Not too much to report, foodwise. These past few days, I’ve been eating Meals of Convenience: salads, muesli, leftovers — stuff of that ilk. Boring, yes; necessary, yes. Last night, after a mighty battle with the 14, I arrived home 45 minutes later than expected and had salad and toast for dinner because I was too tired to do anything else. #adultlyfe.
All this is to say, I haven’t prepared any crazily exciting meals this week BUT I’d like to share something with you nontheless. You ready?
In eight days, I’ll be heading back to Minnesota, my not-so-ancestral quasi-homeland, where I’ll be chillin’ with the Mom and the Sis during Xmas. I’m stoked to see them (and Louie: HI, LOUIE); I am not stoked about the travel itself, hateful as I am toward airports & all things related.
One aspect of my trip for which I’m especially excited is Nostalgic Eating, broadly defined as eating the foods of one’s youth and visiting old haunts (in the form of restaurants). Sadly, Hans’ Bakery, my most beloved old haunt, shuttered some time back, as did the Krispy Kreme to which Ali and I made 1,000 late-night trips. Some of my old favorites remain, and I’ll be visiting as many as I can during my four days in the Midwest. For my enjoyment (and maybe yours?), here’s a list of the things I most look forward to eating during the holidays.
1. Papa John’s pizza
I’ve written previously about Chanticlear Pizza, the local chain favored by my parents. Unlike Chanticlear, whose hybrid pies defied real classification,* Papa John’s was revered by my sis and me. It’s embarrassing to admit now, but we viewed PJ’s as the holy grail of pizza; its sauce was so sweet, its cheese so gluey and thick! The tub of garlic dipping sauce included with each pie seemed a thoughtful touch, as did the pepperoncini.
Weekends, Sis and I made trips to Marshall’s, where we hunted for The Ultimate Deal: Diesel jeans for $50, a bottle of Kenneth Cole Black for the low low price of $19.99. As a high-schooler I worked at Marshall’s, so I knew their stock well. I also spent most of my paychecks there. Ooops.
Hours among the racks left me and sis honnnnnngry; typically, we’d walk next door to the Papa John’s, order ourselves a pizza (cheese; later, we’d diversify to pineapple), sit on the curb as the pizza cooked, and cart our feast home in our trusty blue Corolla.
I last had Papa John’s in the summer of 2009. I remember thinking it was OK, for a pie produced in a strip mall. How will my palate have changed since my last taste test? Only time will tell. And then I’ll tell you all.
2. Dino’s Gyros
OPA! Dino’s specializes in gyros, spanikopita, dolmades, and all other sorts of Greek delights, but what I remember most are their fries: slender but not too slender, perfectly golden, and dusted with burnt-orange seasoning salt. Helllllll, yeah. As I recall, the fries were served in white waxed-paper envelopes emblazoned with the chain’s logo; Ali and I used to share a bag and then race to the finish. Maybe “race” is the wrong word: we horq’d to make sure that we each got our fill. Naturally, the prize of this [non]-race was the pleasure of eating more fries than the competitor.
Good news: Dino’s is certainly on our dining itinerary — sis got a Groupon for a meal there. Groupon, this may be the best thing you’ve done all year.
3. Panera scones
Before I worked at Marshall’s, I worked at (you guessed it) Panera Bread. All things considered, my gig at Panera was one of the more grueling positions I’ve held. For some reason, I was assigned a lot of closing shifts; one of my main duties was to brush the breadcrumbs from All Visible Surfaces — and also from between floor tiles. May I just say that was some bitchwork?
Hours of semi-backbreaking labor did nothing to diminish my love of the Orange Scone, which for years was my all-tyme favorite dessert. Moistened, undoubtedly, with oil, the scone was enrobed in a suuuuuuper-sweet, almost-neon-orange frosting that (to my teenaged mind) was the best thing ever.
A few years ago, I walked to the Panera by the ballpark to get one such scone. I was stoked! That is, until I tasted the damn thing — it was nothing like the scones of my dreams. Subsequent bites confirmed that the scone recipe had been changed. Enraged, I wrote a letter to the CEO asking for an explanation. A month or two later, I received a reply: the CEO[‘s PR person] explained that, after extensive market research, the company decided to change the recipe in a way that reflected the “more sophisticated needs” of Panera’s customer base.
More sophisticated, my ass. PANERA IS A STRIP-MALL BAKERY.
I haven’t had a Panera scone since that fateful day. It’s my hope that the R&D team stumbled upon a new scone recipe, one that blows the previous two out of the water. Needless to say, I’ll keep you abreast of my findings.
Those, my friends, are the three foods I’m most looking forward to eating: strip-mall pizza, fries, and scones. I just LOLd at myself, but no one heard me. (Aside: If a person LOLs in a forest, does she make a sound?)
Initially, I thought my anticipation strange, but then I realized it makes so much sense: not only are these foods nostalgic, but they’re the sort of grub that might be looked down upon in certain circles here. And by that I mean they’d certainly be looked down upon in certain circles here. By journeying back to the source, I can indulge in these guilty pleasures with no fear of retribution. I won’t have to pretend that I didn’t know Panera’s frosting has HFCS; I won’t have to poo-poo PJs’ chemically loaded sauce. For a few short days, I’ll be free to eat whatever I want. Bring on the MSG, baby!
*Unless you classified them as greasy, in which case the process would be a snap. What I meant to say is that Chanti-pies are similar to New York-style pizza, but greasier and with thinner crust.