Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Wednesday May 5th 2010
In-N-Out Burger, 1275 Dana Dr, Redding, CA
Allow me to preface this entry with a few words about the culinary genre of Fast Food. For a long time I never really paid it too much thought. I would eat it when necessary or convenient without bias to certain restaurants and continue on with my day unaffected. It was around the time that the film "Super Size Me" came out, and after seeing it, when I briefly and for the first time really 'got in' to Fast Food.
While the movies publicity had McDonalds cowering in the corner creating salad dishes, getting rid of their jumbo sizes, and offering fruit, their competitors Burger King seized the moment and created two of their filthiest sandwiches to date, catering to what people who like Fast Food in the first place actually want. The King Kong burger, a three tier frizbee burger caked in a menagerie of dressings and sauces, and The Meatnormous, a two omelette, four bacon, three sausage, ham steak, and cheese, full day ruining breakfast meal. Both of which I tried and felt drugged, delirious, and frightened afterwards. It was the first time Fast Food has harmed me with what I now refer to as "Mental Food Poisioning", a common Fast Food side effect in which you experience unreasonable thoughts and an almost indescribable negative euphoria.
As time passed, the list of Fast Food restaurants I was ok with dining at began to dwindle considerably. I got the Popeyes paranoia in the Atlanta airport food court. A McDonalds breakfast sandwich started giving me sporadic hot flashes and had me considering checking into a hospital in Memphis. It took at least three ruthless gut grabs from Checkers's spicy chicken sandwich before I caught on. Taco Bell was one of the only ones not on my danger list, but then I overdid it with the cheesy gordita crunch "NBA Box" (seen here), and I had trouble making it back to the house, playing basketball just wouldn't have worked. It's come down to Wendy's (only in dire situations, and I'm sure they'll slip up soon enough), and the great, the grand, In-N-Out Burger.
Never before has a Fast Food chain acheived the same mythical lore that In-N-Out has. Slacking East Coasters who never make the trip out West can only dream as their enlightened friends embellish and blow out of proportion the secret menu, the animal style fries, furthuring it's kingly reputation across the land.
The uniformity among In-N-Out's, although gross and upsetting, is quite impressive. Each locations interior looks exactly the same, exactly. Even the employees look alike. I mean, yeah they're all forced into 50's style goofball diner cap's and tight red aprons, but physically, they look the same from town to town. Either theres some sort of California cross polination type thing going on or they're cloning these people. And they're happy! Actual happiness too, not a ploy, not some con. I watched a girl today struggling with an old man who wanted this on his burger, but he didn't want that, and he couldn't decide on fries or not, and where I would have been like, "Back of the line you senile old bastard, how'd you get out of the house?", she patiently assisted him with a genuine smile and look of true joy on her face. It actually made her happy to help this guy get the exact kind of burger he wanted. Astonishing!
The food itself at In-N-Out has never harmed me like those other places, but I have harmed myself with it. Sure, theres no freezer here, the beef is brought in fresh everyday, the potatoes are prepared to order, theres no preservatives in the bread, but it's still Fast Food. It just takes more of it to acheive the same effects you could easily get from one item off the dollar menu at Jack In The Box. Here is a before and after shot of me eating a 4X4 at this very same In-N-Out location back in the fall of 2007. In the before picture you can spot a sinful glimmer of excitement in my eye, in the after picture I have clearly been transported to the dark side and mentally conquered by the burger. 4X4 translates to four beef patties by four cheese slices, and any number you wish can be substituted in depending on how "wild" your trying to get. I guess what I'm trying to say is that even though a sensible portion of food from In-N-Out won't make you feel like complete garbage, and actually could make you feel pretty amazing, if you keep going you'll get there. And that's what I did then, and also today.
I've learned my lesson with 4X4's, the joke just isn't that funny, especially for me. So I went with the Double Double, animal style, a double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, sauteed onions, thousand island dressing, and pickles. It was incredible. It had been two years since I'd had In-N-Out and I missed it every single day, but I couldn't just leave it at that. Instead of being pleasantly satisfied by the burger alone, I managed to convince myself that some animal style fries would be a good idea. So post double cheeseburger I dipped into a basket of toxic waste topped french fries, acheiving the feeling of body and mind Fast Food contamination that some awful part of me apparently wanted. Ahh...but it had been two years and I was ready to indulge, I needed to go overboard and I did and I don't regret it for a second. In-N-Out; one of maybe three good things about the West Coast.