Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Food Aesthetics

We will be exploring more about food aesthetics in the near future. For now, I highly recommend browsing these pictures of food art from across the pond. It's cliche, but each one is more amazing than the previous one, which was amazing but WOW.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Best Burger

1979 E Maple St
North Canton, OH 44720
(330) 498-0808

by Scarlet Pumpernickel

At Best Burger I saw something I haven't seen since my days in Los Angeles, a Pastrami Burger, which I had no choice but to order. The restaurant is an interesting place. It has that clean cut post-Chipotle look that small fast food places all have these days. The one anomaly to the uniform style of the place is a mural on one of the walls that disturbed my temporal sensibilities by having a 1920's hobo wearing an advertising sandwich billboard thing and a 1970's taxi cab. What year is the theme anyway? It was fascinating because the more I looked, the more it seemed like a collection of disparate elements that are all interesting but don't seem to belong together. Why was the statue of Liberty on one side of the mural? Was this a painting of New York, or was the artist just trying to be patriotic?

I enjoyed my burger, but left feeling somewhat unsatisfied. Later that day, while I was reflecting on the burger, I realized that the problem was that the pastrami was being treated as a topping, and not as a full partner in the construction of the burger. This is a problem because a topping has to have a distinct enough flavor profile without being overpowering to work in a sandwich. Pastrami, being a beef product itself, is not distinct enough to be a topping like bacon or ham. So, much like the mural, I was left wondering what the plan was. Did they just throw together a bunch of things they liked without any idea how they would fit together in the end?

Let me explain more thoroughly. A burger is, at its base, a ground beef patty on a bun. You can top that burger with a variety of things, cheese, lettuce, onions, etc. You can top it with special things that give the burger a special name, like Southwest Burger. These toppings do not change the fundamental nature of the burger. They are flavor/texture agents added on top.

Some things sitting on top of a burger can fundamentally change the sandwich. When I ordered a Pastrami Burger in LA at my favorite place to order Pastrami Burgers, they would put 8oz of pastrami on it. Not 8oz by weight, 8 fluid ounces. They literally took an 8oz Styrofoam cup, packed it with pastrami, and set it next to the grill to be added to the sandwich when it was done. You didn't walk in wanting a burger and then just decided to get the one with pastrami; you went in there knowing you wanted to order it because it was more than twice the sandwich of their regular burger.

Chili burgers are another good example. Just taking your restaurant's soup chili and sloping it on top of a burger is unacceptable. Beans have no place in a burger chili (exception being on a vegetarian chili burger). Chili on burgers is an all meat affair, and the chili has to be made extra viscous so it doesn't run all over to hell and back.

Changing the nature of a burger isn't limited to just meat. Down south, they can slap a wad of coleslaw on a burger big enough to count as a full side in most places.

The point is, there is a great deal of experimentation to be done and I feel like no one is doing it. I want to see experimentation beyond just a second (or, gasp, a third) beef patty on a burger. What about some kind of beef-pork-lamb triple-decker? What about a burger with a crab cake on it? I'm not saying these things would be any good, but shouldn't somebody try? If they're out there, I want to find them. I want to eat on the fringe of the burger world and discover new sandwiches whose consumption in and of itself is an experience.

Otherwise it's just a tasty burger with some pastrami on top that makes for an otherwise unremarkable lunch.

Best Burger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sandwich used in another attack

by Beau Cadiyo

Frank Thorson sent me this article about yet another sandwich used in a violent assault.

In times like these, it is useful to remember two things:

1) If sandwiches are criminalized, only criminals will use sandwiches;
2) Sandwiches don't kill people - people kill people.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fabulous Food Show - Day Two

by Beau Cadiyo

I got down to the FFS today; here are my notes.

First, there are a lot of stands charging for samples. I may be part of the older generation, because when I was young, samples were free. In fact, I think that's part of the definition of a sample - something you give away for free to let people try whatever product you're pushing. At the FFS, though, people were actually charging for samples.

This practice must stop. Period. If you charge for something, it's not a sample. From now on, I would recommend a policy at any food convention: no charging for samples.

I naturally wouldn't pay for anything, but I'd definitely pay attention to the places with real samples. Here are the ones we found:

1) Distillata Company. No sandwiches. They have water, of course, but their stand also had these single-cup coffee brewing machines. To use them, you have to use their coffee packets, but the German Chocolate Cake coffee was absolutely amazing and they had free biscotti.

