The dominant cultural motif of the 20th century in America was standardisation of processes, attempting to achieve economies of scale, with a veneer of choice.
This came home to me most clearly when I was sequestered in a basement at Electronic Arts in San Mateo with Maf in 1994, completing the first version of 3D Atlas by working round the clock, with brief breaks for food and sleep. Having flown in from London, we were jet-lagged to start with, and there being 10 testers giving us bug reports to address, our anomie was amplified.
We would emerge at random intervals into the bright California sunlight, and try to find something to eat nearby, a task made harder by the implosion of nearby Fashion Island Mall into the ghost mall so accurately described by Coupland in Microserfs.
We would stagger into Rocking Robin, or Togos or whatever, and then be subjected to the standard fast food quiz by the Turing-test-failing waitroids:
-Olive Oil vinagrette
This is the approach described by the phrase 'Just the way you want it'.
One day, tired and phased, I went through the wrong door into Togos, and somehow ended up in a newly opened Japanese restaurant. At 2.30pm, it was quiet, so I walked up to the sushi bar. The sushi chef bowed to me, said hello, and looked at me carefully. He said 'You need to eat this' and handed me something delicious and wonderful. He was absolutely right. I ate it, and he produced more delightful fishy foods, and served me tea.
One of the the things I ate there that day (and all subsequent lunchtimes while we were there) was Edemame. This simple dish consists of small green beans boiled in their shells, then sprinkled with salt and allowed to cool. You pop them out of the shell into your mouth, the salt on your fingers adding piquancy.
It wasn't until years later that I realised that this delightful dish was made from Soya beans. School dinners in England frequently featured sausages or burgers manufactured from soya protein by the food processing industry. They had somehow decided that what we really wanted was vaguely meat-like food products made out of these beans, with their flavour disguised by adding fat and pepper. The contrast between these fresh, healthy, tasty green vegetables and the slimy, tasteless, beige sausages was so great that they were in no way recognisable as the same thing.
Here on the web we can find the Edamame in the authentic voices of the people we meet, and shun the processed sausages of the content industry.