How many meals have you cooked since the quarantine went into place? By my count, as I send this Mouse, it has been 100 days of cooking for two of us in our household. That means breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, popcorn, baking, and making candy. I do like to cook. Ask anyone—I love the thrill of pots and pans full of experimental treats; the fun of creating new calories. However, to quote Bess Truman, wife of President Harry Truman, “I married him for better or worse, but not for lunch.” Bess did not live during the time of “you know what,” yet I can’t help but think, “This is a lot of cooking.”

Bill barbecues, but I do most of the cooking. My glass top stove is now grooved from my cast iron pans. Good thing I like to cook. I can not imagine what it is like to those who hate it. We were saved throughout this time by three heroes in Edgewood, Sonic, McDonald’s, and Dairy Queen. We could drive through.

When I was young, we did not have “fast food.” We had two adult restaurants that allowed children—if they were well behaved—to eat dinner. We had two adult places that served liquor, and we were not allowed to go there. We had a soda fountain for hamburgers and sodas. We had a downtown eatery, Dagwood’s. It had diner style food, like a roast beef open-faced sandwich with potatoes and gravy. Mothers took children for a meal if they were in town for a doctor’s appointment. Oh, and there was a Dairy Queen for ice cream in the summer. It was always packed.

People cooked at home and men took their lunch in pails, as did most children, in paper bags. This went on until the cafeteria ladies came to schools in the 1950s. I remember yellow bubble gum banana pudding with fond memories. I think I became a teacher with my love of cafeteria food. If you went out to a restaurant it was a special occasion, a birthday, a family anniversary, or someone graduated. In short, you ate meals at home.

We have just come through 100 days like it was 60 years ago, with the exception of the drive-through.

I looked up fast food, and it was started in Boston and Manhattan at places called Automat Cafeterias. They were windows in a wall that you dropped coins in, and the window opened, and you got a piece of pie or soup or whatever. It was precooked a little and if you were in a hurry to get back to work in an office, it was perfect for you. These were popular in the 1920s and 30s. Then Americans all got CARS. In Wichita, Kansas a place called White Castle opened in 1921, as a local chain. You could drive up and get out to order. Hamburgers were 5¢. They standardized meat, buns, and paper goods. A&W Root Beer was hot on White Castle’s tail. They opened in 1919 with roadside stands featuring “tray boys” for curbside service. It was started in California. McDonalds opened in 1940 with Kentucky Fried Chicken (or KFC to millenials) in 1952 and Burger King in 1953.

The words “eating on the go” before fast food meant anything that did not need cutlery. Fish and chips, sandwiches, pitas, hamburgers with fries, chicken nuggets, pizza, and ice cream. People loved the casual way to dine either in your car or inside. These places were not too formal or too expensive. They were known for their cleanliness, fast service, child friendliness, and reasonable prices. The universal motto of these restaurants started in the automats, “Less work for Mother!” “Take Out.” The world loved it.

Then came the calorie counters with the words, “TRANS FAT!” 2008 was the year McD’s gave us apple slices with our Happy Meals. OK, we have come a long way from the Garden of Eden. Why is it always an apple? I do love to drive through.

On Father’s Day, our older son and family met us at County Line BBQ. We sat outside at picnic tables, five people at each. There was, God bless him, a waiter. We ate out for the first time in 100 days. Wow. It made an impact on me. I like making it a special occasion but, face it, I really love McDonald’s, Sonic, and Dairy Queen, and all the rest. It was like being a child again. Roaring Mouse, nibbling at leftover french fries. Out.

Jo White
Jo White

From 1966 to 1971, Jo attended the University of New Mexico and Memphis State University, earning degrees in Communications, English, Journalism, Speech and Drama with history minors. At UNM, her hero was Tony Hillerman. She taught high school and middle school in city, country, and private schools for 30 years. Roaring Mouse is in its 25 th year. She can be reached at [email protected]