Several times in the last few days, fast food has come up in the comments of this blog. Apparently this is one of the evils of America that is worthy of scorn. It’s actually one of the things I miss most about the states. Not fast food of the McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Arby’s variety. Okay, I admit it, my homesick self has been spotted in my local McDonald’s on more than one occasion. I’m more interested in the “good food fast” idea that has dominated recent American quick food options. I miss bagel shops, which worked equally well for lunch and for breakfast/brunch. I miss Chipotle, Panera, Qdoba, Noodles and Co., all of the modern quick food places that have gone into most American strip malls in the last few years. Virginia was particularly good for this, there were several local ma-and-pa places too, a falafel joint, a steamed buns and noodles cheap Chinese place. Places where you could get a decent, healthful and fast meal for take-away. I have blogged before about how I do poorly with pre-prepared sandwiches, which appear to me to be the only UK equivalent in my neighborhood. The up-market take-out places in my local vicinity are all specialist sandwich shops, Pret-a-Manger and of course the M&S Foodhall. I have discovered a few things I can eat at Pret, like veggie sushi and some of the salads. But it’s a long walk from work–these places are all closer to home than work. Work has a “canteen” that primarily sells… wait for it… prepared sandwiches.
I will go on the defensive now and state that there is nothing wrong with sandwiches for most people. I just have a “soggy bread” personal issue that is well known in my family. If I get a burger I have to ask for it to be off the bun. I can’t do wet bread. I have a gag reflex. It’s not a British thing, it’s just a personal problem. So I have taken to packing a lunch for work. And the irony is that it often includes a sandwich. Although one that is either totally dry (bread-cheese-bread) or deconstructed (bread and stuff in separate containers, to be assembled in real time). The canteen at work has been amazing, in taking a “special order” for me with a plain cheese sandwich when we have work meetings. I’m fortunate. But it does not mean that I do not wish that there was an easier local option for lunch food near my work. So I think back on the halcyon days in America, when I had easy access to a bagel shop, or a falafel place, or a Panera. And yes, I never had a sandwich I liked at Panera. I only ever ordered the soups and salads.