June 19, 2006

Fast Food Evolution

I'm not really a fan of fast food. Truth be told, I'm somewhat of a food snob. I like fresh, locally grown produce, slow food, home-cooked meals, and, when circumstances call for it, I sincerely enjoy haute cuisine.

But, I do have a guilty pleasure of Taco Bell. About 12 times a year, usually on road trips, I indulge in the bell. It's good in a deliciously terrible way. E and I had the bell on Saturday. Mmmm.... Nachos bell grande with a side of jalapeños.

I imagine the sinful pleasure I experience from the occasional bell indulgence must be one of the reasons that some people make fast food a regular part of their diet. But I can't relate. Even after my very much enjoyed sin in the not-anything-like-south-of-the-border, I'm cured for a good while afterwards.

Usually, I'm glad that I don't like fast food. It's long on calories and short on nutrients. The whole process of enjoying a meal is condensed into an almost clinical experience when you indulge in fast food at the restaurant. And if you're going to take it home... why not go for something else?

Why not indeed? This weekend, when my dad needs food and I need to study, I've had more fast food in the last few days than I have in weeks.

Guess what? Things have changed. Perhaps I'm a few years behind the times, but I'm happy to report that there are decent salad offerings at fast food joints these days.

Today, Dad sent me to Wendy's to pick up lunches of their Southwest Taco Salad. The produce was fresh. The "tortilla strips" (looked like little bits of doritos that weren't quite good enough to make it out of the factory in a doritos bag) and the sour-cream-alternative were not for me, but the salad itself wasn't half bad, and the dressing was actually fairly tasty. Apparently, they intend for you to put the chili *on* the salad. But, I ate it on the side. It was ... not so great, but it's not obviously poisonous either, which is impressive for a meat-based option from a fast-food joint, in my opinion.

Inspired, and unable to find Subway (my default pseudo-fast-food option), I pulled into Carl's Junior for dinner. Turns out, the Carl's Junior charbroiled chicken salad to go is also not bad. The chicken breast was somewhat decent and the produce was also fresh. The dressing could use some work, but then again, I'm generally of the opinion that almost all pre-prepared dressings suck, so their balsamic vinegar based offering wasn't any worse than what I'd expect out of a bottle off the grocery shelf.

All in all, I was impressed.

I was amused too. Because just this Saturday, while indulging at the bell, I was appalled to see their latest advertising campaign for the fourth meal. (Anyone have time to figure out why they need to know your age for entrance to the site?)

Now, I see that the one fast food option I crave is clearly the worst of the worst. Which is heartening, in an odd way. Clearly I need to branch out and gain a better appreciation for mainstream America. I'm too judgmental. The fast food nation has evolved and I should appreciate how. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as I sample the salad offerings from McDonald's, Burger King, and/or any other joints I can find in my quest for quick healthy food.

Okay, truth be told, once I'm home I'll probably go back to the pre-stocked healthy food in the fridge with subway as the default, but still... I like to pretend I've got spare time to run silly experiments. Ooh, how sad is your life when you are disappointed that you won't be able to run the fast food salad experiment...

Man. I need help. Badly.

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