So what do you do when you’re dead tired or coming down with a cold or just so stressed that you can’t face cooking dinner? Or your cupboards are bare, or nothing is defrosted? You’re on your way home, in your car. you’re hungry. Your family’s hungry.
Or you’re on a long road trip, but need to stop to eat somewhere.
One out of four Americans, today, will receive at least one of their meals through a drive up window. They’ll consume fast. stuff.
Fast stuff is what it is. It so rarely resembles food, I can’t really put it in that category. What may have started out as recognizable foodstuffs are processed and combined so thoroughly in an effort to achieve perfect homogeneity from Tucson to Tipton that what you are left with are amalgams of chemical constructs your body can’t process effectively.
It isn’t a completely American problem, of course, because fast stuff companies are doing everything they can to market their wares to every other person on the planet, but it’s a bigger problem here than anywhere. What’s the problem? Well there’s more than one problem. Read Eric Schlosser’s amazing reportage in “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal” for some uneasy will power over chain food. For us, stopping at these places, for the most part, means ingesting a lot of foul fat and crappy carbs packed into very small packages.
But still, we live the lives we live. Harder, faster, more involved, more fractured. And we need to eat. Sometimes faster than we should. What to do?
Let’s explore two approaches. One is to do as my friend Denise does, and never, ever drive up to those drive up windows at all. When she needs food fast, she goes to the grocery store and buys rotisserie chickens, deli meats, cooked meats, bags of lettuce, cheese. At home these come together as “a big meaty, cheesy salad.” Filling and fast.
If she’s too tired to face a big grocery store, she orders good meals from local restaurants that use fresh ingredients (“I’m worth it!”).
Meantime, she makes sure she has ingredients for her big meaty salads in the house virtually all the time.
I’d add that a fish market can usually give you precooked shellfish, if you call ahead. A good meat counter will often offer prime rib slices you can heat and eat or toss onto a salad.
Plan for these times by making great slow food and freezing it. Soup, for instance. Stews.
An omelette over a bed of bagged baby spinach? There’s good fast food.
The other approach is to CAREFULLY opt for the fast food offerings meant to appeal to health-conscious people. Please do your homework in advance, because so many fast salad and salad bar ingredients are highly processed and treated to avoid spoilage. In many cases, you would be better off hitting a grocery store.
Spend some time with a good nutritional information source for the fast food restaurants you frequent, and list out the choices you know are your best bet. Know what you will order before driving up so you aren’t tempted by the menu into adding the fries or trying something new without knowing the nutritional value of what you’re getting.
Before making that road trip, load up your car with healthy snacks and staples: fruit, cheese, nuts, veggies, sandwiches, big meaty salads, cold cooked meats, meat salads, pickled and oiled veggies, cool condiments, deviled eggs. Just as your grandparents used to do before fast food restaurants were invented. I believe they called it a picnic.
Opt for stopping at real restaurants when you’re on the road and trying some of the regional cuisine made by local folks from fresh, local foods. No, they won’t give you a plastic finger puppet of the latest Disney hero, but how many of those do you need, really?
Or. eat slow food,