Old Diary

The new diner


The Baby Boomer generation grew up taking their little kids to McDonalds instead of to the local diner.  What happens, one might ask, when all the kids of all the Boomers are grown and the Boomers are on their own? th-2A recent visit to our local Panera reminded me of the answer to that questions.

It’s been obvious for a while that McDonalds and Panera and those other chain food restaurants that offer breakfast are the new version of the old-fashioned diner.  Gone are the long counters with stools,  gone are the sassy middle aged waitresses.  The menu is now standardized,  it may not be great but it’s consistent: you know exactly what you’re going to get even if it isn’t quite as yummy as momma made.  Or maybe it’s better than momma made, if momma didn’t like to cook, or maybe if she took you out to McDonalds instead of cooking.

On a recent Saturday morning we actually went to a Panera shop for a bagel and coffee.  I could not get over how jam packed the place was with seniors and middle aged folks idly enjoying their morning gab session with friends over a cuppa joe and a nosh.  We don’t do all that many coffee shops, but it really struck me on that morning how much the fast food industry has done to change the landscape of dining options.  And how we, as a population, have made it so.

Mind you, I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who doesn’t understand why in the U.S. we seem to have Cheddar, Mozzarella, CoJack, and not many other kinds of cheese while in France they have more than 365 registered cheeses and more besides. I don’t understand why, in the face of infinite variables in cooking, the majority of the population would rather chow down on standardized fair with a minimum of choices. Just because we buy things that are mass produced by machines do we have to also eat mass produced food?   Are we so brainwashed that we prefer uniformity to diversity?

And is that part of what carries over into our problems with human diversity?  Do we not like people who are different from us for the same reason that we choose a breakfast muffin with sausage and cheese over a plate with eggs, cheese, and a slice of toast?

I don’t have the answer.  But I do know that brains follow established pathways.  We like our habits.  And the things we choose we choose by force of habit.  Maybe we are teaching ourselves to be increasingly less tolerant of all diversity by limiting what we eat to a narrow range of predefined choices?

 

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4 thoughts on “The new diner

  1. Ah the diner! No finer culinary establishment defines the heart and soul of society. I’ve told you of our road trip philosophy – no major highways or fast food, strictly secondary roads and local diners! There’s good reason why this rule is in place. 🙂

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    • I so heartily agree. It’s harder and harder to find them, though. I am regularly surprised upon entering places that don’t look as if they are chains to find that they are in fact store #15 of 20 or some such.

      I ponder the way in which we seem to have adopted this idea that because there’s one store somewhere that the food at a second, or second hundredth store is going to be equal to the first. Or why we seem to prefer ( as a society ) the reliability of manufactured food over the riskiness of made in the moment food.

      I see it as a parallel to the dearth of cheese varieties which has improved in the past 15-20 years. We are finally seeing more artisanal cheeses, but the major food chains are having a hard time adapting — and truth be told, any place making enough cheese to provide to major chains isn’t really artisanal, is it? 🙂

      The problem is that people like us aren’t sufficient market to assure small business success and the world is moving away from small business as if it were a curse. It’s funny, a couple hundred years ago when people were living only under kings and queens they realized the horrors of such life and struck out to the New World to start new lives. Now, we have forgotten the horrors of living at the beck and call of the boss man, and have surrendered our freedoms to new boss men who are just as ruthless and just as demanding as the old ones had been.

      But the new bosses have learned from the lessons of the kings and queens. Keep the population fat and happy-ish. An unfit population isn’t going to rise up against armed force. An entertained population isn’t going to care about the multitude of ways in which they are leading lesser lives than they might. And a population with plenty of alcohol and drugs to numb their pains when they DO realize how poor they are will never awaken to the need for concerted effort.

      I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but if the super rich were smart enough to look 100 years into the future and work towards a society that produces meek herds of workers they could not have done a better job.

      Ok — done for now. 🙂

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  2. A lot of those little mom and pops had the best food. Two brother owned this little greasy spoon in Romeo, Colorado called the Romeo Lunch. They turned out the best cheeseburgers and red chili in the world. They set the standard by which I measure all hamburgers. Even Red Robin and 5 guys comes up lacking compared to them.

    It was a must stop and eat place for a lot of people. It wasn’t at all unusual to see a tour bus outside, go in a see some celebrity chowing down inside. I walked in once to see a group of famous rockers eating cheeseburgers, drinking beer, and play pool with locals. Another time, Johnny Cash gave an impromptu concert.

    God, I miss those places!

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    • William, you know I agree with you completely. Wish we’d had a chance to visit the Romeo Lunch, but I have been fortunate to visit a lot of other equally unique and amazing places and we are all the worse for their absence.

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