Category Archives: Food

an amusing anecdote

While perusing the local offerings, I found my way to TripAdvisor. Because I often check random details to see how a page is presented, I clicked on the website link on TripAdvisor for San Miguel Grill and Bar in Fayetteville.

Because I’m often dumb, I clicked and closed the webpage 4 or 5 times, as I absent-mindedly thought I had clicked on the wrong link.

I laughed. Either someone paid for a lapsed domain – or someone had hacked the website.

I waited a couple of days to see if anyone noticed. They didn’t. The link connected to a hacked or redirected webpage.

I wrote TripAdvisor and used the poorly-executed ‘report a problem’ interface to let them know a legitimate link went to a porn site.

The link is now gone, so I assume my interaction got attention.

I encounter this sort of thing often enough to wonder how often businesses monitor their social media and websites.

While a business can’t police the internet, TripAdvisor is one of the most critical for restaurants to monitor. Whether it is intentionally designed to allow shenanigans, the truth is that you can’t trust the internet – or the people who use it.

If I owned a restaurant, I would quickly become weary of the review systems and would have to resist pranks.

Fazoli’s And The Case Of The Missing Dressing

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Many people don’t know that the apostrophe in the Fazloli’s brand name is actually meant to represent a tiny bit of flatulence and regret. I’ll probably get an angry letter from corporate when they read this. Their CEO is busy though, studying for his GED. By the way, I’m one of those weirdos who l-i-k-e-d Fazoli’s. I’m glad that the federal government opted to not require us to wear a special hat as a warning to others.

A friend recently hilariously recapped her working experience at Fazoli’s when she was young, shorter than a table lamp, and evidently 47% invisible. Working anywhere tends to force you to realize that some things are better off unknown. In my case, working at a dairy and seeing clumpy black milk being put into the holding tank ruined me for milk, not that that I was huge fan prior to that. I couldn’t look at milk, knowing that it contained filtered cow manure, urine, and things best left unmentioned.

At its high point, Fazoli’s made it to 400 locations. Northwest Arkansas had several. While I don’t trust my memory, it seems like our franchises went under due to personal financial issues with the owner. If I’m wrong, I apologize. It was a sad day for gourmands like me when they shuttered their butter-infused doors for the last time. During one visit to the location in Fayetteville, I overheard someone tell the manager that “Fazoli’s is the People of Walmart  of fast food.” I laughed then and it still amuses me.

I’ll be the first to admit that Fazoli’s was the bologna sandwich of Italian food. Given that my primary requirement for pasta is “quantity over quality,” I loved Fazoli’s. Just to be clear, I didn’t care if the pasta was made from reconstituted paper products: I loved it. After discovering they had an off-menu “all you care to eat” option, I combined this fact with my unnatural and demonic love of their Italian dressing packets.

I almost always ordered plain pasta as well as packets of the Italian dressing. This caused a lot of confusion. No matter how many times I’d tell the cashier, “I want 2 (or 15, let’s be honest) packets, and please charge me for each,” most of them would confusedly stutter and stammer. Most had to turn to a manager who would stop running and sweating long enough to explain to them that there was a single packet charge. More amusingly, watching them math out the complexities of 25 cents X a number often took several tries. As you can guess based on my previous stories, I would sometimes tell them, “I want 20 packets of dressing.” They would turn to no one in particular and holler, “CAN I sell 20 packets?” It was an infinite series of amusements. It was a sight to behold, watching as multiple people asked me to repeat myself: “Do you really want 25? We’re going to have to charge you? How much is that? OMG, that’s too many!”

Later, they increased the price per packet, undoubtedly in retaliation for idiots like me. It was common for them to forget to give me the packets, even after I paid for them. No one enjoyed returning to the counter and waiting impatiently while our congealed food products sat on the lonely table behind us. That is part of what surprised me about them offering an all-you-can-eat option. There were a few customers who made them regret that offer.

If you’re wondering if I used all those packets? Yes. If I had any left, I would take them home. While in the restaurant, though, I’d also use the dressing as a dipping sauce for the breadsticks.