2) Just Pizzelles. No sandwiches. These are little cookie-type things; I'd never heard of them, but they were tasty. The first one I tried was the Jalapeno Pizzelle; it was mild, and then spicy, but in a way that warmed your whole mouth evenly - it was a very interesting sensation. When I asked if they had sandwiches, she pointed me to the PB&J Pizzelle; it definitely tasted like grape jelly and peanut butter, but the grape jelly flavor was a little too chemically. Christina, the girl who talked to me, was sexy in an unconventional way which I couldn't quite put my finger on. If someone can identify it, please let me know.

2) Cajun Island. No sandwiches. I had the chicken with the Jerk sauce, which was tasty, but nothing absolutely mind-blowing. I asked about a sandwich they'd recommend, though, and they said Ciabatta bread with chicken, green onion and provolone, with their sauce, which sounds amazing.

3) Alcohol Killer. No sandwiches. A drink that apparently helps with hangovers and has nutrients or something. The pretty girl who was put out front to lure in guys described it and then got sullen when we didn't actually buy any.

4) The Olive Orchard. No sandwiches. I did taste a pepper-stuffed olive and some olive oil. Nobody said anything to me, though, or asked me if I needed anything. Compared to the other booths it was very noticeable.

It was after the olive orchard that I saw a black man walking down the aisle and realized that the crowd was overwhelmingly, crushingly white.

5) Robert Rothschild. No sandwiches. However, I tried the buffalo bleu cheese; Frank asked me, "How is it?" and my answer was, "Minus the chicken."

6) Alaska Seafood Marketing. No sandwiches. However, they did have salmon on a few greens which was delicious, and I was intrigued by the fact that they were simply marketing Alaskan seafood as a PR move.

7) Northwest Pears. No sandwiches. A stand marketing pears from the Pacific Northwest. Delicious, tender pears from the Pacific Northwest. It reminded me of the year I spent working on a gubernatorial campaign in Portland, Oregon; the candidate needed something to give to the county Democratic parties, so I made a pear-infused vodka using almost exclusively ingredients from Oregon and she gave it out as if she'd made it. These pears were magnificent - juicy, tender, with that tiny grittiness that comes when they're ripe.

It was at this point that I lost Franks Hoxha and Ciepiel. While walking around, I realized that it's much more fun to eat with other people than alone. Frank texted me that they were near the beer stand; when I got there, he was about to buy a beer before he realized that it would cost six dollars. Seriously, six dollars? It wasn't even a microbrew - I think it was Miller Or Bud or something. He didn't get one.

8) Frickaccios Pizza Market. No sandwiches. John, one of Frank's friends, was handing out samples of pizza bagels, which were oddly delicious, if not very bagel-ly.

9) Cookie Cupboard. No sandwiches. They did have gourmet dough, though, which is like Pillsbury but "good." I liked the white chocolate/macademia one myself.

At this point in my notes, I was reminded of my carnie days in Oregon, traveling and setting up across from either the cutting board people or the salsa makers (both of which were owned by the same guy, who I really respected for employing people at carnivals and state fairs and making hundreds of thousands of dollars every summer. I wanted a salsa maker.

10) Sorcerer Seasoning. No sandwiches. We did have some fried provolone cheese, though, which was delicious. The lady, with flaming red hair and bright eyes under her bangs, was attractive, but in a charismatic, enchanting magician sort of way.

11) Little Dipper Co. No sandwiches. We did have the red chili pepper and spicy Italian dipping sauces, which were delicious.

12) Big Dipper Food. No sandwiches. Unrelated to the Little Dipper Co. The peanut brittle popcorn and the cashew brittle were both outstanding. When I asked questions, the father would look at his son and the son would answer quietly, so that I had to lean in to hear him. I got the sense that the father was allowing his son to talk to people, encouraging it, to help his son get over shyness or something. It was done in a very brave, paternal way which I thoroughly appreciated - the father may have sold more if he'd done the talking, but was willing to let his son do it to develop his skills. I liked it.

13) Hot D Wakeup Juice. No sandwiches. Bloody Mary mix with energy supplements; they served them in little cups with tiny sticks of celery, which was a great touch.

14) Shearer's. No sandwiches. The buffalo bleu cheese chips were tasty.

