Ballpark Garbage Nachos: A Conversation

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Hot dogs are easy to eat, if admittedly much moreso if you don't think about what they are or what is in them. And Cracker Jack—if you haven't had it recently—is really delicious. But there's no reason, necessarily, why those two deserve to have some sort of exclusive concession when it comes to eating at baseball games. There are sausage-and-pepper sandwiches, which is what I generally eat. There are scorched hot pretzels with all the salt fallen off. There are also/even some actually good-by-non-ballpark-standards sandwiches out there to be found;'s Ted Berg is really good at finding them and writing about them.

And there are, enduringly if never quite appealingly, those little plastic trays full of salty circular tortilla chips and a sad little inkwell of a notionally cheese-ish viscous orange gel. Those are not nachos, exactly, but they were—at least until Aramark announced an ambitious and intermittently terrifying new line of nachos at 11 big league ballparks—probably the closest thing to nachos available at baseball games. That has changed. Whether it has changed for the better or not depends, really. On a bunch of different things.

Some of the nachos—the full slate, courtesy of Aramark's Nacho Awareness Campaign press release, is here—actually sound delicious, if also complicated and ingredient-y enough not to be the sort of thing you'd like to eat out of your lap in public. And some of the nachos are abhorrent: the CitiField "pastracho" (above), for instance, is basically a Reuben sandwich that has been dropped from a great height onto a pile of chips. And then there are the dessert nachos: Coors Field's S'More Nacho, and most astonishingly Angels Stadium's "Arctic Nachos," which I am honestly not really ready to talk about but which involves ice cream and is clearly a terrible mistake. To me, at least. Classical contributor Ryan O'Hanlon differed, and we talked it through. Because that is what adults do when confronted by a problem of this magnitude and urgent import.

David Roth: I really think you should explain yourself in re: dessert nachos. These people are putting ice cream on top of tortilla chips, and you—someone I respect as a person, if not necessarily as a carbohydrate-related decision maker—seem prepared not to stand up to all this.

Ryan O'Hanlon: By which you mean nachos.

David: It's bigger than nachos. First they came for the idea of hot savory food on top of salty corn chips, and I said nothing. Then some fucking guy at CitiField basically threw a Reuben sandwich at a pile of chips and it looked like some sort of autopsy photo, and I said nothing. And et cetera. Really I'm just sort of wondering how you could possibly justify this, because it's wrong and also the s'more nachos have two different types of marshmallow on it, if you somehow missed that.

Ryan: The "pastracho" was a terrible mistake, clearly. There is some salt-sick mind behind that. But I guess I think of all dessert as garbage food, so I don't really care how ridiculous you make it. I'll admit that adding chips is borderline "make me want to die" territory. But I guarantee I would enjoy eating those.

David: Even the ones with ice cream? Wouldn't you be sad about what happened to the chips? Especially, for me, the s'mores one. Just use graham crackers for the chips! Then you're onto something. Instead it's chips plus graham cracker dustings plus three-quarters of an inch of various dessert toppings. And then I think they just have Dante Bichette punch you in the heart while you eat it.

David: I don't know that it's possible to insult corn chips. They are inanimate, for one. But spraying marshmallow fluff on them is at the very least rude.

Ryan: I guess the chips under the ice cream would just become soggy nothingness, which would add, you know, nothing to the experience.

Ryan: Other than terrible things.

David: I don't know, maybe it's nice to finish your sundae and find a mat of wet, salty Tostitos at the bottom. I've never had the experience. Maybe that's the hot new thing in desserts, like Betty Crocker trying to sell the everyone-puts-beer-in-it-now angle with its Great Mario Lopez Sandwich Contest?

David: "…and that's also served over a carb-mat of chip mush." "But of course. You don't need to mention that. We are at Jean-Georges."

Ryan: Also, I don't eat dessert anymore, really, because that is not a luxury that my budget can currently accommodate. Other than Nutella and wheat bread, which is maybe too sad to be dessert.

Ryan: But I was home for the weekend and my parents left me cakes and Girl Scout cookies and Klondike bars, and it was great. I ate all of them every night. So I'm on a sweetness kick, which is obscuring my sympathy for innocent bystanders in certain sugar-loaded food massacres.

David: I'm not a big dessert person, either, although I'm with you four-square on Girl Scout cookies. I just feel like, if you're at a baseball game and so only have like 7500 calories to burn, there's no reason to do so on vanilla ice cream chilaquiles, basically. But yeah, to each his or her own.

David: Except with regards to the Arctic Nachos, which—and I can't really comment any further because of pending legal action—I think may actually be illegal.

Ryan: That's all fair, totally fair. I would never buy that, ever.

Ryan: But if someone gave one to me right now, I'd throw away the food I'm cooking and eat it immediately. That’s just where I’m at, currently.

David: It's your body, man. Put some sprinkles into it if you want to.

Ryan: I might go buy some right now. A pre-bedtime spoonful of sprinkles never hurt anyone, right?

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That no-one commented on this is a goddamned tragedy, and I am solving that tragedy, because tragedies can, yes, be solved.

Anyway, there is a thing called the Its-It, which is ice cream inside two cookies, and that is one thing. Extravagant, yes, verging on decadent. One can well eat one now and again in the course of a full or well-lived life.

There is, I think, a follow-up, in which the standard Its-It, already an extravagance, already a hint at Too Much, is dunked into a chocolate-like substance that congeals around it in predictable ways. Along the lines of the "dipped cone", and a certain suggestion that you should really begin examining your consumption-conduct.

Most nachos are broadly comparable, I would argue, to the Its-It. A salt/fat/starch congeries, nachos surely have a place--and that place is Right In Front of Me, please and thank you. 7-11 nachos are comprised of shirt-cardboard chips, and it's difficult to tell where the plastic boat they live in ends and where the plastic cheese impersonator begins; and I love them. (Through the middle 90s, they were a reliable hangover-addresser for me.) Better store-bought nachos also please me enormously, from the bar-food canned-beans/shredded-cheese-in-a-convection-oven taco-chip pile under pickled jalapeños all the way to the multiple-actual-Mexican-cheese-types Best Nachos I Ever Had, back when I ate meat, at a high-end Oakland taqueria.

I have strong opinions and well-honed skills when it comes to home nacho preparation. You want the restaurant-style big pile? I do it in multiple layers: you'll have trouble getting anything without cheese on it, as is fit & proper. You want the "authentic" version, true to the origin myth? I LOVE spooning out the refrieds onto individual chips. Shit, if you ask nice, I'll flat make the chips out of actual goddamned tortillas. It's all good, when "it" is "nachos", and so long as you limit your dairy supplementations to say three and your protein options to no more than two, comprising no more than say a third of the total mass of the dish? You're probably not verging too problematically into dipped-Its-It territory.

But when it comes to, say, a dish of ice cream doled out onto the salt/fat/carb bale, or deep frying the entire thing, inside a flour tortilla, say, or placing it gently on a two-inch-thick deep dish pizza crust and pouring red sauce all over it, or taking an entire goddamned sandwich and just scattering its non-bread components over some perfectly mediocre proccessed bullshit that was fine on its own? Even I--a man who recently favorited a tweet reading nothing more than "A good idea I just had is nachos"--have to draw the line. While our society is relentlessly anti- the idea that "it is okay to say 'no' to yourself sometimes", these things are Just Too Much. Like building iPads into every seat of a Hummer too much. Too. Much.