I continued this tradition at the other dubious chain The Olive Garden. The dressing was always my favorite. To this day, it is one of the few go-to dressings we buy. Sometimes we buy the light version. It contains 50% less of the industrial additives and petroleum as its full-bodied counterpart. If I don’t request an extra bit of dressing on the side while ‘dining’ at Olive Garden, I barbarically dip the end of my breadstick into the bottom of the translucent salad bowl to find a drip of the Italian dressing there. If I don’t have in my bowl, I sneak over to the next table, distract the people eating there, and quickly dip my breadstick in their bowl.

I love all sorts of things on pasta and macaroni. Salad dressing, Louisiana hot sauce, A-1, raisins, wing sauce, soup, sliced tomatoes, fried goat eyeballs (just kidding on that one, I think), and various other things. Let’s be honest: you can take a look at my physique and easily determine the likelihood that my youth filled itself with truckloads of pasta.

I heard rumors that the Fazoli’s breadsticks had enough butter on them to grease the chassis of a 1968 Ford Thunderbird. Because I was born in Arkansas, my immortality convinced me to be unconcerned with such trivial details. I tend to joke that pepperoni will be listed as my official cause of death. They might add in “Fazoli’s butter” as a secondary cause. I imagine a bit of it is still stuck inside my venous system, ready to cause a grease fire once my cremation starts. I apologize to the Berna family if that happens. Crematoriums are expensive.

As for being the bologna sandwich of Italian food, most of us will admit that bologna sometimes is exactly what we need. Even though it is made of the innards of animals too unlucky to avoid being combined into a giant industrial blender and then pressure-heated into cylindrical tubes, we enjoy it. It’s best not to note what is in it. Having worked in meat plants, I can confirm that most packaged meats are made in a process that will immediately remind you of explosive diarrhea, except at these plants, the result is cooked rapidly.

Regarding the garlic overload, I buy minced, powdered, and various forms of garlic by the bucket. It’s a good thing that garlic pills are used anecdotally to treat high blood pressure. There are times when I return home from being gone and am stunned by the wall of garlic and onion aroma that greets me upon my return. I think my cat is growing a Luigi mustache from breathing so many garlic fumes.

While I loved the cheap offerings of Fazoli’s, I can see why people had issues with it. Restaurants employing younger people invariably run into similar issues with consistency, cleanliness, and risk to one’s health and sanity. As the old joke points out, you get to pick 2 out of 3: quick, good, or cheap – but never all 3.

When you factor in that their food was somewhere on the “microwave meal” range, it’s no surprise. While it might preclude me from getting a security clearance to admit I loved their pasta drowned in packets of Italian dressing, I did.

Unlike all the other fast food places I liked, Fazoli’s never made me sick. Not that I know of. That’s saying something. I’m assuming that they irradiated all their food.

I love reading clever reviews of cheap fast food. If I owned a fast-food chain, I’d print such reviews on my own products to be snarky.

As for the picture, it’s to gratefully acknowledge that Fazoli’s was both good and not good simultaneously, an attribute shared by every single fast-food chain in the United States.

P.S. The title of this post suggests another story I’ve not confessed to!

 

Beth Goodrich’s Pumpking Fudge Recipe

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Noted Conway author and chef Beth “Beets” Goodrich finally agreed to share her secret pumpkin fudge recipe after two decades of silence. It’s true in the 90s that she may have inadvertently poisoned a few people. We all need a chance to learn from our mistakes, though. Other than a slight twitch when she’s talking, you might not know how hard she worked to get past her initial failings as a cook. Six boys survived her cooking so it is presumably safe to say she’s ironed out the kinks and emergency room visits.

While we all know Beth through her writing, I’d like to take a moment and explain that her nickname “Beets” arose from the insistence of her well-meaning friends and family that beets taste anything like other than a mouthful of dirt. She can quote numerous scientific studies that prove that beets taste like a mound of desiccated spiders that’s been mixed with Appalachian dirt and powdered. Much like really large white guys were often called “Tiny,” so too did Beth get crowned as “Beets.”

