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photo: Jo Naylor on Flickr

Over in London, The Independent ran an article last Friday titled “The Way We Eat Now: What Will Future Food Historians Make Out Of Our Curious Eating Habits?” It’s sort of a British State of the Food Union, a detailing of the practices and methods of consumption that notable food critic Marina O’Loughlin has seen in her native country over the past few years.

What O’Loughlin concludes is that modern British eaters are infatuated with two different methods of meals: those that are prepared on the quick, and those that are prepared on the cheap. If Nigel from Newcastle can combine the two for a quick and inexpensive meal, that’s all the better.

It’s for that reason that many natives of ye olde country are turning to “ready meals,” prepared meals that you can nuke or throw on the stove and have ready in ten minutes or less. Essentially, O’Loughlin suggests that all of Britain – save the Queen – has fallen in love with the TV dinner. As she writes, “Recessions are notorious for skewing and subverting the way we eat; the last one gave us the gastropub, this one offers the opportunity to gawp at the neighbours’ knick-knacks while weighing up how much to ‘voluntarily contribute’ to cooking of varying levels of competency.”

This got me thinking: What would an American State of the Food Union look like if it was penned today by one of our country’s finest food critics?

A scan around the Internet table revealed two chief findings:

  1. Americans are starting to get a little freaked out about the rising cost of food; so freaked out, in fact, that The Washington Post reports more Americans are turning to farming than they ever have. 
  2. We’re becoming more infatuated with deep-fried foods than the Scots.

The big story on food blogs this past week has been that of the deep-fried Kool-Aid Balls Charlie Boghosian is serving up at the San Diego County Fair. Coverage is coming from everywhere, be it food blogs or straight up hard news sources. Even Perez Hilton’s getting into the mix. The most fascinating aspect, however, is that this delicacy doesn’t even stand alone as the most gastronomically noteworthy or diabetes-inducing dish in Boghosian’s tent. As Gawker reports, Boghosian rarely meets a snack that he won’t throw into a vat of hot oil; he’s also shilling deep-fried Klondike bars, frog legs, and Thin Mints.

If you think this phenomenon is exclusive to Southern California, you’ve got a lot to learn. I’ve been to the Texas State Fair. I’ve tried the fried PB&J and had a bite of fried cheesecake. I’ve stared death straight in the eyes in the face of fried butter, and I crippled in fear. The Texas State Fair alone is proof that America has lost its deep-fried mind.

One dude who won’t be shying away from any culinary challenges is Ryan Hohman, the man who has been tasked with eating 2,011 chicken wings by the end of the 2011 calendar year. That’s more than five wings per day. Ryan, we wish you, um, luck.

It’s dire straits around here, sure, but I, for one, would rather live on the edge of the FDA health codes than follow suit with Japan. Their new culinary delight: SPAMburgers, available now at local Burger Kings. 

What’s your take on the way we’re eating? Talk about it in the comments.