Friday, November 9, 2007

Remember when Fast Food was a Treat?

In talking with friends recently, all being in my same age group (let's just say on the far end of the 18-49 year old demographic), we got around to fast food.

Back in the late 1960's and early 1970's, I remember that at least for Mom, my brother and me, fast food was a treat. Maybe we'd go once a month. I know friends who say they went twice a year.

Nowadays (whenever I say that I sound like an old f*rt), it seems that fast food is the main purveyor of sustenance for Americans, especially if you are on the other end of the 18-49 year old demographic. How did this come about?

Most likely it was due to changing lifestyles, increased mobility, more disposable income and more mothers going to work. Heavy marketing campaigns helped as well. But when I grew up, even with Mom working all week, we always had dinner at home. And it was never something microwaved or brought home from a fast food place.

Remember the fast food television commercials? "Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us." (Burger King) "Two all beef patties, special sauce . . ." (McDonald's) "McDonald's is your kind of place . . ." (McDonald's)

Of course, in the tradition of changing song lyrics that my brother and I pursued so often, we had our own version:

McDonald's is your kind of place
Hamburgers in your face
French fries up your nose
Dill pickles between your toes
And don't forget our chocolate shakes
They're made from sewage lakes
So don't come back for more

Growing up in Upstate New York, I remember what I recently thought was an obscure fast food chain: Carrol's. It was "Home of the Club Burger" which was way better than the Big Mac and probably debuted around the same time - 1968. The Club Burger had all the elements of the Big Mac but it had a tomato slice and the "special sauce" was named Crisbo Royale Sauce (45% mayonnaise, 45% ketchup, 10% relish).

I also found out that Carrol's is still popular in, of all places, Finland! And they have the same signage, some of the same food items as I remember.

You could find a Carrol's in several places such as Middletown, Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Norwich and Rochester. But it was never like today where there seems to be a McDonald's or Burger King or KFC in every little village. Maybe that's what made fast food a treat for me - it involved a long trip, a trek.