Pumpkin fudge is a ‘real’ thing, even though it may at first seem to one small part of a complex and elaborate prank, one devised by San Francisco hipsters. You’ve probably heard it mentioned in whispers at a church social or in the open cafeteria lines of your state penitentiary. Most fans of pumpkin fudge tend to be easily excited and often have concealed carry permits. If you’re one of the few people who don’t like pumpkin fudge, refrain from mentioning it out loud unless you are in a Siberian cave that’s been sealed close by a nuclear explosion.

While observing college boys using pumpkins as catapult fodder, she realized that pumpkins were not only for insanely dry pumpkin bread that no one really likes or for jack o’ lanterns on Halloween.

After 37 failed tries and one oven that had to be discarded (not to mention burned hair), Beth arrived at her final recipe.

Most of the ingredients are what most of us refer to as “old folks” ingredients such as evaporated milk, corn syrup, and marshmallow creme.

While I hate to be helpful in food posts, I’d like to explain to you what the differences are between evaporated and condensed milk. Both are made from milk with 60% of the water removed. Evaporated milk, however, is not sweetened, unlike its condensed milk counterpart. You’d be surprised how many cooks can’t explain that difference to you.

You should always keep a can of each in your larder. (I’ll explain what in tarnation a ‘larder’ is later after you’ve been put in a coma by reading about cooking.) You never know when a posse of old-timers might come to your house. In such a scenario, you’re going to need some condensed or evaporated milk.

Again, though I loathe being helpful, it is surprising that people don’t know you can add condensed milk to as much water and use it like regular milk in recipes. This can be helpful if you live somewhere without electricity or an icebox. If you hear banjos on most afternoons, you definitely need some condensed milk in your pantry, larder, or cellar. Due to the size of evaporated milk cans, they can also be used as hand grenades in a close fight.

For Beth’s recipe, you’ll need a candy thermometer. I’ll tell you where to stick it later. Beth recommends the combination food thermometer/protractor, in case complex calculations arise. Paradoxically, her Panasonic oven only indicates Celsius, which resulted in some strange issues with her in-laws helping her cook. If you don’t own a candy thermometer, you’re with 65% of the country.

(Related note: biscuits will cook in 2 minutes if you accidentally set the oven to 375 Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. If you don’t catch the error in 15 minutes, your local firefighters will drop by your house unexpectedly to remind you.)

Without boring you with the details of the recipe, I can tell you that even if you don’t like pumpkin, you’ll probably like pumpkin fudge. As in the case with carrot cake, you don’t actually put chunks of carrots in carrot cake unless you’re a sadist, or live in Little Rock.

If you’ve never had pumpkin fudge, call Beth in Conway. She’ll undoubtedly make a batch for you, at no cost, with something like a smile on her face. You can also find her on Instagram by searching for #whoiscookingdinnertonightatthegoodrichhouse.

I know you think I misled you by promising to share Beth’s recipe. I didn’t say I’d share it. I said that she shared it with me. The recipe on MyRecipes is fairly close to what she uses.

Since you’re already voluntarily putting pumpkin in food, you can’t really hurt this recipe, regardless of how you modify it.

P.S. I put bacon in the picture because it’s a known fact that bacon subconsciously obliterates one’s ability to think critically. The fact that you’ve read this far proves it to be true.

What Exactly Are They Sending You?

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I wrote the draft of this post years ago, precovid.

Years ago, I remember watching a “60 Minutes” segment and seeing a railroad car carry chemicals to one destination and then refill with apple juice, without being cleaned between fills. When I worked at a dairy, I was surprised to see that clumpy, black, clotted milk would be put in the holding tank to save money, because as long as the main tank passed inspection, it didn’t matter if someone shoveled manure into it. It’s true that pasteurization awaited the milk.

To frame it another way, though, you likely wouldn’t eat a bowl of ice cream if you knew it had 1% manure in it, no matter how safe it might be to eat.

I saw other things which were more troublesome while working in the poultry industry, which is plagued by food-borne illnesses and contaminants, even though they constantly assure us that every conceivable measure is being taken to ensure a safe food supply, even as they speed up processes, reduce costs and USDA inspectors, and reduce human intervention. If human beings are involved and profit is a primary consideration, it is no stretch to imagine all possible scenarios where corners might be cut. People inevitably cut corners, especially people who are pressured into working faster, with fewer people, and whose profit margin shrinks as they take the time to do their job more safely.

