Monday, November 03, 2008

Taking a trip down memory lane

I was reading my Arkie Army buddy's blog post in which The Hawg is campaigning to have IHOP bring back boysenberry syrup and it got me to thinking about the homogenization of America. Our foods are becoming more standardized, and we are losing a lot. It is starting to remind me of a situation with kids who eat the same bland diet and refuse to try the new and different.
My town, which is physically fairly large (about 25 square miles or so) has 5 (five)McDonald's Restaurants (yeah, I know, it's a stretch calling them a restaurant, but we need to call them something.) I live in what is technically known as a megalopolis, that is our towns are not like one sees in other parts of the country. The towns are right next to one another, and I can assure you the nearby towns also have MickeyD's. Within 20 minutes or so of my home are another 3 or 4 at least.
I can't even count how many Domino's Pizza shops are in the area, and Subways are everywhere.
Does anyone really think this food is any good? I'll admit that a dollar cheeseburger from MickeyD's tastes ok,and even Domino's pizza for 5 bucks is a pretty good value. But I really wonder what is happening to everyone's tastes when they believe this mediocre stuff is good. Photobucket
Growing up, on Sunday morning, we went to the Italian bakery, the one that only baked bread, and bought a fresh, still warm, loaf of crispy Italian style twist bread. It wasn't baked in a large factory, somewhere hundreds of miles away, and then set on the store shelf for days. Mr. LaCorte baked it that morning, and one of his daughters sold it to me. The sausage for dinner came from a local butcher. It wasn't made a week ago, and wrapped in plastic and frozen or stored for weeks on end. It was made either the day I bought it, or the one before at worst. And pizza came from Mr. Caffaro. He baked it in a brick oven that was part of the pizzaria's building that was probably 50+ years old. These products were unique to my Italian neighborhood, and nothing exactly like it was available anywhere else. But that was a good thing. When a friend or family member visited from a different part of the country, they were treated to something unique. When we visited them, the favor was returned with something unique from their region. As foods, and America itself, has become homogenized, and our unique qualities disappear. And that stinks.
They say that our strongest memories are associated with food and smells. I'm sure you have heard your elderly relatives talk about a favorite dish from childhood. They will tell you they can still taste it, or smell Grandma's house when she made it or the smell of the bakery where they bought a favorite food.Photobucket
Do you think kids today will have pleasant memories of the smell of Shop Rite? Will they sigh and think about the taste of Cheesy bread or MickeyD's fries?

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Gianetta said...

I know what you mean. You can't beat the food from your old neighborhoods. I'd love to have a pizza burger from old McCellan's Tastee Freeze in southern Ohio.

Unknown said...

Growing up, we did not eat out often. My Dad got paid once a month and we had to make the money last. Sandies had the best burgers where I lived and KFC was called Kentucky Fried Chicken. For ice cream we went in, sat down and was served. My associates make fun of me because my family sits down and eats dinner together every night. Home cooked and all of us at the dinner table. America has dumbed down.

HumorSmith said...

You are absolutely right. Unfortunately. I can't remember the last really unique, delicious meal I had, although the neighbor kids did ask me if I'd seen their dog lately.

Unknown said...

Mmmm, now I'm starving..

TheFLy said...

I will say this; I once went on an all fast food diet while in college and it definitely not healthy. I felt sluggish, old, crotchety, and a need to yell at cars. It was weird, haha.

I say we should clone our food, solve the hunger problems in the world. Soon, we will be eating a sheet of paper with all the basic nutrients and vitamins our bodies need. Mmmmmmm. De-Lish.

A New Yorker said...

So true. But I grew up in the burbs of all burbs where there was nothing to go to not even the bakery you mention. My best food memory is Mom's pot roast and her home made stuffing at Thanksgiving. YUMMY!

Unknown said...

Three of my favorite eating experiences occurred in New Jersey. One was eating real Italian (pronounced: I...talian) lasagna in a little neighborhood restaurant in Clinton. The next one also involved some kind of out-of-this-world great Italian food in a fairly fancy (for me) place not too far from the Delaware Water Gap, way west (for New Jersey) of you. The last one is most certainly not the least--not by a long shot. For I still get weak in knees thinking of the Pastrami sandwiches (I had to go back and get another) that I got from a deli in Patterson, I think. I haven't been able to find pastrami like that anywhere since.

Deb said...

Like Ettarose, growing up we did not eat out often. Dinner in a nice restaurant as a family was saved for birthdays. Both my parents worked, but a home cooked meal was on the dinner on the table every day (at 4:20 pm) and we ate dinner as a family. I cringe in the supermarket when I see the Fat Butt Family pushing the shopping cart filled with frozen foods, potato chips, Ring Dings and what sends me through the roof: cases of soda. Convenience does not have to mean junk food, but it takes some effort, but apparently too much for a large number of people.

eve cleveland said...

Old Man,
Beautifully done, Darlin'. No kidding.

Unknown said...

I prefer to go to local diners for things like burgers and fries, or hot roast beef sandwiches, simply because it's that excellent, unchanged diner experience-- usually that involves waitresses clanking dishes in front of you and calling you "hon."

I do like the taste of KFC, but I think many of the other fast food places don't taste the same anymore now that they've had regulations on oils and other things.

