Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why I never eat fast food

When I was growing up in Brooklyn, my mother put a great, homemade, kosher meal on the table every night, including a plate of cut and washed lettuce, cucumbers and celery. In 1958, she self-published a cookbook. We rarely ate out and takeout was limited to bagels or an occasional coal-oven cheese pizza from Coney Island, part of our weekly meatless meal. We also ate fresh fish that I picked up at a local market every Friday.

I ate forbidden bacon for the first time at a Key Club convention in upstate New York and non-kosher steak and hamburgers while I was a graduate student in journalism in Missouri in the late 1960s. As a general assignment reporter in Hackensack, I sometimes started my day with an Egg McMuffin. But I am proud to say I have never eaten a McDonald's or Burger King hamburger and the one time I tried a burger at a new Wendy's in Paterson in the early 1980s, I got sick the next day.

Now, the local daily newspaper has published a promotional column and two stories about the opening of a fast-food Sonic Drive-In in Hasbrouck Heights that proved so popular on the first day that employees had to wave off cars. For the record, far more people flocked to Whole Foods and Fairway to buy high-quality food when they opened new markets this year in North Jersey.

There is a growing body of evidence that some ground meat used for fast-food hamburgers contains cow feces -- in other words, customers are literally eating shit. None of the food served in fast-food restaurants could even remotely compare to the Sephardic dishes I grew up eating, dishes I continue to long for.

If I want a burger, I buy organic or grass-fed ground beef and make it myself, adding spices that are used in Middle Eastern kebabs. And I continue to dream of my mother's small meat-and-egg omelets that I used to pop into fresh pita halves. In the summer, this sandwich needed only a thick slice of Jersey beefsteak tomato to make a satisfying meal. (This post was revised.)

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