15) Hay's Orchard Original Juices. No sandwiches. The Pomegranate Apple Juice was my favorite, followed by the Concord Grape, which was a little too sweet for me. I was waiting for the apple, but a rather large woman said "EXCUSE ME" loudly and I moved out of the way and then lost interest.

16) Stancato's. No sandwiches. We had pasta with the Rosa Maria sauce, which was...well, I can't taste the difference between sauces, usually. I mean, when I get a four-cheese sauce, I want to know where the cheese is, and I want to see it, melted and stringy, over my pasta, which it never is. Where is the cheese in four-cheese pasta sauce? Anyway, to me, sauces are pretty much the same, and I like Ragu.

17) Dennis Farms. No sandwiches. However, they had Maple Creme and Orange Maple Creme, which is like semi-solidified maple syrup. The orange was surprisingly amazing - definitely a good stocking stuffer. With its deliciousness, I was surprised there weren't more people flocking around the booth.

There were lots of Amish people walking around, which was interesting. We learned later that, like with the Alaskan seafood and PNW pear stands, there was an Amish stand, complete with buggy. The kids were very cute.

18) Bubba's Q Hot Sauce. No Sandwiches. Pretty good. However, having eaten at Hot Sauce Williams earlier in the day, I wasn't in the mood so much.

19) Saeco. No sandwiches. This is another coffee maker company, but they make espresso. Instead of needing coffee from their company, it uses, regular coffee, has a self-contained grinder and makes some strong stuff. I went up fast and crashed just as hard, getting extremely sleepy on the way back.

20) Almondina. No sandwiches. The guys looked like they were trying to pick up girls rather than sell stuff - it was a good strategy, as there were a lot of cute girls around. A LOT of cute girls. The cookies themselves were, to me, dry and airy.

21) Ashtabula County. No sandwiches. Ashtabula has the longest covered bridge on the US, 20 wineries and grows 65% of Ohio's grapes. They also serve delicious mussels in a butternut squash sauce, which could be a soup, really. The chef had picked the ingredients himself earlier that day (well, not the mussels).

22) Emerald Necklace Inn. No sandwiches. They do have a whole range of tea-derived products, including a pesto green tea/sundried tomato sauce served over bowtie pasta. I love tea; I founded a tea appreciation society in college, actually, and drink gallons of the stuff. However, I didn't like the taste of this. It's not horrible, but I don't know that it's good. It's just different.

There were smaller stages with amateur chefs performing. One, a Latin-looking man, was next to us as we waited in line for fresh-cooked food from a couple of cafes. It struck me that his stuff was actually amateurish and kitschy...but, at the same time, that it was no different than what other celebrity chefs did. To pretentiously overanalyze it, the phrase "celebrity chef" puts "celebrity" before "chef." These people are more actors, performers, entertainers, than chefs, and the celebrity part matters to people. I mean, most of the recipes that these people make are roughly comparable to each other, and most people will never make the dishes that they watch made on television. It is the communicator that really matters.

23) Heck's Cafe. Sliders. The bread is the same sort of bread you get at CostCo, but it was a little dry. The meat, though - herbed ground beef topped with what tasted like Provolone cheese. They were well-done, probably to ensure that bacteria are cooked out. Compared to Denny's Beer Barrel Pub these were absolutely heavenly. Ciepiel and Hoxha also noticed the high quality of the beef, and similarly relished this Moment of Sandwich.
This was my first slider ever; I had actually considered going to White Castle last night, as I passed by one on Euclid. Sliders are such a strange, quirky idea.

24) Grumpy's Cafe. No sandwiches. Jambalaya. Dry.

25) Cleveland Museum of Art. No sandwiches. However, there is a special "Luxury" exhibit right now through January, and they had what tasted to be luxurious chocolates that looked like tiles. The volunteers were very nice and recommended a couple of sandwich spots that I may review in the near future.

We glanced into the main event area. The whole time we were walking around we kept hearing waves of applause and hooting; they came from this separated section. Inside were rows and rows of chairs and some bleacher seats, half-filled with people. I didn't even know who was playing - having even half-filled seats to see a cook seemed surreal. I guess it's just entertainment, though.

As far as conventions go, this was one of the better ones. At least the subject was something that is useful and necessary to people. You may as well enjoy the basic bits of life.

