Chief Suspect's Treatise on the Why's & Wherefore's of Eating Out & Eating In or Whence Went Good Taste?

Eating Out
When I was a child .. well, up until I was a late teenager, anyway .. eating out was a rare , but wonderful, occasion. Most people that I knew simply did not often eat out, because there weren't that many place in the first place. And the restaurants or eateries that did exist were of mainly two distinct types: Grand Eloquent or Hole-in-the-Wall. The first were dining facilities found in hotels, or nearby larger urban cities for the purpose of handling greater numbers of notables, movie stars, high-ranking government officers, and well-known sports figures. The latter feederies were more my speed: The counters at Walgreen's Drugstore, the Greyhound Bus Terminal, or the Airport; Wimpie's Hamburgers and Hotdogs; an occasional Wots Up Dok Chinese place; or Hyman's Kosher Deli. All the above offered menus with exquisite listings of various appetizers, entrees, quick grill, desserts, and drinks. The point then was ... they were all fresh made .. on the spot .. nothing from the freezer, and certainly not microwaved. Ordering a hamburger over the counter, one watched a grill cook grabbing a lump of ground chuck and patting it flat in his hands before plunking down on the grill together with some onion, and maybe laying a slice of real cheese on it before presenting it to you on a platter with pickles and chips, real lettuce leaf, and slab of tomato on it. It hadn't been preformed with presevatives to last a 1,000 mile trip shipped from Timbuktu where you had no idea that the beef there may have uttered, “Arf” in its last breath, after having been fed concentrated FARM FOOD PELLETS fortified with cortisone all its caged life. Don't ask about chicken today compared to then. Speaking of chicken, where did all the parts go? Is it my imagination, or does everything on a modern menu come with the words ... chicken breast? Even salads, f'r cryin' out loud, now come with chicken meat atop the lettuce. Now, I certainly can understand that the wings of chicken must be packaged and sold separately for those all important BUFFALO WINGS we find at popular eateries, athough many of them have begun to discard the wing-tip part, and even the bones from the other two sections of the wing .. selling them as 'boneless drummies'. Of course, they have to first be washed and sprinkled with preservatives before being frozen and shipped. But, then, where ... what happened to the THIGHS? Well, some of them end up in a KFC bucket, accounting for about half of all chicken pieces. Calculating as well my mind permits, I seem to remember that chickens came with wings (2), breasts (2), drumsticks (2), and thighs (2). So, why do I get more thighs in any given bucket than is accountable for a normal chicken? Perhaps some of those chickens had three legs? Not to be wondered when you consider the chemicals pumped into the chicken's growing cycle. I know I should not be mentioning this here, but when I was a kid, even the FEET (skinned of course) went into the stew pot and made for lovely tasting flat dumplings, and I stripped the toe-bones between my teeth. Ever noticed how difficult it is to find an ordinary steak on the menu? Oh, yeah, there are steaks listed on the menus. All of them described as, “Blackened” (where in @^%$ did THAT come from?); Marinated in “obfuscatabli sauce” (or some such); or served with “orange and dill chutney”;

