DINNER GUEST: Not so fast food

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I used to be a fast-food junkie. I deserved a break and took it, every day. I had it my way. I knew where the beef was. And quería tacos, amigos. I was what I call a “3-a-dayer.” Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Elevensies, midnight snacks, second breakfast and so on. My best friends were Ronald, the King, the Colonel, Dave’s daughter and a little chihuahua peddling tacos, or in my case gorditas. I think I mentioned a was a junkie.

As much as I loved that stuff, I knew it wasn’t exactly healthy. According to my cardiologist, the food probably had little to do with my heart surgery, but it certainly didn’t help.

After my surgery, I cut back on the fast food. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it just started happening. My now-wife made me eat at home more, to my chagrin. As a food writer, I realized there were local restaurants that served food that was of higher quality, better tasting and, the kicker, healthier. But still.

I still had fast food every few weeks by then, but gone were the days when the person in the window knew me by my first name. I went to McDonalds on Dec. 29, 2013 and picked up a Big Mac, fries and a Dr. Pepper. While I had been eating at McDonald’s, I hadn’t eaten a Big Mac for about two years as it was never my favorite fast-food burger (that would probably have been the single with cheese from Wendy’s). This sandwich was awful. It tasted bland, even with what I could tell was a lot of salt. The lettuce wilted, the bun soggy, the cheese not melted, the “special sauce” not so special. This was the marquee burger of a world-known fast food giant?

That turned me off from the Golden Arches. It was about two months before I realized that I hadn’t had any fast food since that Mickey D’s run.

I am a creature of habit and I love streaks. I went to a local Irish pub for 1,099 days in a row. I have written my daily blog every day since Nov. 1, 2014. So, after two solid months of not having fast food, I decided to keep that streak going. To this day, I haven’t broken it. However, there are some caveats. I don’t count Subway, Jimmy John’s or that ilk as “traditional” fast food. That’s deli food to me, so I can have that. There are several restaurants like barbecue joints that I don’t consider fast food. Just because the food is fast doesn’t make it fast food.

I still eat burgers. But I know that what I get at Cin Cin or Burger Batch is made with fresh beef and not warehoused frozen patties. I eat at take-out places and sometimes that food is greasy goodness. But it’s not traditional fast food.

My quest for low-sodium foods has taken me to restaurants that offer cleaner food and I don’t need McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, KFC, Bojangles or Hardee’s. Rarely do I miss them. If I drive by Burger King and my windows are down, I take in that “flame broiled” aroma and think to myself: That could never be as delicious as it smells. It never is. It never was. 

The bonus for eating local is that my money isn’t going to some corporate office in Kansas. My money is staying local for local owners, local employees, the local economy. I have gotten to know many of the restaurateurs and executive chefs in the Triad. I call many of them friends. I love their businesses and love when they thrive. To me, that just tastes better on its own.

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