Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

Here's to cheap food! And your stomach has a memory

Burgerville is one of the good places. It's a Northwest fast food franchise that started growing out of Vancouver, Washington 50 years ago with restaurants no more than an hour-and-a-half out of the Portland/Vancouver area -- "Inconveniently Located for the Rest of America," the stores' reader boards sometimes say -- and has been aggressively making its food as local to the Northwest as possible. There'll never be pineapple slices on their burgers, partly because we've learned the lesson of the McDonald's Hula Burger, but mostly because pineapples are grown thousands of miles away from us. And on top of that, their food is good. They also know it, and are bold about it (their ads can be funny about that).

And to thank those of us who've kept Burgerville in business for 50 years -- obviously not just me, because I didn't even know what Burgerville was until the early 1990s -- a lot of Burgerville locations had a vintage menu today along with their modern menu. This included $.89 burgers, $.99 cheeseburgers, and $1.29 small basic milkshakes. Meant I could splurge without it feeling like a splurge in my wallet!

These were stripped-down burgers, of course: the meat, the cheese (if it was a cheeseburger), the bun, ketchup and nothing else, because you don't want a loss leader like that to be too much of a loss, and I almost ordered something else from the regular menu but wanted to keep from spending much. I wasn't eating Burgerville in the 1970s and '80s, but I did eat plenty of McDonald's and Burger King burgers, and my stomach remembers: a lot of food in the past wasn't as good as what we got later, or what we have now. I thought, while ordering, Will it be like how the burgers maybe tasted back then? No, because food has evolved. We know more about it now. We've kept experimenting. Certain foods and general comestibles have been overdone -- Mom likes to point out how hugely caloric many coffee drinks have gotten, and when I get such drinks now I almost always hold the whipped cream because I don't need it (and I kind of burned out on it eventually) -- and maybe not everything needs to have bacon added to it (what's next? Bacon-infused bacon with bacon lettuce and bacon carrots served in a mist of bacon?), but we can have better food. People are now more likely to think of chop suey as a System Of A Down song instead of a menu item, and the world is probably better for that, because a lot of the chop suey that was available for Americans in the 20th century sucked. Ask Harlan Ellison, who's big on remembering previous foods, the good and the bad. He still remembers lousy 1940s chop suey.

Vegetarian options have improved like mad, also. And I think of the people I know with food allergies and food sensitivities, and many restaurants, markets and food makers are making strides -- sometimes strong, sometimes frustrating and lurching -- towards addressing their needs so that they don't get sick from their nutrition. (To quote a Monty Python sketch, "Never kill a customer.")

Feels like there should be more to this entry beyond "Food good," but it's been an exert-ful day and the fuller version of this thought probably won't come out in a timely manner. So: for now, think of good food.
Tags: peregrinations, portland

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