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February 5, 2009

Fast-food zoning and Twinkie taxes

Because I like pop culture, trends, language and all that good stuff, I get a Word of the Day sent to me from the Word Spy site. A few are food related.

Recently "fast-food zoning" and "Twinkie taxes" were featured. The issue of legislating health is an interesting one (one word: Prohibition), and we could spend a lot of time talking about it. But I also just like the sound of "Twinkie taxes."

Here are a couple of examples of the terms' use, as well as some other foodie-trendy words that I may do separate posts on at a later date if I get inspired: ... 

"In an effort to provide residents with more nutritious choices, the L.A. City Council adopted landmark legislation in July mandating a one-year moratorium on the building of new fast-food eateries in a 32-square-mile area. (Fast-food zoning exists in other cities but is based on aesthetic considerations, not health factors.)

"According to Jan Perry, a council member who co-sponsored the bill and whose district is part of South L.A., the idea is to freeze fast-food development so that sit-down restaurants and quality-food markets will build in the area. 'When every corner is taken up with fast food,' Perry says, 'there's no room for anyone else.'

—Steven Kurutz, "Fast-Food Zoning," The New York Times, December 14, 2008

"Among tax proposals Daniels suggested merit consideration are ... Extending the 5 percent state sales tax to so-called "snack food." Once labeled the "Twinkie tax," the proposal would apply to such items as candy, chewing gum, potato chips, pretzels, cookies, ice cream, coffee and tea.

—Mike Lawrence, "Tax alternatives sought," Chicago Sun-Times, June 29, 1987
Related Words:

drive-through cuisine




fast-food cluster


one-handed food


Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:05 PM | | Comments (16)


I like "one-handed food." I guess you could eat and give a one-armed hug at the same time!

The problem with Twinkie taxes is that they work.

Your friend, the government, institutes a tax on Twinkies and uses the revenue to fund, say, some well-intentioned health program. The Twinkie tax drives up the cost of Twinkies, which drives down the consumption of Twinkies. This creates a shortfall in the funding for the well-intentioned health program, so your friend, the government, must increase the tax on Twinkies. This further drives up the cost of Twinkies which further drives down the consumption of Twinkies, exacerbating the shortfall in the funding for the well-intentioned health program. After several cycles, the only thing left for your friend, the government, to do is to increase income taxes to fund the well-intentioned health program.

Elite Elephant Lover is way proud of me right now.

Don't forget the oldie: Yuppie Food Stamps ($20 bills from the ATM.)

I really don't think that all that is needed to encourage "sit-down restaurants and quality-food markets" (is that a "groceraunt?") is a lack of fast-food outlets and free corners.

Other definitions of my own devising:

Drive-through cuisine: An oxymoron when used to describe food purchased while in your car; a put-down when referring to sit-down restaurant food.

Eater-tainment: Chuck-E Cheese

Fakeaway: The already-prepared-food counter at an airport restaurant (you think you're getting real food, but it isn't).

Fast-casual Any of the national chains.

Fast-food cluster: The mall food court

Groceraunt: See "quality food markets" above.

One-handed food: Anything an Italian eats, as in "How do you stop an Italian talking? Tie his hands." You need at least one free hand to gesture.

How'd I do compared to the "real" definitions? and tea are junk food? I thought they were the only thing keeping me going!

What if my aunt isn't a grocer?

Bucky hit the nail on the head. Just like financing mass transit with gas tax money. The more successful the mass transit becomes the fewer the dollars to fund it. I hear that Maryland is about to revisit the twinkie tax. Maybe it will make up for the lack of slot machine money.

Like financing Health Care with cigarette tax money?

We need to encourage more twinkies and more smoking. If we really want to save government money, we need to keep people from reaching social security and medicare eligibility.

RoCK gets it. The unhealthy fast food eating, tobacco smoking and chewing, alcohol guzzling, cell-phone-talking while you drive people aren't the drain on society, over the long term. It's the healthy, safe people who are going to live to 100 who use up society's resources.

RoCK -- you will be glad to hear that a couple of days ago, Interstate Bakeries, maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, emerged from bankruptcy, thereby giving Americans a greater chance to reduce our lifespans through mass consumption of white flour and hydrogenated shortening.

I have single handedly solved the financial crisis of this country. First, legalize (and tax) marijuana (for use by responsible adults, of course). This will also raise fast food and Twinkie revenue whether the taxes go up on them or not. The additional revenue from weed and munchies will pay off the national debt in a few years. Thank you, I will be available for photo ops once I win my Nobel prize!

Joyce, I'm with you on legalizing and taxing at least some illicit drugs. I've yet to read about convincing scientific evidence that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol.

Besides, wouldn't it just be so right if mini-Dogwood, in the Women's Industrial Exchange, could sell the kind of brownies that Alice B. Toklas used to make?

Hey Joyce, can we get you over here standing next to Michael Phelps for that photo?

Lissa - my circle of friends and co-workers extend from highly conservative to extreemly liberal and I don't know a single person who believes marijuana should be illegal. It simply not worth the payout for law enforcement and clogging up the jails with "offenders". Illegal transportation would stop pretty much in it's tracks if it was just available like liquor is. And yes, so appropriate to have Alice's brownies in the WIE!

Bucky, Michael Phelps should be the poster boy for my new campaign (for me to win the Nobel prize not legalization!)

I am a faithful listener to the podcast edition of the "Good Food" program hosted by Evan Kleiman on KCRW radio from Santa Monica. Most weeks she has a conversation with Jonathon Gold, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2007 for his reviews (mostly in the LA Weekly) of hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants. My guess is that this legislation has been proposed so that he will continue to have funky places to review and thus stand for another Pulitzer. Eyeball tacos, anyone??

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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