If you are leaving New York to visit Texas, these are socially acceptable comments:
- “I could use some warm weather.”
- “We’re looking forward to seeing friends.”
- “I miss driving more than 30 miles an hour.”
- “I haven’t seen an armadillo in a long time.”
- “I enjoy the jealousy or pity on people’s faces when I say ‘I’m from Brooklyn’.”
This is not a socially acceptable comment: “I want a Quarter Pounder with fries.”
I know how unsophisticated that makes me sound. After two years in a culinary mecca, a center for gastronomic delights, and the world’s best pizza, I am supposed to be beyond mass produced fast food, but I am not. Mine is not a sophisticated palate.
This is a difficult confession to make. I know how bad ordering off the dollar menu is. I saw Supersize Me. Finger lickin’ good is not good for me. I can see that the Burger King is creepy. I have read studies that say that if you eat a bacon cheeseburger, you have a 75 percent chance of a heart attack before you get to the Frosty.
But I live 250 miles from the nearest Cook Out. None of the arguments against driving through a drive-thru — and staring at the menu until the guy behind me starts honking — are enough to keep my mouth from watering with anticipation at driving south on Interstate 35 knowing there are six fast food places at every exit.
Fast food is democratic. Working people can afford everything that you stand in line to order — and you do not have to tip.
There are no surprises. Every Whataburger tastes exactly like the Whataburger you had five years ago at the Whataburger 500 miles away. Why have it your way when you can have it the same way every time?
I do not know how to explain to New Yorkers that fast food fountain drinks are better. Free refills are a right guaranteed somewhere deep in the Constitution. A liter of Coca-Cola from a grocery store is a pale imitation of a Cherry Coke at Sonic. Anyone who has had the pleasure of eating a meal in their car at a Sonic Drive-In knows there is no better ice in all the world.
No one asks, “Are we dressed well enough?” before going to Dairy Queen. No one worries that their preschoolers might act up at Subway. Children do not get a toy with their meal at Ruth Chris Steak House. There is no playground at Del Frisco’s.
As I sat on the plane heading to Dallas I thought about the options: Whataburger’s Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit (sugar and butter make food wonderful); Jack in the Box’s two for $1 tacos, the perfect level of greasiness; KFC’s original recipe anything; the chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A (the pickle chips are the key); an Oreo blizzard at Dairy Queen (Oreo crumbs are to ice cream what bacon is to everything else).
I ended up thinking inside the bun — a Homestyle Burger (an ironic name) and an iced mocha. This is nothing to write home about, but I’m lovin’ it. I know that if they served a McDonald’s iced mocha at Starbucks it would cost twice as much.
When Martin Luther wrote, “Love God and sin boldly,” he was not in a fast food restaurant, but he could have been. Luther was inviting us to recognize what is important and what is not. There are times when you should order the salad, but sinning a little without worrying about it too much may, on occasion, be good for your soul.
As Lent approaches some of us are deciding whether to give up soft drinks, sugar or Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme. We would do better to give up envy, anger or greed. We have many things about which we should feel guilty — how little we give to feed hungry people, how quickly we dismiss people who dismiss us, and how much time we spend on our own amusement. Because there is so much about which we should feel guilty, we can feel free — every now and then — to eat curly fries boldly.