I just had one of the best anniversaries ever. The best part was the simplicity of it. We grabbed some food from Sonic and had a picnic on the lakefront with our two little boys.

There have been a lot of attacks on fast food in the past few years. People complain about the high calories, marketing to children or even how they need to warn us that hot coffee is hot. (Don’t you wish we could return to the days when people actually had to have a brain to survive?)Most disturbing to me is that the fast food places are actually starting to cave to this pressure. I don’t mind them offering menu options so people can chose healthier foods, but the day when a fast food restaurant forces me to accept half the french fries I would normally get, while they replace the rest with apple slices in the kid’s meal is the day I stop going to that establishment. Sure, eating fast food all day every day is not good for you and can make you fat. But guess what, kid’s aren’t the ones buying the kid’s meals. Their parents are. So who cares if they are marketing to children? It is the parent’s job to say “no” and set the rules and boundaries.
But I digress. The real reason I am writing today is to lament what may soon be the loss of a very important element in our lives. While fast food restaurants are a business and have their problems, they have also been an intrugal part of many of our lives. I remember having a joint birthday party with my best friend at McDonald’s when we were in first grade. On long road trips to visit my family in other states, we would stop and get pancakes and hashbrowns for breakfast. Sometimes I would eat it in the back of the car while we drove. There were impromptu family reunions held in fast food parking lots and over a few combo meals. It made the perfect stop after a long trip to meet up with family or friends so they could lead you to their home, or to exchange Christmas gifts when driving all the way to one person’s home was too far, and you needed some place in between to meet. I would grab some fast food after school, before band practice, and share it with my classmates. I learned to eat without much salt back then, as they would always forget to put salt packettes in my bag for some reason. 🙂

As a child, every weekend, my mother and I would go to the store together. We made a day of it, went to eat at Dairy Queen or Sonic, went to the movies, shopped for awhile, got groceries, and would sometimes grab a pizza on the way home. It was wonderful. In college, I would grab some fast food between classes, and my first date with my husband was at a McDonald’s. We drove around for over an hour looking for somewhere to eat before I finally decided to go there. I’d never been to real restaurants before and felt comfortable with that choice. We recreated that first date a few times on anniversaries. We did so again this year with our Sonic picnic by the lake. I will always remember my time at fast food restaurants fondly. I only hope that my sons will have an opportunity to build those same kinds of memories, unmarred by political agenda and stupidity. May we all learn to appreciate our own fast food memories, before they are gone forever.

-A.D. McLain

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