Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe have been travelling this past month with Ellen’s sister Tish. In addition to enduring a lot of “windshield” time which can be very boring in the midwest, we have had some wonderful and some not-so-wonderful meals along the roads and routes of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

When we went to Bloomington, Illinois, I’m sure that when we turned south at Joliet, the scenery immediately became and remained corn fields all the way to Bloomington. I was trying to imagine what a farmer would do to occupy his mind while driving a tractor down a field and creating a row of corn that would be several miles long. – that is ONE row… Think about fields that are miles long by miles wide.

When we stop to eat or when we go out to eat, I prefer to eat at restaurants that are not franchised or part of national chains. I prefer the surprises of a locally-operated restaurant to the predictable, same-menu-in-Bloomington-as-in-Benton Harbor that one gets with franchise/chain restaurants. I admit that it is a small, albeit feeble stance against fast food restaurants. My major motivation is the life style for which I have been singing praises, i.e., local is better, more flavorful, less expensive, etc. And it is fun getting to know the people responsible for our foods – be they the farmers or the chefs.

In addition to the surprises of stopping at a local restaurant and having a wonderful meal, we stopped at a number of local restaurants where they apparently chose to replace quality with quantity. We got off of an interstate to stop at a local restaurant. The service was very friendly but the menu choices included only fried, deep-fried or salads. I chose a salad. The waitress wheeled over a serving cart and then hefted a bowl that was larger than the bowl we use at home to serve salad to four people. I started looking around the room and saw that everyone else in the dining room was served similarly-sized portions. If I had been able to eat half of the salad, the remaining portion would not have fit in a Styrofoam take-away box. (It would have fit in a computer packaging box.)

At another restaurant, Ellen ordered “the town’s favorite” called “The Horseshoe.” It was a grilled chicken breast on a piece of “Texas toast” covered with crinkle fries and then vast quantities of a melted cheese product.  Luckily, Ellen was able to choose a vegetable as a side dish–though she could have had more fries or chips or a cream-of-something soup. (The restaurant also had a smaller portion called “The Ponyshoe.”) The cheese reminded me of a Bill Bryson observation: “In America, there are only two kinds of cheese:  White and yellow.” By the way, neither the horseshoe nor the ponyshoe resembled what we put on a horse’s hoof or throw at a stake or nail above the entryway.

In America, people often ask for take-away boxes for the uneaten portion of their meals. Waiters are never surprised at the request. (It would be a very surprising request in France.) In fact, waiters often suggest take-away boxes to those who are eating too slowly or who have stopped, leaving large portions of the meal on the plate. Weight Watchers encourages the practice – though in most cases, Weight Watchers would suggest making three or four meals out of the quantities delivered as one dinner. Given the size of the meals served and the “clean your plate” mentality that most of us grew up with, it is no wonder that America is the most obese nation in the world.

Now that I am officially old, I can understand the attraction of a restaurant where you go for lunch and take home dinner as a bonus:  Two for one!  Never mind that the food will be as boring the second time as it was the first time.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, Illinois, our motto is,We may be corny, but we're not as cheesy as Wisconsin.