Friday, June 10, 2011
So...has anyone been in a fast food restaurant lately?
I have to say, I haven't. The lack of funds coupled with the lack of car and, well, there's been a LOT of "dining in" the last couple of years. But, while 98% of meals are still cooked (and cleaned up after) by me, we ARE able to indulge in the occasional meal out now.
Last Sunday, the hubster had to go to a meeting in downtown L.A. The hubster (who spends a great deal of time telling people I have NO sense of direction and can't find my own way to the bathroom without a map)looked up where the meeting was and told me "It's about two blocks from where the Avon Express pick up store is." This, btw, is NOT the greatest part of town but hell, I was dropping him off and not staying myself, I figured it was HIS lookout.
After wandering around said unsavory area for a few blocks, being on the right street but the address wasn't what it should have been, I looked up at a street sign. We were on West. The address he had given me was on EAST.
Back across town we chugged. It's June here in So Cal, there's a reason they call it June gloom. It was pushing 8pm, it was chilly and it had started to rain. About 10 minutes later we found the equally unsavory area his meeting was in, dropped him off (after assuring myself that it WAS the right address and seeing someone we both knew entering the scuzzy warehouse type trendy loft in the middle of the urban blight also known as Downtown Los Angeles) the boys (who have been so long without a car they come along for rides to the garbage can) and I headed for home.
Fortunately I know my way around downtown, I worked there for many a year. I headed towards Alameda, turned left and started up towards Union Station and the freeway. We hadn't had dinner yet. I assumed the hubster would be fed at this meeting (I assumed wrong, btw, as did he)and it was now past 8, dark, cold and raining. At a red light I glanced at my wallet and considered my options.
"I've got 20 bucks" I said. Anyone got any more? The boys did, so I started thinking of inexpensive grub. I threw out a casual suggestion..."there's a Farmer Boys up here you know..." They leaped at the idea.
Farmer Boys is a favorite of ours. It's kind of a restaurant and kind of a Burger King. The menu is fairly extensive, one orders at the counter and puts your number on the table and the food is delivered. Their fried zucchini is to DIE for. And there aren't any of them remotely close to us here in the urban village, most of them are in the nouveau not-so-riche-as-they-think-they-are Inland Empire. This is what the people who live there call San Bernardino. An Empire sounds ever so much better than Corona, which just sounds like beer, don't you think? Me neither. I don't care what they call it, it's still the leading edge of the Mojave Desert. This Farmer Boys, however, is quite possibly the only one in Los Angeles County. Opposite the Produce Market, it's open 24/7. So is the Produce Market.
I parked the car in a place I could SEE it and we trooped in to order. As I said, we weren't in the best of neighborhoods. Farmer Boys seldom are, btw. But they're clean, friendly, secure and good food at a decent price. Now, will someone please explain to me WHY my standby turkey on whole grain is 870 freaking CALORIES?????
That menu board was one of the scariest things I've seen since the Wicked Witch of the West melted. All that wonderful, made to order food. Complete with calorie count right next to it. Fish and Chips. Oooooo, sounded wonderful, hot and crunchy on a cold and rainy night. All TWO THOUSAND CALORIES of it!
I started looking at the burgers. For the last 20 years or so I have shied away from burgers in favor or things like turkey on whole wheat. The burgers, however, were sitting there with numbers like "550" next to them which, compared to the turkey and the coveted Fish and Chips started looking like a real bargain. Then I saw it.
CHILI CHEESE BURGER. 460.
So there we were, on a cold and rainy night in June in a semi-deserted industrial area in downtown Los Angeles snug in a booth where we could watch the parked car through the window while I went into raptures over the chili burger I had denied myself for these many years. Chili, rain and cold are made for each other anyway, but there, and the 24 hour Farmer Boys, I felt I was having one of the best meals of my life.
We found ourselves on the road home, full and content. Perhaps it was the fiber in the chili. My younger son, the recent college graduate was musing about my burger discovery and decided that the lower calorie count of the burger I had was due to the lack of mayonnaise and 1000 Island Dressing that is usually present on a straight burger and I'm inclined to agree. Works for me, anyway. So, the dilemma I face is this? What's better (or worse)? The more healthy turkey on 42 as yet undiscovered grains bread at 870 calories or the chili cheeseburger at slightly more than half the calories but every stinking one of them will end up attached to my butt?
When my son graduated we celebrated with the once a year excellent meal at the local overpriced eatery and THEY didn't have the calories next to the salmon pate on the menu. I'm guessing that the rule that states you have to put the calorie count by the food you're serving only applies to menus too big to actually hold. If it has to be screwed into a wall, you have to paint numbers other than the price on it.
It's also possible that if you pay 20 bucks for a side of creamed spinach it doesn't go straight to your thighs. Perhaps there's some sort of causal connection there.
What all of this means though, is that, in spite of my newly found drive-through freedom, I'm going back to cooking. The turkey sandwich may still have 870 calories, but if I don't write them down, they don't count. Yeah, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.