Monday, December 17, 2012
The Lost Art of Dining, American-Style
Having embarked on the Good Ship Shopping-Go-Round where I revisit the same stores over and over in my Amnesiac Final Race to Christmas, I decided to change things up. To get through the next Eight Days of Christmas, I fashioned for myself a jolly behavior-modification reward. Or maybe delayed-gratification. I’m not sure.
But it involved FINISHING my shopping, then rewarding me by eating restaurant food with actual other people. Their names are Susan and Terese.
Just like me, neither are done shopping nor currently teach.
“Guys, let’s make a vow, “ I said via conference call. “No matter what state of Loose End our Christmas shopping is in, tomorrow night at 6:00, let’s stop, drop and roll; and I don’t mean sushi or egg. I want a bromated white-bread hot buttered roll smeared with gravy and meatloaf. With gravy as a beverage.”
They were in.
Susan even knew of this quaint place a few towns over that specialized in New England fare: a ‘true grit’ kind of place with a name like Ye Olde Yankee Hearth-Stone Taverne Port O’Call that John Wayne himself was said to have patronized for their strapping shanks of pot roast -- and popovers the size of a Buick.
When we sat down, each of us lurched toward the menus already swiping at drool, power-scanning for gritty fare.
What was our surprise to instead find delicate, smarmy foods. They sounded like they needed pre-treating: Sashini Morselettes, Seed O’ Sesame Fusion Cubes, Crème de Blanc A La Tete. Stuff you know would arch its back and dart off the instant you sat it near ketchup.
Clearly Americans need more restaurants that feature our country’s native specialties.
So that night, our group of natives trollop’d through the countryside in search of our culinary roots, to find a restaurant that spoke to our purple mountain’s majesty, the amber waves of grain.
We found two such establishments the next town over.
Not a group to skimp during the holidays, we opted to patronize both and compare them, hopefully discerning for our nation the one true restaurant that best caters to Americana.
To be fair, we ordered identical menu items at each restaurant and after much deliberation, we discovered the cheeseburger meal at Burger King beat Ronald’s Happy Meal, two-to-one.
My friend Susan still points excitedly to where the flame-broiled after-burn left its special impression.
Noting the health-consciousness of contemporary consumers in our age-demographic, we ordered plastic cups of sliced onions because studies have found that they reduce serum cholesterol.
Plastic cups do not, however, contain enough of the calcium women need. Or fiber. So we ordered super large milk shakes, then ate our BK bags (made from recyclable cellulose flakes that RACE to the colon like Lady-Lax).
Susan chose to eat the onions in her cup, and discovered they self-drape on a burger better than the minced onion spread from McDonald’s. They also burned especially well with that lasting flame-broiled impression.
But the best thing to do with BK onions is play our favorite American Travel Game, High Speed Ring Toss. Terese was the high-scorer when she nailed the antenna of a ‘75 T-Bird doing 83 MPH.
BK french fries are a drier variety than McDonald’s and have a tendency to cool down faster. As some of us hadn’t eaten since Sunday, this was an important french fry feature.
The accelerated cool-down rate probably defies some law of physics, but I think Burger King uses special fast-cooling potatoes, via root-vegetable genetics, as a promotional device.
If you ask for ketchup, Burger King will actually hand you the exact number you ask for.
McDonald’s gives you a fistful which is approximately nine pouches from the average employee hand and that is just plain too much ketchup. Several packets drop to my car mats where they explode on sunny days.
The Burger King vanilla milk shake was more crystalline than dairy drinks at McD’s, which, on our Chewable Beverage Scale, rated a big 8.5!
An American Hamburger Drive-Thru Meal cannot be rated unless you consider the plastic toy inside the bag.
As a team of ex-professional educators, we were pretty impressed with the BK Crown Activity Box “with inspiring, fun activities.” Although Terese and Susan fought over the Kidz-Bop CD Collectibles. (Terese wanted Number 4 and Susan refused to trade it for Terese’s Number 2.)
Speaking of number 2, the revival of the Teenage Mutant Action Figures in Ronald’s Happy Meal gave me cramps.
The last time I’d had to look at those weaponized ninjas, I was winding up my newborn’s pink puffy-cloud mobile, when, what to my unfocused eyes should appear, but Raphael, Donatello and Two Mutant Deer, spinning ‘round to Braham’s Lullaby, causing the baby and me to scream.
Her brothers had fastened multiple mutant-figures to the mobile -- each locked in a death grip to a pink cirrus or lavender cumulonimbus by miniature metallic nunchucks.
Not only was it violent and horrific, Amphibious-Green in no way blended with lavender or pink.
I won’t go into the decorative Mutant Stickers that wouldn’t peel off the sheet ... or the Michelangelo figure in his Turtle-Mobile wedged sideways inside his Shell Garage who couldn’t drive outta that sucker if he were set on fire with a childproof cigarette lighter. We tried.
Finally, we found the caliber of car exhaust to be especially high quality at the BK drive-thru line.
The McDonald’s drive-thru line was so thick with blue oil and diesel, we couldn’t see if we were shouting our order into a speaker or an ornamental shrub.
Bored with American Cuisine, Terese, Susan and I are paying tribute to Italy on New Year’s Eve by comparing Papa Gino’s with Pizza Hut.
Buon appetito et Buon Natale!