For some time I have been observing what I have come to call the over-homogenization of food. You really cannot go anywhere and not, more or less, find exactly the same things. Is that good? Is that bad? Maybe some of both. However you feel about it, the trend is here to stay.
So what am I talking about? Well, if you live here in Sioux Falls, you have probably eaten at Texas Roadhouse, Applebee's, Granite City, Outback Steakhouse, McDonald's, Ground Round, Olive Garden, etc. Chances are, if you have traveled you have, or could have, eaten at the same places. The fact that you can get about the same thing, about everywhere, disturbs me a little.
To cut to the chase, let's start with something near and dear to my forking heart: Beer. Let's go way back. Far enough to a point in time where people will wonder how old I might be. Once upon a time, there was a beer brewed in a small town, outside Denver, called Coors. It was distributed in Colorado and a few other western states like California and Wyoming. If you lived in South Dakota or Minnesota, you couldn't get Coors, which probably made you want it more. You had to wait until your no-account brother in law brought a case or two when he came back for a family reunion at Lake Poinsett. Naturally, everyone treated the dumb jackass like a hero and ohhed and ahhed over the deliciousness of the contraband beverage. Well, Coors finally got here, and how many people do youknow that main-line the Banquet beer? Exactly.
Same thing happened recently with another beer from Colorado, Ft. Collins to be exact: Fat Tire from New Belgium. Good stuff? Sure. As good as it was when you had to bootleg the stuff in? Not so much.
Now, you can get a beer that was only available for those rare trips to Texas- Shiner Bock. It's on tap at the Attic, and probably a bunch of other places around town.
My point is, these few beers used to seem much better when they were forbidden fruit. Something to be enjoyed on a trip to Houston or San Antonio, or a special run to Beulah, WY, to pick up a case of Fat Tire. Now, you can pick them up at Hy Vee.
I swear, the day Yuengling shows up on tap in Sioux Falls, I might just stick a fork in my eye.
Looking at the whole beer experience makes me think of the food. It seems we, as people, always want what we don't have, and the few times we get it, it seems so much better than anything else. If Coors, Fat Tire, and Shiner Bock don't prove that, I don't know what will. But the same thing is likely true for food.
Case in point. If there is one thing people have come to enjoy over the last 5-10 years, it is big Mission-style burritos. These thigh-sized suckers were born in San Francisco, but as it turns out, no one exactly has a patent on 1200 calories of grippable foil-wrapped meat, cheese, beans, rice, and goo. Enter Qdoba. But alas, I am yet to hear from a Qdoba patron who does not decry the fact that the almighty Chipotle has not yet made it to our fair city. "Ohhh, Chipotle is soooo much better than Qdoba! The flavors are better." Well, the jury is out on that one, kids. Been there. Done that. Good? You bet. I was starving and badly in need of a bottle of cerveza because I had already been at the damned Mall of America for 10 minutes. End all be all of big forking burritos? No. Sorry. Did it taste better because I can't get one on the corner of 57th and Louise? Probably.
My point is, I sometimes think some of this stuff tastes better because it is a special treat. You cannot get it at home and, when you are out of town, unless it is for non-stop meetings, this stuff is a treat. When it comes to town, not so much. When was the last time you ordered a straight Coors on tap? See?
This is what I mean by overly-homogenized. Everything is getting to be too "the same" everywhere. Granted, it is nice to occasionally find a safe place to eat, where you know exactly what you are going to get before you go in, but is that really what life is about?
Take a chance, and eat local, my friends. Find places that are not franchises. Eat somewhere that is not advertised in an airline magazine in the seat-back of the plane. Go somewhere you haven't heard of. And soak it up. It will always taste better than a Coors on tap.