Washington, D.C.:

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

American upper-middle-class culture (where the opportunities are) is now laced with cultural signifiers that are completely illegible unless you happen to have grown up in this class. They play on the normal human fear of humiliation and exclusion. Their chief message is, “You are not welcome here.”

As Washington City Paper explained, though, the sandwich shop in question – Radici on Capitol Hill – tells customers exactly what’s in their sandwiches:

What he didn’t mention is that Radici helpfully translates the word padrino to “godfather” in parentheses in the sandwich description, says Radici employee Marianna.

Asked to read the written description of this sandwich over the phone, Marianna provided this: “genoa salami, capicollo, pepperoni, soppressata, Romaine lettuce, provolone, roasted red pepper, and Italian vinaigrette on French baguette.” (The online menu’s description of this sandwich is very similar and also includes “godfather” in parentheses.)

If Brooks thinks people with less than a college degree don’t know what salami, pepperoni, and provolone are, maybe he needs to spend some time outside Washington, D.C.