Fast food from farm girl’s perspective


Do you remember back in the olden days of no fast food? A friend sent me a humorous e-mail on this just the other day.

A child asks his father, “What was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?” The dad answers, “We didn’t have fast food when I was growing up. All the food was slow. It was at a place called ‘at home.’ Grandma cooked every day and when Grandpa got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room table, and if I didn’t like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did like it.”

Fond memory. One funny memory that all of my siblings and I share regarding fast food is this: There was one burger place in town, called “The Red Barn.”

On extremely rare occasions, Dad would pull the car in to the parking lot of that fine diner and he would go inside. He didn’t ask us what we wanted. He simply went in and ordered one cheeseburger for everybody.

It was an incredible treat, and we were appreciative. There was just nothing in the entire world that tasted as good as those cheeseburgers, made with slightly toasted buns, the cheese melting over the burger, the pickles giving the tongue a surprising tingle.

We didn’t complain about anything like, “But I didn’t want pickles on MINE…” or anything even close to a negative comment. I don’t think it ever even crossed our minds to take the pickles off or to say, “Next time, I don’t want cheese on mine…”

If we had said such a bold thing, there simply might not have been a “next time” because that’s the way things were.

Eating out.’‘ We sat in that crowded car, right there in the parking lot, and enjoyed “eating out.”

I remember at least once that Dad surprised us with a sack of Red Barn burgers and simply handed the bag to our mother. Instead of passing them out, she held the bag on her lap and Dad began driving.

We all exchanged glances, wondering what was up. Dad drove a short distance and pulled in to the drive-in movie theater.

What a thrill! I don’t even remember what we saw, but I’ll never forget the thrill of simply being there.

I remember Dad fiddling with the speaker, all of us amazed at the incredible technology that could bring the sound right to our car.

I probably fell asleep about five minutes in to the “featured presentation” but the memory of the experience is still such a thrill to recall.

Well fed. The first time I heard someone speak of “fast food” I thought of eggs. That’s what my mom fixed when we were in a hurry to eat, in between farm chores. Scramble up a dozen eggs with a bunch of toasted bread, and we felt well-fed.

This person then corrected me, saying, “No, I mean fast food, like hot sandwiches you can buy somewhere without waiting very long.”

Oh! The Red Barn. Now I knew what they were talking about.

The first time I heard of a McDonald’s burger place, with plans for many more just like it, my dad commented, “The man who came up with that idea is going to get rich, I’ll bet you.”

Wish we all had taken that bet, perhaps in the form of stocks, don’t you?


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.