I’m going to be intentionally vague in this opening story because I don’t want to call out my loved ones, for reasons that will soon become obvious.
Some years ago, I found myself in a small caravan of vehicles driving from east Texas back to Martinsville, Virginia. My dad and I were in a truck at the rear of the caravan, beholden to the choices of the truck we were following.
Right around lunchtime on the first day of the trip, we happened to be passing through Louisiana.
Louisiana is a state famous for many things, but as lunchtime approached, I was mainly thinking about their famous piles of seafood slathered in hot sauce. We drove past plenty of wonderful-looking restaurants, humble, weathered buildings with names like “FAT MAMA’S CRAWFISH SHACK.” I had no doubt that any one of them would offer one of the finest meals I’d ever had in my life. But which one would the occupants of the truck in front of us pick?
Suddenly, their right turn signal flashed to life. I saw an exit up ahead. Looming above the highway, a towering sign advertised my impending disappointment:
“There ain’t no way they’re pulling into the @!*&$^# Cracker Barrel,” I said.
We pulled into the Cracker Barrel. I ate some salty ham or something, thinking all the while about Fat Mama, her crawfish, and the difficulty of leading a life completely devoid of regret.
I tell you this story to establish the following: I do not like Cracker Barrel. I would rather eat anywhere than Cracker Barrel. I don’t care for the food, but my biggest issue is the artificial forced folksiness, the rocking chairs connected to the porch with bike chains, the random stuff tacked up on the walls, the desperate attempt to evoke in the diner’s mind a simpler time that never truly existed.
Yet despite all that, this column is about to become a defense of Cracker Barrel.
I’m just as surprised as you are.
Earlier this month, Cracker Barrel announced on social media that they were introducing Impossible sausage, sausage made from the plant-based meat alternative produced by Impossible Foods. This was to be a new menu item, not a replacement. Rest assured, water is still wet, and you can still get meat-based sausage at Cracker Barrel.
Nonetheless, Cracker Barrel fans online lost their ever-loving minds.
To be fair, there were many who applauded Cracker Barrel for offering a vegetarian alternative to their usual menu. However, there were many, many Cracker Barrel fanatics who viewed this new menu item as a savage blow, the ultimate example of wokeness and political correctness run amok.
“You used to serve REAL things,” wrote one fellow. “Real butter. Real meat. Real smiles. Real good food. Now you want to add in FAKE sausage. Bye bye, old friend.” (On a side note, having worked in the restaurant industry, I guarantee most of those smiles were not actually real.)
“Read the room and understand your base,” wrote another actual human with a job and responsibilities. “It’s not that there are options, it’s that yet another woke company will bite the dust with this one.”
“The last time I got sausage it tasted terrible, they must have gave me the plant based,” wrote another real man who is likely a registered voter. “Also they did away with the sampler breakfast witch I ordered every time I ate there because they would give me double hashbrowns if I didn’t want the apples. Well needless to say that my favorite restaurant is no longer. Tere menu change was a big mistake. Bye Bye Crackerbarrel.”
This is only the tiniest sampling of the outraged comments on Facebook. This story was reported on by multiple major news outlets. It’s probably some of the best free advertising Cracker Barrel could have hoped for.
My initial thought upon reading these comments was that if you have a meltdown because your favorite restaurant adds an item to the menu, you forfeit your right to ever again call anyone a “snowflake.”
My second thought was that this situation is, on a very small and hilarious scale, the perfect illustration of one of the most serious problems we face in this country.
The people who are upset over Cracker Barrel’s new menu are not upset because they have been inconvenienced. They have not been. The only people in this situation who have been inconvenienced are the poor Cracker Barrel employees who are going to have to listen to customers ranting about wokeness for the next few months until a new outrage catches their attention.
No, these customers are upset because other people have been offered a convenience. They’re upset because people who either cannot eat meat or choose not to now have an alternative. They’re upset because Cracker Barrel has taken a step towards offering equal options to vegetarians.
“Equality” is one of those things that many people profess to support in theory but become outraged by in practice. Take gay marriage; in this country, for now at least, a same-sex couple can get married and have all the same rights as a heterosexual couple. That’s equality, and you don’t need me to tell you that some folks can barely sleep at night because of it.
How about religious freedom? The First Amendment states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The freedom to follow whatever religion you choose without discrimination is a perfect example of equality, and I’m hard-pressed to think of a more controversial topic.
Cracker Barrel, having dipped a toe into providing equal options for vegetarians, has stoked the ire of their most loyal customers. As the saying goes, when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels a lot like oppression.