I’m smiling as I wonder what the ambiguity of this post’s title brought to mind for today’s readers…
In actuality, what I was referencing are restaurant chains.
On our last big summer trip, I began thinking about restaurant chains. I thought about how it shapes our actions (and even our thoughts) knowing that pretty much no matter where we travel, we are bound to find familiar food. I believe that this significantly influences how many of us operate, perhaps even on a daily basis.
Bit by bit, perhaps we are trained to seek that familiar taste. We crave it in that specific way we’ve come to rely on by observing that it’s available to us from location to location, so we recall the way it tasted the last time and anticipate the experience again.
Plus, then there’s the immediacy factor. We know that people used to have to spend much of the day preparing to be able to eat. They had to go out hunting to catch their meat. They had to harvest their own vegetables. They had to mix the dough and shape the loaves with their own hands. As they put together ingredients, there was no guarantee that familiar recipes would come out exactly the same way each time.
How different society is today! It can be so tempting when you are able to attain a meal in minutes (or less) you’re certain each family member will be glad to eat. In this day and age of cram-as-much-activity-as-possible-into-your-already-frenetic-schedule, fast food chains become mentally labeled as lifesavers if we’re not careful to step back and examine the other factors.
There’s the obvious one: fast food isn’t very healthy. Even the supposedly healthy choices tend to have undesirable additives, such as way too much salt or added sugar. Of course, this is the reason we want to come back. It just tastes so good.
Or does it? What have our taste buds become accustomed to tasting?
And what happened to the joy in creating meals ourselves? When you can have food instantaneously, getting to touch, mix, and shape dishes ourselves can be viewed as a time draining chore.
Well, I’m admitting here the influence the presence of these restaurant chains has had on me. As we’re driving across the country, my anticipation rises as we draw nearer to a Culver’s! My mind conjures up vivid recollections of that delicious butterburger and custard. The adventurous excitement of trying something different is lost in the shadow of what is known, familiar (and craved).
I’m not saying that I’m looking to cut the butterburger out of my life, but I was glad to become conscientious of these realizations. I think that many of us are probably desensitized about the way we look at food (what we serve/what we eat) for these reasons. Why is it a big deal to SERVE the same foods over and over, too? Restaurant chains have no need to exist if it’s not important to be able to eat food just the way you like it, after all. Anybody can make a burger–but it must be important that it’s fixed just so. That’s what I feel these chains teach us, or program us to believe.
So, being more attuned to the influences that restaurant chains may have on the way we eat (even when we’re eating at home), I’ve been implementing changes as I can. I’m seeking to increase the variety in the meals I serve. I’m trying to reprogram myself to find enjoyment and fulfillment in making the meal myself–truly making it (not just opening boxes and packets).
At the same time, I’m trying to be realistic. I’m part of the frenetic living much of this world partakes in. I’m not in a place where I have a large portion of most days to put together complex, gourmet meals. I seek simple dishes for most of the time and plan to change it up with something more involved on slower-paced days.
I’m hoping that it grows on me and I shift over to making my days slower-paced, spending time in the kitchen mixing, kneading, and experimenting with my children–for my family. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it at all now, but that life will have to adapt. In the past, I couldn’t do all the different things I was involved in AND make a meal from scratch every single day. But, making meals is important to me. I value the concept for many reasons, and I long to have this increasingly become an activity to share in with my family, rather than just for them.
Trying something new may not be an exciting concept to them right now (most of the time), but it will be. Just watch. 🙂 And, maybe on that next road trip we’ll stop by whatever no-name’s local restaurant after driving past Culver’s…maybe.