Fast Food

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

Does anyone really know exactly what is in those regular tacos from Jack in the Box? I recognize the lettuce, the hot sauce, the cheese and even the fried corn tortilla that holds it all together, but what is that mashed meat-like substance in the middle? It’s a conundrum that has haunted me for years. In spite of my misgivings I have been an avid fan of those darn things for as long as I can remember. If it’s lunchtime and I am in a pinch I love seeing a Jack in the Box drive through where I can order two regular tacos and a medium diet coke for around five dollars. it’s a perfect meal that tastes good and fills me up, but niggle in the back of my mind worries me. I really do believe that I am eating something that maybe should not got into my body. Luckily I have never had a bad reaction to that combination and so it has become by go to order on those now rare occasions when I actually imbibe in fast food.

A few years back we took two of our grandchildren to California. On the way there we stopped by the Grand Canyon and watched the sunset in that magnificent place. As we were driving back to our campground later in the evening we all suddenly felt hungry, but had a difficult time finding somewhere to stop for a bit of nourishment. The only place that appeared to be open was a McDonald’s much to my chagrin. While I have never become ill from consuming my Jack in the Box tacos, I almost always have a very bad reaction to McDonald’s food unless I order a Happy Meal or an Egg McMuffin. I did not think that it was a particularly good idea to eat something that might have bad consequences for the long drive that lay ahead of us the next day, so I was in a quandary as to how to sate my hunger. I decided that my best bet was to order an Egg McMuffin which just happened to be available twenty four hours a day at that time. It was a blessing not to have to consume anything else.

I’m generally not a fan of fast food restaurants. I don’t even particularly like Chic-Fil-A which seems to place me in the minority when it comes to my family. If I want chicken I much prefer going to Popeye’s, but it’s not always easy to find one of them and as I grow older like fried foods less and less. If I had the power to choose only one place that would be available anywhere that I went, it would be Whataburger. I like the Whataburger Junior meal with a small diet Coke and the spicy ketchup for my fries. It has the perfect taste and comes in just the right size, and not once has it made me sick. For me it is the essence of perfection if I have to grab something quickly and be certain that the quality will always be there. Sadly it’s difficult to find Whataburger in most places in the United States which we found out on that same road trip to California when my grandchildren were craving Whataburgers rather than In-N- Out.  

The absolute best drive thru that I ever encountered was a Portillo’s in the Chicago area. Their menu is divine and caters to meat lovers like my husband and those who prefer an excellent and fresh salad like me. He always wants a polish sausage with onions on a big bun while I prefer the chopped salad which is to die for. For desert lovers there are huge slices of cake that are more like your mama used to make than something one would expect to find in a fast food place. 

Portillo’s knows to expect large crowds at lunchtime so they have perfected a system for lining up the cars and taking the orders that is so quick that customers almost never stop moving. I don’t know how they do it given the enormous menu and the quality of the food. If a Portillo’s ever came to the Houston area it would be an instant hit and I for one would become a regular customer. 

I’ve enjoyed traveling with my trailer behind our truck these days. When we’re hungry we can go inside and prepare our own food. I know what the ingredients are and everything is fresh. I don’t have to worry that I will get caught having to eat something that disagrees with me. These days I enjoy vegetables and fruit much more than meat, and for some reason I only like sandwiches if I have prepared them myself. I suppose that I have become much too finicky and far less adventurous with my eating than I once was. I’d rather so inside a grocery store to choose the things that sit well with me than to take my chances at a Taco Bell. 

Fast food has become a way of life in America. Back when I was young we had Prince’s Hamburger drive ins where we ordered food from a waitress who came out to the car. The food was actually quite good but the company was locally owned and eventually mostly went out of business. As a kid I loved going to James’ Coney Island for hot dogs but in downtown Houston where you had to go inside and snake through a long line to get the best hot dogs I have ever eaten. We also had a local hamburger joint called Chuck Wagon that was fast, but we still had to walk up to order our food. Those places were the absolute best and I don’t think that the fact that I was just a kid when I craved their food diminishes the quality of what we got back then. 

I can hardly recall the last time I stopped at a fast food restaurant or even ate out. I’ve become an old fuddy duddy who would literally rather be a bit hungry than eat just anything. To look at me you would think that I munch on fried foods and junk all of the time, but I’ve all but given up those things. Give me an apple and a few slices of really good cheese and I am content until the next meal. The only fast food I now crave is Whataburger and if Portillo’s ever comes to town I’ll be the first in line for a yummy chopped salad. Of course I’m still willing to get my two regular tacos at Jack in the Box as well. It’s funny how I still don’t mind that mystery meat.


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