PSA: You’ve all seen the delivery drivers throw packages in and out of their trucks, across fences, or into swimming pools. If you haven’t witnessed it personally, the internet has probably shown you a few examples of packages being tossed like beanbags all through the delivery process. Even when they don’t throw or mishandle packages, they are constantly falling over, rolling, or upended during handling and transport.

I won’t mention any companies by name, of course, but some bring you clothes, electronics, food, and toys for your children. It’s convenient.

You don’t think twice about it, I’m sure.

Without being specific, a huge range of things is shipped by carriers. They can send diagnostic samples, clinical samples, blood, human tissue, and about a 1,000 other things you’ve never thought about. I’m surprised how many people assume that such things are segregated on other carriers or trucks. They are not. Also, it’s important that people know that the classification systems used to determine what can be shipped are a little dubious. Some items are recycled medical devices which are treated as highly infectious inside their point-of-use, yet are packaged and transported on the same trucks as your personal items.

The same drivers you see throwing packaged from across the yard are often the drivers transporting the things I’ve mentioned.

Whether they are hazardous or not is at times subject to opinion. Many times, no one knows what is inside the boxes. Even if they do know, speed demands that the packages be handled quickly, not carefully. The packaging is at the whim and mercy of anyone who took the time to ensure it was sealed properly or not. Anything in the distribution chain, however, is subject to the same treatment that you’ve watched on YouTube videos. You can Google the issue for yourself. You’ll be surprised at what can be sent on the same vehicles as your children’s toys, clothes, and food items.

It’s a small leap in logic to assume that these unmarked packages sometimes containing hazardous materials spill, going out onto your food packages, baby toys, or laptops. You then touch them without ever realizing that they have been exposed to waste products.

Many delivery and shipping companies use contractors. These contractors control their own processes, pay for their own vehicles, and so on while using the logos of the respective companies. Speed and efficiency are prized factors at every step of the delivery process. If you didn’t know, many drivers often resort to urinating in containers in their vehicles, no matter whose packages they are handling. Think about it the next time a driver hands you a scanner to sign your name.

Although I have not expressed my point very well, it can be summed up this way: if you receive anything shipped, you should assume that careless people handled the items and that anything you receive might have been contaminated accidentally or negligently at any point in the process. Further, reducing costs tends to drive what processes and training are in place to protect us.

Those videos of drivers throwing your packages are simply the visible consequence of our poorly-managed distribution system.

 

Beanfield’s & Trombone Pants Syndrome

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In “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” Douglas Adams described the alien Vogon spacecraft this way: “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

While the description is metaphorical nonsense, it makes perfect sense. This is the sort of whimsical logic that appeals to me. While most observers would think it isn’t reflective of who I am, they are mistaken.

I recently tried another food which is nothing like the name would suggest. Somehow though, it eclipses the source inspiration for texture and flavor. In addition to a flavor that is plant-based, you don’t have to idly wonder how close to the pig’s anus the skin you’re eating might have been prior to being a pig carcass. When it’s fresh, it definitely fulfills one’s texture-based cravings.

On my last trip to my favorite cabin, I was shopping using the ‘anything goes’ method, one which is characterized by pure whimsy. On one of the aisles, I saw Beanfield’s Vegan Cracklins. The grocery stores in Eureka Springs and Holiday Island offer selections that are often unique, right alongside the expected staples of a smaller town grocery.

I’ve tried Beanfield’s bean chips. I loved the Pico de Gallo flavor. They aren’t available in my customary stores. I’ve been banned from Whole Foods ever since the incident on April 24th of 2019. Okay, that isn’t true either. But I like to think I made you wonder, just for a second, what I did to get banned from Whole Foods.

It sounds like a prank, doesn’t it? While I like putting fried pigskin in my mouth as much as the next guy, something about the packaging appealed to me. I picked the “Spicy Nacho” flavor under the mistaken notion that it would be the one my wife would enjoy the most. I usually choose based on whatever is the most outlandish.

