August 29, 2001
Avoiding The Golden Arches

countdown to jaymi and joel: one day
miles to go: still one

*Amazing But True Factoid* Time: I haven't had a Quarter Pounder in almost a year.

I haven't had a Filet O'Fish, either ... or a Big Mac, or a Super-Size order of fries, or a fistful of those little rubber Chicken McNuggets dipped in Hot Mustard sauce.

And it isn't just the Golden Arches I've somehow managed to avoid, either: I haven't had a Jumbo Jack, or a Big Bacon Classic, or a Whopper, or a Double-Double With Cheese. I haven't had a Baja Gordita or an AM/PM Chili Dog. I haven't had Pizza Hut delivered to the apartment. We drive past KFC twice a day -- once in the morning on our way to work, then again when we're coming home -- but we haven't stopped for Honey BBQ Wings. Not even once.

I don't think I've even BEEN in a drive-thru this year.

"How often did you used to eat fast food, anyway?" David asks me. We've just driven past our bazillionth Bay Area McDonald's -- on our way to the grocery store to pick up pantyhose and bananas -- and I've pointed out how amazing it is that we haven't eaten at a McDonald's once, this entire year. This has prompted a discussion of bad eating habits, past and present.

I squirm in the passenger seat. "When the Tots were little," I say, trying not to sound overly defensive, "we really couldn't afford fast food very often. Plus I had time to cook then. But things just sort of changed when they got older."

And it's true: I did have the time (and the energy, and the desire, and the utensils) to cook when the kids were very young.  Both the Ex-Husband and I, as a matter of fact, spent lots of time in the kitchen, leisurely fashioning meatloaves and constructing mammoth casseroles and chopping vegetables for homemade soup. I loved to cook. But then I went back to work fulltime, during the summer of 1993, and all of a sudden cooking turned into this hideous chore that no one wanted to handle ... especially me, after a long day of answering phones and photocopying my hands. Fast food become both a sanity-saver ... and eventually a five- and six-times-weekly way of life.

"You just sort of fall into the habit," I finish lamely. How to explain the appeal of take-out and reheatable containers to a man who grew up on homemade gnocchi and bone china?

But I think David understands.

While his experiences are different -- he didn't grow up eating a lot of fast food, even as a teenager -- he is no stranger to clown heads and styrofoam. After I moved to California, we indulged in fast food at least two or three times a week ... mainly because it was quick, it was cheap, it was easy  ... and we could take it to bed with us. We were particularly fond of Taco Bell (for the quick & dirty Double Baja Gordita) and Jack in the Box (for a while last year I was sending David to buy me a Spicy Chicken Sandwich every night ... and I wasn't even pregnant).

All of that changed this year, of course.

When we embarked on our Eating Plan, at the beginning of the year, we didn't consciously sit down and say "Here are the places we're not going to eat anymore." There was no formal discussion about "good" restaurants vs. "bad" restaurants. I think we both just knew instinctively that while driving to Giorgio's for a pepperoni thin-crust once or twice a year would probably be OK ... finding ourselves on a first-name basis with the Domino's delivery guy was not. The occasional deli pastrami or Barney's Guacamole Burger would be acceptable ... but Sunday night buckets of The Colonel's Original-Extra-Artery-Hardening Recipe were pretty much off the menu for a while.

(We didn't even have to discuss Sausage and Bacon McMuffins.)

Do I still crave fast food? Absolutely. There are moments -- usually after our "big" bike ride on Saturday, or else late at night when I've had a crummy day and I'm feeling tired and vulnerable -- when I am almost faint with desire for a limp overcooked Quarter Pounder With Cheese. (The longer it has languished beneath a heat lamp, the better.) When we're in TicTac, the first place we go -- right after the rest room and Baggage Claim -- is the nearest Taco Time, for a Soft Taco and Mexi-Fries fix. Sometimes just the smell of hot grease and searing cow flesh, as we're driving past the local burger joint, is enough to set off the shrieking noises in my head.( "I want! I want! I want!")

But the truth is that the longer we avoid restaurants with clown motifs and onsite playgrounds -- the more that styrofoam containers and little foil ketchup packets become a distant (albeit tantalizing) memory -- the easier it gets to live without it.

And the better we both feel.

three years ago: anniversaries from hell
[the one that started it all]
two years ago: color me disappointed
one year ago: watching mommy cope

throw a rock