It's not really yummy to me anymore.

Chat Blanc said...

I grew up in a very rural area so I was actually spoiled by the awesome taste of fresh fruits and veggies we grew ourselves; beef, pork, and chicken we raised and slaughtered; homemade breads and desserts; fish we caught ourselves; morel mushrooms from the timber; and homemade meals. I'm glad I don't have kids cuz there's no way I could replicate that for them and I think that's a shame. I sometimes forget how lucky I was!

Da Old Man said...

@ MA: Pizza Burger? Sounds good to me.

@ Etta: So true about families being "On the run" and not taking time for dinner.

@ Humor: Thankfully, we are surrounded by Chinese restaurants.

@ Dani: I am, too. :)

@ The Fly: MMMM, paper meals. So Jetsons

@ Lauren: The old 'hoods have such great places. You guys in the 'burbs missed out.

@ Fishhawk: NJ has great Italian restaurants. We have a place near here for deli that is unbelievable. I's called Harold's. Pretty famous place. Sandwich is around 30 bucks, so much meat 2 people can get 3 or 4 meals out of it. Need to call the Crotchety Old Lady and let her know what to pick up for dinner on her way home. :)

@ Deb: Hey, stop looking in my shopping cart. :) To be honest, I haven't used a microwave for years. We use ours to store stuff.

@ Eve: Thanks. I'm glad you liked it.

@ Jenn: And I'll bet you get gravy on your fries. That is such a big part of the diner experience.

@ Chat: Are you really Laura Ingalls? I do remember seeing you in a "Little House on the Prairie" outfit once. I used to spend summers on a farm. Nothing comes close to corn picked and brought into the house and cooked within a couple minutes.

Kirsten said...

Now I'm really hungry and all I have is McDonald's and Pizza Hut. Thanks a lot! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Crotchety! Fortunately, we've still got some "local" restaurants in these parts.

In Benton, there's Ed & Kay's which features good ol' home cooking, Bo's Barbecue, Denton's Trotline (for the best catfish anywhere) and a few others. If you head up to northwest Arkansas you'll find Tontitown -- originally settled by Italian immigrants and featuring some of the best Italian restaurants around.

But, here's the thing. I used to live in northwest Arkansas and decided the area was losing its character about the time that the Olive Garden was built in Fayetteville and became more popular than those fantastic places in Tontitown.

Oh, and thanks for the link! Make sure to jump right on that pro-boysenberry bandwagon! I'm sick to death of losing things I loved in my youth.

Maybe that's what happens when we approach middle age, huh?

Da Old Man said...

@ Kirsten: Sorry. There's got to be some place better than that, though.

@ The Hawg: Calling Olive Garden an Italian restaurant is like calling MickeyD's a steak house. Sad how this is happening. Tontitown, huh? I'm trying to convince the Mrs. to move. Fine restaurants are always a good incentive for her. I'm also joining the pro boysenberry movement.

Donnie said...

My dad was manager of a chemical plant that had over 1,000 employees. They had their own barber shop, baseball team and commissary/grocery. They sold meats, vegetables, breads, candies and cakes, etc. that were all grown or made by the employees and their families. Even the beef was 100% Angus and raised by a man named "Faye" Perkins. We all ate great food at a great low price!!!

Kathy said...

My dad owned a tire service company and they serviced a fleet of bakery trucks. We'd get to go there on Sunday mornings and pick off rolls and bread RIGHT FROM THE CONVEYOR BELT after coming out of the oven. Sometimes I'd eat a kaiser roll right there, still hot in my hands. I remember the unbearable heat of the plant and the freshness of the bread. Nothing like it! Thanks. Now I'm starving.

JD at I Do Things said...

Mmmm. I'm sorry, but I do love McDonald's and a few other fast-food chains. But your descriptions of fresh bread and pizza make me feel sad for my youth. When I was a kid, the biggest deal possible was my dad walking thru the door with Burger King bags.

Today, tho, if you have me a choice, I'd pick the fresh bread over a Big Mac.

Just barely.

JD at I Do Things

Da Old Man said...

@ Don: That sounds wonderful. Beats the crap out of the Frankenfood we get today

@ Kathy: I love bread warm from the oven. What a great memory

@ JD: MickeyD's tastes ok, but you need to go to one of the places like White Rose (a neghborhood burger joint with a couple locations in central NJ) and you would be so spoiled.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you old man!!! You know if you eat out for a couple of days and then eat a home cooked meal, you can instantly feel the difference. I don't think most people realize that their bodies hate fast food, whether their taste buds say otherwise or not!!! Sure, we do the "convenience" thing every once in awhile, but I try to cook most of the time.

Laura said...

Great post! I really enjoyed reading it but now I'm starving! :)

Da Old Man said...

@ Angie: We cook nearly every day, too. Fast food is maybe once a week or less.

@ Laura: Have something healthy. :)

Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy said...

Oh man, I am starving and that post did not help me out man!! I can smell that Italian bread right now and my stomach is growling. Damn you!!

Da Old Man said...

@ Petra: It was good, too. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. All it needed was some butter. Or a piece of provolone cheese and some dried sausage or pepperoni.