Available in Chile Limon, Spicy Nacho, Ranch, Korean BBQ, and Frozen Bat’s Testicles flavors, there’s a flavor most will like. That last one? It isn’t real. They do, however, also have one labeled as “Aged White.” I can only ASSUME it is aged white cheese flavor, instead of some older gentleman named Archibald, Harold, or Bernard. Popular fads aside, most people don’t want products that are made from, or smell like, actual people. The people that do want to buy such products are not ones you should invite over for a game of poker unless you’re prone to self-loathing. Take note, Bachelor fans.

I didn’t buy them because they are vegan, gluten-free, rich in protein, or high in fiber. I bought them because it sounded weird to me.

My wife decidedly disliked the Spicy Nacho flavor, allegedly because it was ‘hot.’ Being of Irish, Scottish, and English descent, even white bread is a bit on the spicy side for her.

The texture is ridiculously crisp and the flavor pervades each cracklin.

For conservatives out there, eating this will not turn you into a liberal. You’ll experience a mild urge to tax and spend, so keep that in mind as you try them.

As with all bean products, over-consumption allegedly will give you Trombone Pants Syndrome. It’s not fatal, no matter how much your family groans and writhes as you all cluster together in the living room watching Netflix.

P.S. Eating these is what made me so buff.

 

A Gargle of Lemon Juice, A Poof of Tang

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My cousin Jimmy had everything good to eat. No matter what he wanted to eat, his mom bought it for him. His cereal cabinet might as well have been made of gold. At home, I was lucky to avoid eating a can of hominy instead of cereal. He had Pop-Tarts, Fruity Pebbles, Count Chocula, Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms, and anything else he requested. While I loved corn flakes, I’ll admit the exotic flavors of Jimmy’s cereal cabinet were a sight to behold. He also had really good milk, the kind I’ve despised most of my life since. I’d rather drink the urine of an infected goat than finish a glass of milk – especially whole milk. When I worked in a dairy in high school, my distaste intensified.

Jimmy was three years younger than me. He loved challenging me to exotic dares. I had two things working in my favor: I didn’t expect to live long and I was an idiot. Jimmy maximized his arguments to appeal to those attributes. He seldom had to fear any repercussions for his antics, even if arson or dismemberment were involved. For my Aunt and Uncle, they were mainly only interested if it was their son’s arm or leg which had been detached; beyond that, they growled and barked but otherwise gave him carte blanche to do as he wished.

As was the case with cereal, Jimmy also had the awesome drinks of childhood: clean water devoid of sewage residue, unlimited whole milk, orange juice, chocolate milk, hot cocoa with real marshmallows, and the entire range of available sodas. He also had Tang.

Because of my aberrant taste in food, I loved stealing or a spoonful of Tang powder and eating it. It was luxurious and overwhelming. At times, I’d up-end the jar and pour it into my mouth directly. I had been unknowingly training for years to ingest a large amount of Tang on a dare.

One Sunday morning, Jimmy ate two different kinds of sugary cereal. Afterward, he jokingly challenged me to drink a big spoon of lemon juice. My Aunt Ardith always had a large jar of it in her cabinet near the stove. I don’t remember what we bet. Jimmy went first. He poured the spoonful in his mouth. Immediately, he spewed it back out. It splattered across the counter and in the direction of the sink. “Yuk!” His eyes turned red. I took a spoonful of lemon juice and poured it into my mouth. Just to rub it in, I gargled it and then swallowed it. It was beyond sour, of course, but tasted good to me. Lemon juice was an exotic food in my house. Mom would no more buy lemon juice than cut off an ear lobe with a steak knife. I took another spoonful and swallowed it. “Yum!” I said, just to irritate Jimmy.

“You bastard! How’d you do that,” he demanded. I laughed at him as he got a glass of water and swished his mouth out.

I said, “How about a REAL challenge, Jimmy?” I turned and took out the bottle of Tang powder.

“Yeah, okay, but you’re going to go first. NO tricks.” Jimmy watched me carefully as I got out the biggest spoon that would fit into the jar.

