Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fast Food Slow

I'm not talking about Service at a fast food joint.  I have gone to all of them in the areas I've been in and most folks can say the same.  Everyone has their horror stories about how bad the service can be.  After all, you have people working a minimum wage job that can best be described as hazardous.

What I'm talking about is that whole slow food movement and how it applies to convenience food.   Slow food is the movement where you are expected to take sometimes hours eating a meal of exquisitely prepared food of the highest quality in a high end setting that is designed to enhance the experience.  I have had meals like that and almost always I find myself annoyed by the experience.   I see it as an unsaid comment of superiority in that they're saying look how much better we are for choosing this time consuming way of getting your food to the table.  The food may be better quality, and sometimes it is indeed worth it, but any time I'm still sitting at the table an hour after I've started eating and I still haven't finished, I am getting very fidgety and thinking what on earth is wrong with the kitchen here and vowing never to come back.

There are exceptions.   Some exceptions to that are truly glorious. 

But why is it that we have gravitated to fast food when the experience is almost without exception ... vile?

Speed, convenience, and our hurried lives have a lot to do with it.   The point is that every single "market" has its share of places that you can get conveniently served food of the highest quality and have it quickly.  Those places are generally very difficult to get in at peak hours and may be a One Off place where if it is a chain, it is a small one in comparison.

Is it possible to have fast food that is done in the slow food tradition of high quality ingredients prepared in the best of all possible worlds?   If you think no, you probably live in a suburban area in a tract home and drive an SUV.  In other words, that whole herd mentality has boxed you in.   Take a little time and reclaim what we've learned over the centuries about the quality and preparation of food and experience something that is wonderful. 

I've written about my biscuits before.  Few people would even consider churning butter to make the blasted things at home at all, but when I tell you it takes under 30 minutes to do so you might change your mind.  I can't even eat biscuits at KFC and most people from areas that don't have a biscuit baking culture will think they're wonderful.  They aren't.  And yes, I am talking about my own Philadelphia Area. 

I did the whole breakfast in the car thing for years while I was commuting.  40% of all breakfasts are served from Mc Donalds on a given day and I was fond of a Sausage and Egg Biscuit.  Recently I tasted one of them and nearly hurled it out the window.  Dry Biscuits, over salted and over cooked, a Sausage that tasted of grease and salt and spice, and eggs that I could have patched a blown tire with.

Yesterday I set out to duplicate the fast food experience in my own back yard.  I had gone to GFS and gotten some of their pre-fab Spiced French Fries and tossed them in the oven after lightly dusting them with Parmesan Cheese.   I had had a real Kaiser Roll, well, real by Florida Standards and slathered it with Swiss Cheese and some sweet Bread and Butter Pickles, mustard and ketchup, and grilled a black angus burger on my grill to Medium Well (160F).  Since I had gotten 4 of them prefab from the shops, I'll be having this all week... they warm up well in the microwave with a quick "hotfoot".

But like I said, you don't have to do it yourself.  Those difficult to get into restaurants are there waiting for you.  I'm thinking of a couple in specific both here and in South Jersey that I wouldn't mind to go back to.  Sure, the food all comes in on the same Sysco truck, but in the hands of the right chef with a mind to maintain quality you can get a great meal.

In the interim, I'll keep going to the dives and the one off restaurants.  You can keep your chains.

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