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7 Catt. 2: In re Hot People Food

2012 March 13
by CATTLEYA, J.

CATTLEYA, J., delivered the opinion of the Cart. JEREMY, C.J., issued a separate concurrence, concurring only in the result.

Before us is Hot People Food (“HPF”), a food truck the serves, um, “Hot People Food.” This Cart has already determined that “Hot People Food” is “‘people food’ that is ‘hot’ in terms of spicing, temperature, excitement, or any combination of the above.” In re Hot People Food (The Hot People Dumplings Case), 6 Catt. 4 (2012). “Hot People Food” is most probably “hot” in terms of spicing, as HPF spices its food to the particular diner’s tastes. On HPF’s recommendation, we ordered the Hot Grab Lunch Box with Sassy Chicken. In addition to the meat entrée, the Hot Grab Lunch Box comes with miso soup, rice, vegetables, and half of a so-called “GolDDen Egg.”

I. STREET FOOD

This Cart has determined that street food is “the kind[] of food[] that can be cooked in front of you and [is] meant to be eaten with your hands, without forks, while standing up.” In re Eat Wonky, 2 Catt. 5 (2011). We conclude that the Hot Grab Lunch Box, like other platters of meat, vegetables, and rice, is not street food. See, e.g., In re Salt and Pepper Grill, 6 Catt. 1 (2012). Therefore, no presumption arises that HPF’s Sassy Chicken should be affirmed. See In re Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2 (2012) (“[W]here an offering is deemed to constitute ‘street food,’ a presumption arises that the case should be affirmed. That is, the MGE has made out its prima facie case and the burden of proof lies entirely with the Supreme Cart to prove that the case should be remanded to the MGE for revision.”).

II. HOT GRAB LUNCH BOX: SASSY CHICKEN

As this Cart very often does, each element of the Hot Grab Lunch Box will be addressed in turn. See, e.g., In re Takorean, 1 Catt. 4 (2011).

Sassy Chicken

A. Sassy Chicken.

The “Sassy Chicken” name itself doesn’t indicate how HPF prepares the meat and HPF doesn’t provide a description of the dish, so we weren’t sure what to expect. What makes chicken sassy? It turns out that the answer is soy sauce, fennel, and ginger.

First, the good news: The Sassy Chicken was moist. This is no small feat. Not all food trucks have avoided the trap of dry chicken. See In re Bada Bing, 5 Catt. 2 (2012).

Now, the bad news: The Sassy Chicken was not sassy at all. It was bland, and despite the “Hot People Food” name, it didn’t have even a hint of spice. For those diners seeking heat, HPF drizzles Sriracha sauce over the Sassy Chicken. As much as I love Sriracha sauce and believe a bottle should be stocked in every American kitchen, even it could not make the Sassy Chicken more exciting. I would have preferred if the spiciness came more from a marinade and less from a condiment, but perhaps that is not possible when one is trying to cater to all spice preferences.

B. Miso soup.

My opinion of HPF’s miso soup on this second tasting was the same as it was on the first. See In re Hot People Food (The Hot People Dumplings Case), 6 Catt. 4 (2012) (Cattleya, J., concurring). It was a nice addition, but it was standard miso soup and nothing out of the ordinary. The only comment that I have to add is that this time, my bowl of miso soup was only half full. I suspect that HPF is less generous with the serving size towards the end of the lunch service, when its food stocks are running low.

C. Rice.

HPF’s default rice is steamed. On some days, HPF also offers fried rice. I was lucky enough to show up on such a day. The fried rice was good, but like the miso soup, it was standard Chinese food fare.

D. Vegetables.

The Hot Grab Lunch Box came with a side of steamed broccoli. Beneath the Sassy Chicken, there were more vegetables in the form of carrots and potatoes. (This raises the question: Are potatoes vegetables?) These vegetables, assuming that they are all vegetables, allowed me to tell my mother later that day that, yes, I had eaten my vegetables. Which is to say that they were good, but nothing special.

