I have fond memories of piling into a Pinto with my high school friends to eat lunch at Burger King several times a week unless someone successfully campaigned for pizza or tacos. There was a brief period when we split the salad bar four ways (likely why they now have single-serving salads), but we always returned to burgers done our way, onion rings, and fries. It was standard to hit the drive thru after a dance or a movie, and we kept our eyes on the clock to make it there before midnight after (or in the middle of) a party. At the risk of sounding like an old-timer, I swear fast food tasted better twenty years ago. I survived one summer on donuts from the bakery where I worked and personal pan pizzas with garlic bread.
Young family life put an end to the gluttony of my teen years, although my first request after my daughter was born was for a Whopper and a Coke as big as my head. We couldn’t afford to eat out very often, so it became a treat, especially to me because it meant I didn’t have to cook. But, I felt like a better Mom serving my daughter yogurt and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches rather than watching her repeatedly suck ketchup off of fries and coaxing her to take two bites of a fast food burger, an early sign that she had better taste. Fast food was still a social event, shared with mutually fat-addicted friends who were also young mothers.
I am not sure when I started looking at fast food while I was eating it, but I do remember thinking that it was a mistake. This was the first step toward disillusionment. I began to frequent the drive thru less often and found occasional forays decreasingly enjoyable. Not only did it not taste like it used to, but my digestion also became more sensitive, making it rather inconvenient in a time crunch. I suggested that we cook burgers on the grill when we got the kids together for a play date and expanded our diet at home to
include more fresh food. Our budget began to allow meals at sit-down restaurants where I was not afraid to look at the food. The death knell for my fast food cravings was an introduction to fine dining establishments. I found a new love and there was no turning back after savoring almond-encrusted walleye, perfectly prepared filet mignon,
and garlic herb whipped potatoes. Deep-fried apple pie in a cardboard container could not compete with Crème brûlée decorated with fresh berries. The fine table settings set aglow by the flame of a butter warmer enchanted me. Indulgence grew into a multisensory dining experience and there was nothing fast about it. Small plates expanded my palate and an introduction to sushi proved that there was nothing to be afraid of. I was willing to try almost anything, even oysters on the half shell. After all, I had stared at the insides of a Whopper and ate that.
The definition of fast food has changed to salads thrown together with grilled chicken at home, and the treat of eating out requires saving for a few weeks. Now I understand
what delayed gratification means and the reward is delicious.