However, at the wine tasting, the ridiculous posturing started to get to me. It has always been a pet peeve of mine when people say that something is the "best (object) ever." By saying that you went to the "best Thai restaurant ever," or that you have the "best boyfriend ever," or that you had the "best phone call ever," you're saying that you've tried all the others and, with subjective tastes, you are judging something. The problem is that we all have limited experience, limited objectivity, limited judgment and the overwhelming need to be discriminating in some way, or in many ways. For whatever reason, wine is something that people want to be discriminating about, to be expert on, and which almost nobody ever is. "Oh," someone just said, "but I can taste the difference with my discriminating, well-trained palate." Maybe you can. But most people can't, yet they feel the need to present themselves as somehow experts.

That's part of the reason I liked having the Franks with me - they were open about their lack of knowledge, and asked for advice. I tried to be, too, but I finally admitted that there was very little difference between most of them that I could taste. Well, there was one that tasted like someone had infused tobacco smoke into it, but that was exceptionally bad.

I also started to doubt my own powers of objectivity about food. I mean, I am not "classically" trained in food. I looked back through some of my posts to see what I wrote, and if I should feel hypocritical by being irritated by wine connoisseurs.

The jury is out. I mean, the most criticized of my posts is also filled with facts: there were potato sacks on the floor and leaking oil at Burger Nuts, and I can't change that fact, no matter how many people say they've been a bunch of other times and that I am wrong. Several places have distinctive bathrooms. Yet I sometimes wonder if my judgment - that the barbecue beef at Slyman's is too vinegary, for example, but the corned beef is superb - is presented in too objective a manner.

I'll be thinking about that. Right now I'm tired, and I may go downtown. Tomorrow, Scarlet and her roommate are going to the IX Center for the last day of the Fabulous Food Show - and you should join them.

Fabulous Food Show

by Beau Cadiyo

Yesterday was the first day of the Fabulous Food Show. I'm sure it was amazing; however, like normal people, Scarlet, Franks Hoxha and Li and I all had to work. I'm guessing that this is meant to draw food-lovers from around the world; however, it's amazing to me that they take the time out of their lives to come to a conference, arriving Thursday and staying through Sunday. Of course, there are many conventions I don't understand.

Anyways, I'm doing some research on soul food this morning and then I'll head over to the FFS. There had better be some fricking sandwiches at this thing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fabulous Food Show

I just received the following information about a show this weekend at the IX Center.

"The Fabulous Food Show ( is coming up this weekend, November 14 – 16, at the IX Center. This year’s show will include celebrity chefs such as Paula Deen and Cleveland’s own Michael Symon, as well a chance to check out some of the best food and wine in the Midwest."

If you have the chance, stop on by! We'll be the ones firing sandwich-related questions to the speakers - particularly when it isn't question-and-answer time.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub

1452 Woodland Road
Clearfield, PA 16830

By Scarlet Pumpernickel

I knew it was trouble when Beau emailed me about some kid who had eaten a 20lb burger in Pennsylvania. When he suggested we go check the place out, how could I say no? It's was going to be a bit of a drive, but I can't back down from a challenge; certainly not one that involves a giant burger. 20lbs of food is well beyond me, but they have a couple of smaller challenges for the slightly less foolhardy. Beau and I were each planning on tackling the "2lb" burger challenge which nets you half price on the meal, a tee-shirt, and a photo on the wall. So, early on a Saturday morning, we set out to the east to face our burger destiny.

The restaurant is a casual place; a seat yourself affair. It was also packed, which wasn't too surprising because it was lunchtime. Once we got settled in, we ordered our burgers. According to the rules, you have one hour to finish the burger, and it comes with a standard set of toppings, of which you can only remove one. We filled out forms with our names and information and had our photos taken.

After what seemed like an interminable wait, we received our burgers. Neither of us was prepared for how big they actually turned out to be. I've eaten 1+lb burgers before, so I figured this would just be about twice that size. Unfortunately for me, the 2lb burger was the post-cooked weight of just the patty. A patty about eight inches in diameter and more than an inch thick sitting between the two halves of a "bun" that was really just a round loaf of bread cut in half, with lettuce, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, mayo, ketchup, and mustard piled on, topped with a pickle.

The waitress marked our start times and the battle began.

