Real Food in a Fast Food World

By Deane Barker • Posted on April 11, 2009

I worked at Hardees in high school – back in the 80s. Hardees is a fast-food chain specific to the Midwest, I think.

At the time, I didn’t recognize how high-quality the food was. I don’t whether this still holds true, but let me give you a couple examples of how good the food really was.

I shudder to think how fast food has probably changed. Hardees food was great, but it was inefficient to make. And inefficiency is the bane of a mass-produced anything. Remember, we didn’t defrost biscuits, we made them by hand, probably much the same way your grandma does (sure, she didn’t have a Biscuit Kit, but the intent was the same). This process would drive an “efficiency expert” insane.

Towards the end of my fast food career, things were becoming different. Instead of cooking a burger real-time for an order, we were pre-cooking them and storing them in some steamy storage box. That was a march toward efficiency that I’m sure has continued unabated with some probably unappetizing results.

The other day, David and I met a colleague at the Queen City Bakery in Sioux Falls (it’s new, it’s awesome). I ordered a hot chocolate.

Me: “This tastes weird.”

David: “That’s because it’s real hot chocolate, not a chemical designed to taste that way.”

Sure enough, after I got a little used to the flavor, it was amazing.

I stopped and talked to the owner on the way out. Turns out he uses fresh milk that was in a cow about 24 hours earlier on some farm just north of Sioux Falls, heats it, and then crumbles up an actual block of dark chocolate and lets it melt in the hot milk.

Score one for real food.

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