Count the Observer Staff In">

Free Food for "Fiends" Who "Toil Not;"
Count the Observer Staff In

The free food frenzy that's currently gripping Dallas could induce eaters to quit their jobs and loaf full time -- or so feared observers during the last era of widespread food giveaways.

What's so scary about Taco Cabana offering free chicken fajita tacos on August 3? As Chris Anderson wrote in his 2009 book Free: How Today's Smartest Businesses Profit by Giving Something for Nothing, restaurateurs in the late-19th century -- when free lunches were a staple of the bar business -- discovered their promotions helped create a class of slovenly bums, who drifted from one free meal to the next.

Anderson quotes from an 1872 New York Times story which assailed "free-lunch fiends" who "toil not."

"He leads a wretched life," the Times reporter wrote of the typical free-lunch consumer. "He will lounge for hours."

What made such a slothful lifestyle possible was the bounty that surfaced daily at most eateries. Assuming the publicity and potential drink sales more than made up for any money spent on food, saloons set out grand spreads. Anderson described a New Orleans giveaway as consisting of "vast dishes of butter, large baskets of bread, huge vessels filled with potatoes, stewed mutton, stewed tomatoes, macaroni a la Francaise and a round of beef that must have weighed 40 pounds."

Minus the mutton, that's a pretty good approximation of what's available, free of charge, to Dallas eaters right now. As City of Ate reported yesterday, there's free beef to be had at Krystal, free tomatoes at Arcorodo & Pomodoro and free pasta at Villa-O.

And now, free tacos at Taco Cabana. The deal runs from 4 p.m.-7 p.m.

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