I dumped it into my mouth and held it, letting it dissolve and mix in my mouth. As I mentioned, it was sublime and delicious. After a moment, I showed Jimmy the inside of my mouth.

Keep in mind, this was in the 70s, long before the cinnamon challenge. We were just two idiots trying to outdo each other.

Jimmy took another spoon out and took a smaller lump of powder from the jar. Luckily, he put the jar back on the counter next to the stove.

He put the spoon into his mouth between his teeth and spilled it into his mouth.

While I’m not sure, I think he must have inhaled a good portion of the Tang dust as it dispersed into his mouth – and throat.

He gagged. A big plume of orange dust billowed out of his mouth as he turned to gag and retch into the sink. He used one hand to cup water into his mouth, even as he tried to get the powder out of his mouth and lungs. This continued for at least a minute.

“What in the hell are you two doing in here?” Aunt Ardith had walked up to the counter between the table and the kitchen, one hand holding her Tareyton cigarette and the other pointing at us. She looked at us like we’d been setting her curtains on fire with a cigarette lighter.

Jimmy and I froze like statues momentarily.

Even though Jimmy was stuttering and coughing, he managed to say, “Having breakfast, what does it look like?”
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*P.S. The picture is of my cousin Jimmy. I loved this picture because I used it to tease him that he was too dumb to use his grill outdoors. In reality, he had just bought a house and was assembling the grill. Whether he actually used it in the living room depends on whether he overcame our genetic predisposition to outright stupidity that day.

 

From Quinine To Asinine

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Unrelated to anything current, I recently did a double-take when I looked closely at my 1-liter bottle of Canada Dry diet Tonic Water. Recently, I began to crave this stuff again. I’ve periodically binged on it through the years.

Before you come away with the mistaken idea I mix this with anything, I don’t. I drink it unmixed and straight. If you’ve ever accidentally bitten into a AA battery, you’re on track to getting a good idea of how pungent this is.

Really poor quality tonic water tastes very similar to sewage. If you’ve been an avid reader of my anecdotes, you know that “Yes,” I do in fact know what sewage water might taste like. (And not just because I’ve eaten at Buffalo Wild Wings, either.) A couple of weeks ago, I bought another brand of said tonic water at Harps Foods. When I tried it, I told my wife it was one of the worst things I’d ever tasted. Naturally, I loved it and drank the entire bottle, even as my contorted looked like someone shoved an ice pick into my kidneys by way of my urethra.

This week, I happened to note that my bottle of Canada Dry diet tonic water had real quinine in it. I noted it after I drank the whole liter. Quinine gives a good tonic water its bitter taste. It’s also a significantly powerful medicine. Even though modern tonic waters don’t usually contain a great deal of quinine, it’s inadvisable to drink much of it at a time, unless you’re bored with Russian Roulette or skydiving.

Did I mention I’d been drinking a liter of this stuff at a time?

It reminds of the time I’d eaten 60+ pieces of exotic real black licorice. I turned the package over to find the following health warning: due to cardiac issues, please enjoy no more than 6 pieces of our delicious and authentic black licorice at a time.

Obviously, I didn’t suffer serious effects from my ignorance.

But I did pick a bad week to stop sniffing glue.

Harp’s Violin

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One of the surprise Xmas gifts I bought Dawn was a tiny violin for her to play when her mom and sister whine.

My wife and I went to the Gutensohn Harps yesterday. Our main purpose was groceries. We ate lunch from the delicious deli bar upfront. The food was amazing. As always, we took a minute to cry and complain about the disparity of quality, selection, and presentation between Gutensohn and the store over by our house. I could hear tiny violins playing in the background as I whined. Harps, if you’re reading this, I’m asking you to replace the entire store in east Springdale. After I ate, I found the manager and heaped praise on her for the incredible store.

I have only so many tears to cry. I may need to take Dawn’s tiny violin to the grocery store with me from now on.

From Fryer To Fruitcake

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Last night, Dawn still felt unwell. Out of the blue, she said, “I’d really like a piece of one of the fruitcakes I got you for Xmas.” Assuming she had temporarily lost her mind, I ignored her request. We had just used the air fryer for the first time and consumed at least 343 potatoes. She asked again. I’d never known her to appreciate the culture and taste of fruitcake, so I was a bit surprised and reluctant to offer her any.
 