When I was in college, Fox had an eating competition special. Sure, we've all seen the clips on the news about this or that person finishing some obscene amount of whatever, but actually seeing the whole competition was another matter all together. What struck me was that in the world of competitive eating there are two kinds of challenges, ones where the contestant must eat as much of something normal, like hot dogs, as he/she can and ones where the contestant much choke down as much of something disgusting, like a bowl of mayonnaise, as possible. Don't get me wrong, I love mayonnaise, but a bowl of the stuff on its own? Disgusting.

One bite into the burger (much more difficult than it sounds because the whole burger is about 6 inches tall with bun and simply cannot be eaten like a normal burger) revealed this challenge to be one of the latter type. The meat patty was gritty, flavorless, and dry. It was like they took the lowest grade beef they could find, ground it as finely as they could, threw in some filler to hold it together, and cooked the life out of it. It was one of the worst burger patties I've ever had. It WAS the challenge. I imagine there are a lot of big guys who could come in and eat a normal burger of that size if they really tried, but swallowing that dense, flavorless wad of protein was pretty unpleasant.

It clearly didn't have to be that way. The toppings were all fresh and crispy and the bread, while a bit stiff, likely for structural reasons, tasted fine. The place was also packed with locals eating normal burgers, so I simply cannot believe that they make their normal patties that way. I admit, a normal burger patty of that magnitude would fall to pieces while you ate it, but the massive burger is far too ungainly for it to matter. Thus the battle was not between me and a giant burger, but between me and a terrible burger.

I gave it my all, but after 40 minutes I had to throw in the towel. I was out of breath simply from the effort it took to try and digest the food already in my stomach. I was almost halfway done; Beau fared even worse than I did. We didn't feel too bad because of all the encouragement and support we got from the staff and other patrons.

That's the biggest shame of the whole affair, the place is charming, and everyone there is really friendly. I don't for a second think I could have finished the burger if the meat was better, but if it was, I would have gone back someday to try again.


By Beau Cadiyo

We parked in the dirt lot. Inside, it felt like a hunting lodge, and the hunters at the tables – in green, or camouflage, and boots – didn’t hurt. The barmaids were cute and blonde, but just past perfection, with lines starting to show in their unsmiling faces. The cutest, wearing a shirt that read “You can’t spell c_ck_ _ cker without OSU,” turned out to be exceptionally rude and unpleasant; we moved tables and were served by an brunette who was just as nice, if a little more plain, as the blonde was bitchy. It’s funny how personality can absolutely trump mere physical attractiveness.

While waiting, it became evident that most of the people there were probably townies, or at least not there for the burger challenge. A group of four standing at the bar were trying to make plans for the day; one of the women said, “Well we can always go to WalMart after the wedding.” Just after this, the waitress came out with a plate and a very large burger on top. We grinned; if that’s what we were supposed to eat, we’d be fine. High-fives all around.

Then ours came out. They were plate-wide and head-high. There was certainly no way we could take bites out of it like a normal hamburger, and we were told we couldn’t use silverware; this would require some other sort of plan. Scarlet seemed to try to shave pieces off of it, a sliver at a time, all the way down; I decided to start with the bun, tomatoes and two pounds of beef, leaving the pile of pepperoncinis, onions, lettuce and lower bun on the plate for later. And we began.

Disgusting. While the tomatoes were tasty, the bread was cracker-dry. The meat was not much better; it too was dry and chalky, leaving an unpleasant, gritty texture in my mouth. Scarlet put her engineering mind to the task and reasoned that it had to be ground finely in order to cook through effectively, and that the smaller burgers must – must – be better. I started drinking water with each bite to moisten bites and compact it, Kobayashi-style. Then, I started eating a bite of meat and bread with some pepperoncinis or onions to make it more palatable. To no avail; I soon started feeling sick. I tried just eating the vegetables. I tried the bread and vegetables. In desperation, I drank half of a bottle of water to settle my stomach and tried to take another bite – just one more.

It was Saint Crispian’s day, 593 years after the Battle of Agincourt. I remembered that
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day…
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered.

