“Seamless—How New York Eats" is the tagline for the takeout company's new ads that've been cropping up on New York City buses, bus stops, subways, and buildings. In a punchy design that echoes old school New York restaurant typography are pithy slogans like "Avoid cooking like you avoid Times Square,” “Cooking is so Jersey,” and “Cook when you’re dead or living in Westchester.”
They’re funny. They go for the jugular. Their premise is simple:
Cooking = eating with effort = :(
Seamless = eating with ease = :)
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These equations are flawed. Seamless's ads inspired me to play dirty, too, because, contrary to Seamless's opinions, cooking can be cool. Risqué even. (Just look at Dale Talde.) Here are some slogans I was thinking about—what do you think?
It's not that I'm against takeout. I eat it. I use Seamless. I appreciate its existence many an exhausted night and frenzied day. That said, it’s probably still not surprising that I’m not the biggest fan of their new ads. The thing is, just because takeout is good doesn’t mean cooking has to be bad (or frumpy, or unnecessary, or difficult).
I don’t think the merits of cooking need to be expounded to the audience of Food52, but for those who can get behind these ads, here’s a short lowdown of why cooking is good—besides the fact that you get to eat:
You’ll know at least a little more about where your food and ingredients come from.
Similarly, you can control the ingredients that go into your food, like salt, MSG, and oil.
You can eat exactly what you want. Does your takeout burrito have the sour cream that you requested be left off? What a bummer.
Home-cooked food doesn’t come in disposable containers.
Home-cooked food just tastes better?
And so on.
Seamless’s ads cold-shoulder all these values. (Seamless, you’re so cool—do you live in Brooklyn?) But another reason cooking is good for Seamless (and for us) is because it’s required for takeout to exist—not to mention taste good. It’s not in Seamless’s interest to make cooking appear bad.
Without cooking, customers and potential customers of Seamless will value food and the people who make it less—to the point where they may not want to pay the minimums and delivery fees to get their food delivered. Someone has to grow, harvest, pack, transport, unload, sell, buy, and cook the food before it gets delivered to doorsteps. Belittling this process has never benefited anyone—ever. History has shownusmanytimesoverwhathappenswhen we don’t pay attention to how our food gets to our table.
Cooking means we can eat, but it also fosters curiosity about our food system, which makes us ask questions, which makes the process better. That’s why schools have vegetable gardens. And it's why McDonald’s is now using eggs from cage-free hens. Anyone who works in food needs to maintain its importance; if we don’t, we’ll be out of jobs—and a planet. So even if people don’t want to cook (that’s us, too, sometimes!), we have to respect the process if we want people to pay attention—and money—for it.
Ads by BBH New York; images by James Ransom.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).