Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Eatin’ USA

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American food has a notoriously bad reputation. Not for its taste (that's British) but rather for it's side-effects on your health. Being on the road for over a week and on a budget, meant that I had more than ample opportunities to submit my digestive system to the joys of fast food cuisine as having a fast food meal will invariably be cheaper than going to 'proper' restaurants, even if they're simple diners.

On quite a few days, we decided to go for a rich and late breakfast rather than lunch. This was made even more attractive by the large number of places around that are reasonably nice and offer breakfast all day. It also meant, that often our breakfast was more pricey than dinner. Looking at the breakfast menus made me think that someone must have looked at all the low fat/carb/cholesterol diets people made up and then came up things like 'eggs, bacon, pancaces, hash browns and maple sirup', maniacally grinning and saying eat this, suckers. I assume that history will prove me wrong on this theory but I still like it. This kind of breakfast – or perhaps the chicken ham and cheese sandwich in egg batter, deep-fried – is very satisfying and will get me through a whole day.

At the end of said days, there'd usually some burger variety – or the occasional Mexican grub – waiting for us. The favourite of the fast food chains soon became In 'n Out burger. Not only were the burgers good, but also their menu is refreshingly small and the decoration stylishly retro. This and other of the smaller chains do put the 'big' ones to shame and it makes me wonder why people eat there. Even the prices seem quite similar.

Actually, we once had a small snack at Burger King somewhere between Las Vegas and Death Valley where there simply was no choice. What was more remarkable about that, though, was that the whole branch seemed to be run by pensioners. Very friendly and caring in a granny style but a bit strange as these 'should' be jobs for underpaid teenagers.

So what about the bad reputation? Well, I thought many meals we had were OK, if a bit expensive by German standards. Some very very nice – particularly the breakfasts. Almost all of them could have done with less fat. I don't think they would have suffered a lot. Also, servings tended to be generous. Frequently I could have easily done with less (although my brother couldn't). Also, I took me about a week and navigating many questions (Spinach? Caesar's? Green? / Italian? Blue Cheese? Ranch? …) before I got a salad. If you don't pay attention, you can easily get around without eating any vitamins or food that actually needs chewing, it seems.

Perhaps my biggest complaint about the food would be about cheese. Apart from the ridiculously overpriced delicatessen departments in the supermarkets which seem to sell €1,50 pieces of Camembert for $7 (the same brand, even), €1 mozzarellas for $3 and so on, all the other varieties of cheese sold seem to be exactly the same bland stuff in different sizes and colours of packaging.

I won't even bother to complain about the bread because that's known to be a lost cause – although it's amusing to see that 'sourdough' seems to be considered sophisticated and even worthy of surcharges here. I won't complain about the beer either because I don't like it anyway.

Talking of beer, I was astonished once more that all but once I had to show my passport to get into pubs. The last time I needed to do this was when I was in the U.S. four years ago. While I'd be thrilled if people said I look like I'm under 21, it's a sad fact that this is not true – so I find this slightly ridiculous. It's also notable how seriously the people check your ID. That became funny even after my brother pointed out to me that most of them probably won't find the birth date between all the information printed on an unfamiliar foreign passport. A particularly clever bouncer even asked him whether his birth date was xx.yy.2006, obviously having found the expiration date of his passport.

March 20, 2004, 23:19

Tagged as country:us, travel, USA.

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