It was certainly a feast, and I will certainly remember it. Every year, around my birthday and around New Years, I wonder what exactly I will leave to my kids. I know almost nothing about my parents’ early lives – my father’s trip from Africa to Europe and then New York, where he met my mother, a nice Polish Catholic girl from Staten Island. I know that he was a boxing champion, and won an annual televised game show, the prize of which was a medical degree in Montpellier, France; I know that her mother owned a soda shop, that she met Warren Beatty when he filmed Splendor in the Grass, and that she was married twice before she met my father, when they worked in the same hospital. What will my kids know of me? What can they know about the year I spent in the UK – about going to the student union, getting drunk, and stumbling to the chip shop for a kebab and French fries before making it home to Gordon Road? What about the year in Barcelona – can they know about the first bocadillo de tortilla de patatas that I had at Pans & Company, or the jamon Serrano from the cafĂ© on the corner in Gracia? Will they even know about these periods of my life, or will they know only about my life with them?

I don’t know. But every October 25, I will invite Scarlet over, and my kids will hear about how two of the writers of the Cleveland Sandwich Board drove seven hours round-trip through the hills of Western Pennsylvania to a restaurant in a beautiful little town called Clearfield. They will know that Ed and D. John couldn't make it, but that they were with us in spirit. I will roll up my shirt, and show them the stretch marks, explaining at which bite I received each one. When they are young I will tell them that we each ate half of a two-pound burger, and every year the percentage will increase; we will have eaten fries on top of the five-pounder, and requested more, which they wouldn’t give us, having run out of food in the kitchen. My children will wish they’d been there, too, no matter how old they get or how many times they hear the story. Then we will tuck into our feast of cheap ground beef, vegetables and bread, and I will watch them, and remember my glorious youth.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Winking Lizard

1852 Coventry Rd
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 397-8380

by Beau Cadiyo

I’ve been to the Winking Lizard several times, and have gotten their sandwiches several times – particularly the veggie burger. I’ve often tried to write a review of them, and looked for a hook – the iguana in the aquarium, the absurdly hot barmaid, the hosts who often just wait around the entrance, the rambling rooms.

The thing is, I don’t think there is a hook. It’s an ok place to eat. They have a good beer selection. Other than that, I don’t know what to say. Or maybe that's it - it's mediocre. Ach.

Winking Lizard Tavern on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


95 Richmond St.
Painesville, OH 44077
(440) 352-6000

By Beau Cadiyo

I wept. It started when McCain gave his concession speech, far more gracious and mature than Hillary had been. Then, Barack strode to the podium, with the strong set behind him, Leni’s spotlights rising above the perfect flags, his words of victory passionate and portioned and pure, raucous, crazed crowds chanting the same words over and over again. My girlfriend, who is not a citizen and could not vote, held my hand while her sister, who is a citizen and did not vote, sat across the table and watched. The bar broke out in cheers at certain points; it was pseudo-revolutionary, after eight years of oppression by the Republicans, to suddenly find ourselves in so totally in control of the government. There were tears, passionate embraces between absolute strangers and gangs of youth running down the street cheering.

I wondered if the rest of the world felt the same way.

The next morning I drove to Painesville and parked between two massive trucks – a Chevy and a Ford, both loaded with some manner of construction gear and both beds higher than the roof of my car. Small groups of old people clustered around, but then it seemed they always did that out here. I walked in and was clearly the youngest person in the room and the only one in slacks and a button-up shirt. There was camouflage, there were grease-stained jeans and paint-stained boots, there was a tiny girl just learning to walk and smile at strangers. I walked to the counter and waited in line – waited for the voices to rise, for indignation, for violent political denouncements and vows of revenge, for my chance to order.

The menu was the same. Number Two had one sausage McMuffin, one hash brown and a small coffee. I’d been craving a McMuffin since the previous Friday, when I had actually driven to Chicago and stood near Grant Park; it was perfect. The English muffin was chewy, the sausage spiced and the egg actually tasted real and substantial. The hash brown was still way too salty; the coffee, with two creams and two sugars, was still coffee with two creams and two sugars. Low, indecipherable music hummed in the background and voices were subdued.

When I got into the office, the manager was haranguing a secretary about how Obama would raise the estate tax at the first opportunity, and a paralegal was talking to the only Moslem employee about how a Muslim was elected because of the “backward hillbilly” vote. (She didn’t know he was Muslim.) Then I looked at my McDonald’s receipt; a notice at the top said that they’re hiring for all shifts. It seems that the poor will always be with us – and that they will also always have jobs, and opinions, and the same right to vote as every other citizen. In short, despite all of the challenges of our time, our democracy will continue, so long as we continue to work at it.

McDonald's on Urbanspoon