One of the more significant changes I have seen in our society over the past 50 years is the frequency at which we eat outside the home.
Years ago, dining out was a big treat for most families. Nowadays it seems to be a way of life.
I can recall only a handful of times that my parents and their six hungry kids ate out. Of course, we didn’t have all the fast food places we have now and even if we did we didn’t have the financial means to eat there frequently.
When I was 20 I took along my youngest brother, then 12, to purchase a set of tires in Fort Dodge. While waiting for the tires to be mounted we walked across the parking lot to a Henry’s Hamburgers store where I purchased five burgers for a dollar. Two fries and two sodas, I recall, were another $2 so the two of us ate for three bucks. It was a real treat.
My wife was reluctant to leave her hometown, but when financial circumstances dictated I find a better paying job and we were considering a job offer in Sioux City she understood the necessity of doing so. Finally, she said she would move on two conditions: First, no Sunday cooking and, secondly, we would get involved in a good church. I agreed and both conditions proved to be good for our family. We went to church every Sunday morning and then went somewhere other than home for Sunday dinner.
My wife was content with dining at fast food places and that is where we normally went. I will never forget my shock the first time our check totaled more than $10 at Burger King. What was this world coming to when four people could not eat Sunday dinner for less than 10 bucks? Time marches on.
Living 20 minutes from work now with a schedule that can change on a dime, I eat out most weekdays. A nearby supermarket deli offers a daily special for $5 so I eat there regularly. Each week there seems to be a day or two when there’s no time for lunch but even then I can get two slices of pizza and a soda for $4 at a C-store around the corner and eat at my desk. And, of course, there are always luncheon meetings.
The world has changed to the point where now a good home cooked meal is a much bigger treat than going out to eat.
I thought of this on a recent Sunday when my son and I were enjoying Sunday "dinner" at a popular chicken place. I asked for honey for my biscuit and was given a couple of tiny plastic packages. I noticed that the contents were labeled as "honey sauce." In the fine print I read that the honey sauce ingredients included (in this order) high fructose corn syrup, sugar, corn syrup, honey and caramel color. The fine print also revealed that the honey sauce contained "7% honey." No wonder they needed caramel color to make the honey sauce look like honey.
As I read the fine print I thought about the potato salad I enjoyed for dinner the previous evening. My mother makes a wonderful potato salad and upon visiting her a couple of days earlier she sent home with me a bowl of her delicious creation. Even without a label I knew that what I was eating was real food: real potatoes, real eggs, real onions, real everything. And was it delightful! A year or so ago I was standing in line at a local C-store where I had picked up two hot dogs and a bag of chips for lunch. I have a habit of striking up conversations with strangers and such was the case on this day.
As we neared the cash register, I told the man in line ahead of me that if I had the time to drive an hour north to my mother’s house I could sit down to a real homemade meal instead of C-store hotdogs. The man set his hotdogs and chips on the counter and said, "I have the time; let’s go to your mom’s house." Much has changed since I was a kid and where we eat our meals is one of the bigger changes.
One last thing: I would be remiss if I failed to remind you that it is important to eat in moderation. I never eat more than I can lift.
(Arvid Huisman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2013 by Huisman Communications.)