When it comes to food, I often find myself thinking back to yesteryear. Yearning for the simple times of the 80’s and 90’s. I reflect on the moments in my life when I didn’t know what “Gluten Free” or “Paleo” was. When there was no such thing as “organic” or Whole Foods. A time where we didn’t have milk made from nuts or rice. A time when a Happy Meal was a perfectly acceptable dinner for your child.
Flash forward to 2016. Things have changed drastically, that’s for sure. We now know that soda is bad for you and that you shouldn’t eat McGriddle’s on the regular. What a bummer. Sure it’s great to be healthy. I certainly subscribe to a fairly healthy diet (ice cream aside) and definitely ensure that my children are eating healthy and well balanced meals. However, there is a part of me that wishes I could indulge in fast food or the occasional Devil Dog from time to time without intense guilt or the documentary “Supersize Me” plaguing at my conscious.
Being the food lovers that we are, Mike and I often find ourselves talking about our love of all things fast food. The funny thing is, we NEVER indulge in said love. We just talk about it. I imagine this is what recovering addicts do. We fantasize about the Extra Value Meal #2 at McDonalds and the Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Wendy’s. We fondly recall each bite of the Kentucky Fried Chicken biscuits we ate so many years ago and wonder in awe about how anyone actually eats an entire Cinnabon.
Most importantly we talk about the kingdom of fast food. The place where dreams come true and memories are made. That’s right…White Castle. A few months ago we actually made a promise to each other that if we ever stumbled across this burger dynasty, we would break our self-imposed rules and indulge in whatever the monarchy has to offer.
Well that time finally came and let me just say that every ounce of plaque now clogging my arteries as a result was totally worth it.
Flash back to a few weeks ago when Mike and I were driving home from New Jersey after an enjoyable visit with his parents and extended family. We had both girls and Bialy (our French Bulldog) in tow, which certainly doesn’t make for the most relaxing trip seeing as Essie and Bialy hate the car. To make matters worse, what was supposed to be a 2.5 hour trip ended up being a little over 4 hours due to major traffic on Rt. 287.
In spite of the traffic people were somehow managing to keep their cool; at least for the first two hours. However, once we hit hour three, the crew started to unravel in a major way. As we made our way up 287, the baby started screaming her face off. I tried to calm her by opening her window, giving her toys to play with and even going so far as stuffing myself into the back seat in the hopes that my presence would somehow calm the chaos. Apparently my presences isn’t as life changing as I imagined. Nothing worked. In fact, things got worse…
Lenni, who finally reached her breaking point began to scream her face off too. That’s right, we had a 4 month old and a 2 year old screaming in the back seat. On top of that, Bialy was having some sort of anxiety attack sitting up in the front seat. Whatever was going on in her head appeared to cause the excessive panting and farting that was now filling the car. As a result of the chaos trapped within my tiny Kia Soul, Mike and I made the executive decision to pull over and get everyone out for some fresh air.
We took the first exit off of 287 we could find, which happened to be the Nanuet exit. Our intentions were pure. We planned on stopping at a gas station or a Target for just enough time to get a quick stretch and maybe a snack before we were back on our way. As we descended down Route 59, both tired and desperate from our journey, Mike noticed something glimmering out of the corner of his eye. “What was it?” He wondered. Could it be an angel? Could it be a mirage? Were we traveling into the light?
As we got closer, we realized what we had stumbled upon. It was a castle. A White Castle. We were home.
We had to act fast. Would we take the plunge and really indulge in those tiny burgers of glory or would bypass this royal opportunity? In light of the current screaming situation we chose the castle…and it was glorious.
We pulled into the parking lot and got everyone out of the car, which gave us an opportunity to survey the kingdom. Everything was beautiful. The smell of grease and heart attack permeated the air. Garbage cans were full of wrappers and shame. We were in heaven.
Of course being good parents, we spoke in code about how we would hide the food from Lenni as we don’t want her ever falling down the fast food K hole that Mike and I are apparently in. Fortunately White Castle offered a smoothie option which we felt would distract her from noticing whatever we were stuffing in our faces.
Mike and I decided that he would be in charge of ordering our food, while I manned the car and its passengers. Mike entered the castle with a sense of confidence I’ve never seen in him before. It was apparent that this wasn’t his first time at the rodeo. After what felt like an eternity, he emerged with treasure in hand. A white bag of happiness. It’s contents sure to change my life for better and/or for worse.
We got everyone back in the car and with our mouth’s watering, we set off on our journey to Connecticut. Once we were safely moving and people appeared to be somewhat calm, we dug in. Mike ordered 4 cheese burgers and a small fry. With the first bite of those hot and crispy fries, I was transported back to my 11 year-old self. I remembered sitting in the back of my Dad’s Volvo as we rounded the White Castle drive-thru in Eatontown for a dinner to go or a post-movie snack. Each bite was like a piece of my childhood scrapbook or like watching a home movie. It was amazing.
What was more amazing, however was how damn good White Castle is. Everything about those burgers is delicious! The consistency, the taste, the temperature. Everything. Let’s just say that Mike and I were more than pleased with our choice. However, just like an addict I started spiraling out of control.
My mind was racing thinking about all of the other fast food options out there. I started suggesting that we go to McDonalds and Burger King and Wendy’s and Popeye’s. I masked my desire as “content for the blog.” Thank God for Mike as he immediately say what was happening and called me out on it. “What about the children?” He asked me, his eyes full of fear and concern. I realized at that moment, that I needed to get a handle on myself and return to my life of kale and organic chicken.
The smell of burgers and grease seemed to subdue the children. They were fast asleep about 10 minutes after leaving White Castle and the remainder of the trip was like dancing on a cloud. We made it home safely and whisked the little one’s off to bed without issue.
The next morning I woke up wondering if our trip to the castle had been a dream. It was only when I went to get in my car and was slapped in the face with stench of old burgers and fries and I realized our trip was in fact a reality and worth every second, cent and negative implication on my health.