Unlike most people in the world, I love fruitcakes, both the food and people with odd dispositions. There’s a vast disparity in quality, of course. Many people make the stubborn assumption that if you’ve tried one, you’ve tried them all -as if crème brûlée (a dessert made from the hopes and dreams of fairies) from a gas station is the same as crème brûlée from a fine restaurant. Many fruitcakes should be used only as anvils, military projectiles, and doorstops.
 
I retrieved the three fruitcakes Dawn bought me and carefully opened one, peeling back the protective layer of secret paper used to seal them away from the jealous stares of those unlucky enough to have their own fruitcake. I presented her with a modest slice of the delicious treat. She forked her slice and put a piece in her mouth. Immediately, her face curled into a mass of displeasure and disgust, as if she had just bit into a rather sizeable live cricket, one who struggled to get free from the confines of her mouth, even as it burst open.
 
“What is this SUPPOSED to taste like?!” she moaned as she used her tongue to force out the morsels of fruitcake that stuck to her mouth. “WHAT are those green things!” I almost cried as I watched one of the best foods in the world go partially to waste. Meanwhile, Dawn was spitting bits of fruitcake as if she were a major league pitcher standing on the mound, ready to pitch a fastball.
 
On the other hand, I laughed like a man with his head caught in an elevator as I watched the chameleonesque metamorphosis of her facial expressions.
 
The picture with this post is several seconds later. I’ll leave it to you to imagine the initial horror pictured on Dawn’s face. This picture isn’t the first picture; instead, it is just a pale tribute to the horror written large on her face.
 
I’m submitting Dawn’s picture to the National Fruitcake Alliance for their next marketing campaign: “Don’t Get Revenge – Get Fruitcake.” I’ll let you know.
 
I hope Dawn feels better this morning. The magic of a fruitcake rarely surprises me.

Subway

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I love Subway. More accurately, I have a love/hate relationship with the eatery. For every great experience or store (such as is usually the case in Eureka Springs), I have a terrible one. Despite it seeming like an exaggeration, I’ve eaten at Subway somewhere around 500 times in my life.

It’s no secret that prices have been inching up in the last few years, mainly after they got rid of $5 footlong promotion. The company has closed a huge number of stores since 2015. Many factors are contributing to its demise, ones not tied to cost. The margins are low, so franchises tend to short-change their employees, both in wages and training. Most keep labor painfully short. We’ve noticed.

Visit any local Subway location and you’ll note a revolving door of faces.

Recently, I noted that some Subways had added a “Tip” selection to their payment kiosks. I have mixed feelings about this.

If Subway were new and tips were on the payment options, I might not stop to consider it carefully. Because I’ve eaten at Subways since they first opened in NWA, it is problematic for it to be an option suddenly. Especially so since I’m standing face-to-face with the employee as I opt-in or out. The sandwich artists are not providing any new value; in fact, I’d say in general that I have to be more careful and repetitive than ever to get my favorite sandwich done the way I like.

That’s not the employee’s fault – that responsibility falls directly on management and the owners.

Whether places like Subway should tip or not is a separate conversation. I’ll agree that’s it not a simple issue.

Most of the time, I get a vegetable sandwich with lettuce, double tomatoes, and Subway spice. That’s it. It is easy to make and cost-effective for the eatery, too.

Generalizing a bit, I’d say that the labor margins have also resulted in less clean stores, longer waits, and dirtier bathrooms. (And a sometimes a comical shortage of napkins.)

Given the uptick in prices, most people realize that they can easily eat a full dine-in meal at another restaurant for about the same price as Subway charges for a combo sandwich meal. In places with many restaurant choices, Subway can’t compete on location, selection, or cost. That didn’t use to be the case.

As an otherwise good tipper, I can see that adding a tip option to the payment isn’t going to go over well for the average Subway customer. I’ve asked several people about it. Most feel a twinge because while they wish to tip when it’s appropriate, they also feel trapped by management’s choice to underwrite the same wages with an upcharge disguised as a tip.