Happy New Year! Holidays behind us (and soon resolutions as well), I am busying myself with my college final, set for Inauguration Day. Two days following I will be shipping off to Tokyo for two weeks! This somehow excuses my lack of updates.
The last time I posted I was making Christmas dinner. After Christmas we went on a road trip with friends from New York down to Tennessee, and celebrated New Year’s Memphis-style. There was The King, blues, luscious barbecue, and good company.
We tried to get out fill of Americana on the drive from New York to Kentucky, tourist season permitting. Although sadly some of the great road destinations were closed, we did visit the Creation Museum, Mammoth Cave and Diamond Caverns, Big Mike’s fun house, and as many kitsch or antique stores as we could find signs for. Here’s a sample of the sights…
Our GPS, the Garmen, was a Christmas present to Matt from his folks. Thank you! She gave us her best stern British accent when we drove “off the map” and many times instructed us to turn around. But we always found what we were looking for, regardless of how many turns involved.
In spite of the novelty above, the most unusual thing for me was the abundance of road food. In the face of HFCS and factory meat, we ordered the hell out of those speaker boxes at the drive-ins. Nutter butters, breakfast burritos, sugar-free energy drinks, Sonic burgers, fries, and Krispy Kremes all went down the hatch. It was all washed down with some seriously watery coffee.
This is the most fast food I’ve eaten since I was 12, and probably the most processed food I’ve eaten in the past five years. I was in the midst of Fast Food Nation the first leg of our trip, reading Schlosser’s more pithy observations aloud to amuse Matt while driving. We barely noticed the change from KFC to Chick-fil-a on our way down the interstates. It was shocking to myself and also convenient for our trip that given no clear alternative to drive-in, I accepted and ate bad food that looked and tasted good. In this case convenience and assembly lines are clearly not healthy. None of the four of us frequently eat at chains, but on the road it’s eat or die (i.e. fall asleep at the wheel). We were a long way from college towns and big cities.
Once back in New York, we felt a little dirty, and desperately wanted to use the kitchen. The morning after returning, we made this un-McMuffin. It was unholy. Some truffled semi-hard cow cheese, an organic egg lightly fried in a couple teaspoons of unsalted butter, and a perfectly toasted honey-wheat English muffin. Nothing clears up indigestion like a little slice of homemade.
In all seriousness, if you have not read Fast Food Nation, I strongly recommend it, especially if you were scarred by the cinematic version. The film is all Linklater in all the wrong ways (monologues and running at the mouth aplenty, sex, drugs, bad stereotyping and Ethan Hawke, need I say more?). The book, however, is a well done exposé that opens with Uncle Walt and closes with the Cold War, and whose tone starts with sentimental and ends with shocking.
I will leave you with this quote, so profound it changed the American chicken:
“‘I have an idea,’ Fred Turner, the chairman of McDonald’s, told one of his [chicken] suppliers in 1979. ‘I want a chicken finger-food without bones, about the size of your thumb. Can you do it?’”