perhaps even “hand-rubbed” with salt, pepper, worcestershire, jalapeno, chipotle, cumin, ginger, lice, roasted fleas, or weevil-dung. What the ... ? Can't I just find an ordinary broiled or grilled Sirloin, Porter House, T-Bone, or Rib Eye without the Chef du Jour insisting that I try one of his nightmares? Same for fish. But, today, somebody, somewhere, in a foreign kitchen decided that all fish must be underdone. Indeed, some wild-eye Japanese messcook escapee from the Imperial Navy made it to the U.S.of A. and decided that Americans can EASILY be hoodwinked into eating RAW fish, and believing the tale that the cute little morsels actually tasted ... GOOD. I am pretty smart at recognizing when I am being taken for a ride, and have more sense than forking over some serious, industrial-weight payroll in exchange for one-tenth ounce of raw fish, molded with bean curd or rice, and sprinkled with rotten fish gut sauce and being expected to utter ... “Ummmm” (while rolling my eyes Heavenward)! Ain't gonna happen. My idea of eating out does not contain the terms chipotle or oregano, or does it enumerate the herbs used in dreaming up a sauce that I will scrape off to one side in any case. My plate does not need to come looking like a piece of cockeyed art from the easels of Salvadore Dali. What I look for, hope for, but never find .. unless in extreme rarity, will be things forgotten in modern American cookery. When is the last time you found on a menu such exquisite listings as: Sliced pork roast, with new potatos, buttered beets, and creamed peas? Limas? Stewed chicken and dumplings, with (real) mashed potatoes, and (done) green beans? Pot roast of beef, with carrots, quartered potatos, onions, and gravy over cornbread wedges? Baby beef liver, sauteed with onions, on a bed of rice with gravy, accompanied by corn pudding? Veggie Plate of: Kale greens, Black-eyed peas, Spoonbread, and Candied yams? .... and all the above made on-the-spot, not days in advance, either. Finally, I am sick-to-death of the omnipresent veggie medley of broccoli-and-cauliflower, and barely scalded green beans or baby carrots. Now, if it sounds as if I sport a biased opinion of Italian and Mexican foods, its because I am inundated with too doggone much of it. Every new eatery that springs up seems to be one of those .. or Chinese, or Indian, or Middle Eastern, or Latino. Granted, we have an increased cosmopolitan makeup, even in Lexington. But .. where do you find plain, ordinary American food? One gets tired of going only to Ramsey's. Which leads me to my next heading:

Eating In
My wife is one of a last breed of sho-nuff, knock-em-down home cooks. My children and grand children are blessed to have been witness to the last of the real Mom's Kitchen proprietors. This is not to say that my sons married kitchen-challenged air-heads. Au contraire! I get some sterling meals out of my daughters, and I look for occasions of their specialties. But, having been married since childhood to my same wife, I have been raised (so to speak) on food likened to that which my own saintly mother (and my wife's mother) taught her to duplicate. My wife KNOWS how to make: Savory Ham Pies, Pot Roast, Swiss Steak and Tomatoes, Several soups, Chicken and Dumplings, Meat Loaf, and even Tacos made from a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e scratch. They bear NO resemblance to Taco Bell, but then .. Taco Bell itself bears no resemblance to Taco Bell that we recall from 1965 California.

Real breakfasts are available at my house, too. Even to the exotic poached eggs upright on buttered toast accompanied by country ham. Can you fancy a real ham and swiss on rye? Where can you get that in a restaurant? What about stewed pork spare ribs? Non-existent outside my house. Even the meatballs and spaghetti at home comes without oregano, bay, or garlic, and was made the hour before. You just cannot imagine if you haven't been raised on this kind of tasty stuff. We really do not do desserts much at home. She won't, and I can't. But, occasionally there comes some sneaky kind-hearted, well-meaning, do-gooder into the house with a milk chocolate pie, or a light pecan pie, peach cobbler .. all of which demands spooning a half-pint of Breyer's best vanilla alongside. OK .. so the sneak do-gooder was my wife; but, we were expecting company so there was an excuse. My wife does these desserts from scratch, too. Eating in also includes coffee. We haven't yet, and refuse to do so, pay $4.00 for a cup of Starbuck's. But, thanks to my spoiled younger son, who started grinding beans, then graduating to ordering GREEN beans for home-roasting. Now, we have become coffee snobs, but only ordering beans by the 15 lb bag. There's nothing like fresh ground and brewed coffee with crosswords out in our gazebo.

Eating in is tastier, and no doubt healthier, than eating out. Trouble is, when something taste so good there is a tendency to fill-up again. No doubt the price factor is waaay better at home. But, there is something to be said for the notion of just getting out of the house to see if any changes have been made to various menus around town. They haven't. In fact, I'm convinced they all hire the same printer and feature the same things, but just put different Restaurant names on the headings. Yet, when a new joint opens up, it's always a temptation to try it out (after the hub-bub of publicity has dropped). So, guess we'll see what Red Robin is all about ... just once, then come home and duplicate it for a tenth the cost.