E. GolDDen Egg.

A “GolDDen Egg” is a hard-boiled egg that is steeped in tea. Tea eggs are common street food in Asia. They are also street food under out Eat Wonky test because a tea egg “can be cooked in front of you and [is] meant to be eaten with your hands, without forks, while standing up.” See In re Eat Wonky, 2 Catt. 5 (2011). For this reason, this Cart presumes that HPF’s GolDDen Egg should be affirmed (even though the Sassy Chicken entrée did not merit this presumption). I cannot meet the burden to rebut the presumption because I found HPF’s egg to be quite tasty. So tasty, in fact, that based on my enjoyment of half of one piece, I will probably get the appetizer portion of two pieces on a future visit.

III. CONCLUSION

At $7.99 plus tax, HPF’s Hot Grab Lunch Box is a lot of food. The diner gets a large portion of meat, plus miso soup, rice, vegetables, and half of a tea egg. On top of that, HPF throws in a piece of delicious guava hard candy to finish off the meal.

Nothing in the Hot Grab Lunch Box was bad. One thing was quite good (GolDDen Egg). Some things were standard (miso soup; rice). One thing could have been much better (Sassy Chicken). Overall, the meal left a mediocre taste in my mouth.

For the reasons stated above, the Hot Grab Lunch Box with Sassy Chicken is

AFFIRMED in part and REMANDED in part to Hot People Food for revision.

JEREMY, C.J., concurring in the result.

“The issue is, what is [sassy] chicken?” See Frigaliment Importing Co. v. B.N.S. Int’l Sales Corp., 190 F. Supp. 116 (S.D.N.Y. 1960). As my sister rightly points out, “[t]he ‘Sassy Chicken’ name itself doesn’t indicate how HPF prepared the meat and HPF doesn’t provide a description of the dish . . . .” The opinion of the Cart finds that HPF’s Sassy Chicken is chicken marinated in a blend of “soy sauce, fennel, and ginger,” with a drizzle of Sriracha. However, upon ordering Sassy Chicken on a separate occasion from my sister, I was presented with battered and deep-fried chicken bits in a sticky sweet-and-sour sauce. Therefore, though I agree generally with the result of the Cart’s decision, I must find that HPF’s Sassy Chicken, far from a chicken marinated in a savory blend of herbs and spices, is instead battered, deep-fried, and coated in a markedly different gastrique.

I agree heartily with my sister’s assessment of HPF’s GolDDen Egg. (Get it? Double-D . . .)

(Further, I was presented with white rice and bok choy instead of fried rice and broccoli, but that is largely immaterial.)

However, though I agree generally with the result of the opinion of the Cart, I feel I must voice my disapproval on a certain matter of considerable import.

I am shocked, shocked, by my sister’s apparent willingness to cast aside sound precedent. The concept of stare decisis is foundational in any common law system of adjudication. It is “usually the wise policy, because in most matters it is more important that the applicable rule of law be settled than that it be settled right.” Burnet v. Coronado Oil & Gas Co., 285 U.S. 393, 406-407, 410 (1932) (Brandeis, J., dissenting).

I thought it well settled law that a potato is, indeed, a “vegetable.” Therefore, my sister’s eagerness to reopen that question—to ask, as she does, “[a]re potatoes vegetables?”—is perturbing, to say the least.

In a seminal case of the United States Supreme Court, it was determined that a tomato is a “vegetable.” Nix v. Hedden, 149 U.S. 304 (1893). In that case, the Court wrote:

Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people, whether sellers or consumers of provisions, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert.

Id. (emphasis added). And thus, in passing on the question of the tomato, that venerable body passed also on the question of the potato.

Now, my sister may object that such is merely obiter dicta. But, from Nix, the now settled legal test for whether a plant is, for culinary purposes, a “fruit” or a “vegetable” rests on whether the plant is “usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast” or whether the plant is served “like fruits generally, as dessert.” While I am aware that the potato may be employed in a dessert, it is common knowledge that it most often served with “the principal part of the repast.” Indeed, it is so with HPF’s Sassy Chicken meal. Thus, as far as this Cart is concerned, there can be no question but that a potato is, in fact, a “vegetable.”

Instead, I would treat my sister’s question as dicta. It is simply too late in time to reopen discussion of the inherent vegetableness of the potato.

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