My first job was at Taco Bell. It was a little store in Lomita, California, and I got the job right after I turned 16--in 1975. When I showed up for the interview, I was ushered by "Mrs. B" (which everyone called her--at her own request) into her closet-sized office near the back of the store.
"Martin," I remember her saying, "you need to remember one thing." I nodded, waiting for the words of wisdom to usher from her lips. "We sell Cadillac food at Volkswagen prices," she declared, proud of her little food establishment.
This, of course, was back in the days when every fourth car was a Volkswagen Bug, and didn't cost much--and when Cadillacs were the luxury cars of choice.
I worked there for a year, and I made more tacos, burritos, enchiritos, and cups of frijoles than I care to remember. In fact, if I were put on the food line once again, I could still do passable job of making most things on the menu. In fact, I have had many excuses over the years for giving the people behind the counter a lecture on how a burrito should be folded, but so far have resisted the temptation.
I acquired a taste for tacos and burritos when I worked there and Taco Bell is my favorite fast food joint.
When I later worked as a short order cook for a coffee shop while working my way through college, I remember thinking how favorably Taco Bell compared with where I was working as far as cleanliness and a few other things were concerned. I saw things there I would never have seen at the Taco Bell I had worked for--and some of those thing moved of their own accord.
One of the things I always took comfort in in eating the food at Taco Bell was that all of it was made there and was pretty basic stuff. A burrito supreme, for example, is just a flour tortilla with beans, meat, sour cream, grated cheese, diced tomatoes, and shredded lettuce.
When I saw the lawsuit that now claims that Taco Bell's meat is only 34 percent beef, I ran back the tape. I remember making the stuff. We'd take basic ground hamburger, put it in a large tray and turn on the gas heat. We would add a packet of seasoning and cook it. When it was done, I would draw off the fat and it was ready to go.
If you had asked us "Where's the beef?" we could, with a fairly high degree of plausibility, have pointed to the meet tray and said, "It's right there." So when I see people claiming that it's not beef, I'm thinking that that can't even be 34 percent true.
Now I'm sure that there have been some changes, but the stuff I get now in a burrito or a taco tastes pretty much the same as what I made when I was a teenager. So when I heard Taco Bell's counter-claim--that its meat is 88 percent beef with "3 percent water, 4 percent Mexican spices and seasonings, 5 percent is made up of oats, yeast, citric acid and other ingredients"--I thought that that pretty much comports my own experience cooking the stuff.
I think this is really just the first skirmish in a larger war against fast food that the Health Nazis are now preparing. They've already taken out trans fats, and they won't stop at that. My theory is that it isn't a lack of beef that really bugs the food activists, but the fact that people are eating beef at all--and french fries, and onion rings, and pizza.
This is a ploy to ultimately eliminate fast food altogether.
These are people won't be happy until we're all non-smoking vegetarians subsisting on tofu and bean sprouts, who power walk in broad daylight with those silly white visors, who won't live in a community without a bike trail, who have small, annoying dogs with foreign names you can't pronounce, and who give their children names like "Weatherby" and "Millicent."
Well listen up, 'cuz I've got news for these Swedish car-driving namby-pambies: I will defend my right to a taco with my life. And if you touch my chalupa, you're goin' down. And my burrito supreme?
You'll have to pry it from my cold dead hands.