(a doggie treat from someone else's Flickr)
As a child, we never had juice or soda in the house. Never did a single name-brand (or even knock-off) sugar cereal cross the threshold of our door. Candies needn't waste their time, they hadn't the faintest chance.
My mother almost never took us out to dinner and fast food was such a rare treat that you never saw two children eat their (flame-broiled!) Burger King Whoppers slower. We would pick up the burger, take a bite, put the burger down, chew each bite 10 - 20 times, wipe our mouths elaborately, and slowly pick up the burger again. Somewhere around the 3/4 point, I would exclaim that I was utterly full and cover the last quarter of the burger with my napkin, informing my little brother that I would have to eat it later. I'd tell him to go on and finish his up. At this point my outraged brother would insist that he was also full and we'd go back and forth encouraging the other to finish up, until my mother came by and told us to finish up before she finished us off.
Now my mother was a good cook, but we still were enthralled by the glamour of outside food. Because of this excitement for food made in commercial kitchens, we would eat hospital meals and airplane food with unforeseen zeal and we would get dressed to the nines and wait patiently in the car whenever my mother announced that we were going to the local Sizzler buffet.
As a broke college student, eating out was a little more common but not much more. When I could scrape together my pennies for the occasional slice of pizza or burger, I would still make it into a ritual. As I walked home with my take out I restrained myself from nipping anything from the bag, no nibble off the slice, no casual slurp of soup. As often as possible, I'd set the meal out on real china and eat with proper silverware, relishing this treat. When my cool older (richer!) grad student friends would take me out to lunch, I was as appreciative as if someone had given me a kidney. Honestly, you've never seen a more appreciative guest.
However everything changed when I moved to New York. In NYC there is no shortage of places to eat at every price point and the restaurants work around you. Even McDonald's delivers! In addition, so much of social life is structured around meeting for meals. And so I went from eating cereal at home to a daily morning delivery of a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich at my desk; from packing my lunch to an afternoon salad at the deli; and I often ended my day with a post-work meal and drink with a friend. I was never particularly thrilled with the quality of food in New York, but it became sort of a necessary evil. After 6 years of life there (and especially after all the goodbye dinners!), I'd gone out to eat so much that I was annoyed with it. I could no longer be asked to pick the restaurant and I'd developed an aversion to menus, just tossing them on the floor and begging my dining companion to pick for me. So it is my good fortune that I am now living in a town where the pickings are slim to none.
I can count on one hand the number of times I have gone out to dinner here, in Radovljica . It just isn't a feature of this suburban life. While I do often grab a bite when I make my intermittent trips to Ljubljana, dining out there doesn't present nearly the amount of stress of the New York meal. While I am definitely wracking up a list of food that I can't wait to eat when I'm in the states again (sushi, Mexican, Thai, I'm looking at you) when I sit down to chow on those meals, it will be more like the treats of yesteryear. For old times sake, I might just have to get dressed up to nines....and invite my pesky little brother.