In-N-Out and the American Dream
“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”-G.K. Chesterton (With a name like that, you just know your best hope for life is to be quoted one day).
Last night, I came upon a heartbreaking travesty. I was reminded of the unspoken tragedy that befalls millions around America each day. No, I’m not talking about the 1 in 5 children that live in poverty in the US (Though that is really an important issue that needs to be addressed-Are you listening, Mitt and Barack?), I’m talking about something far more devastating: The fact that not all states have an In-N-Out Burger nearby.
You see, a friend of mine on Facebook reminded me, last night, how Californians who move to New York never get the chance to enjoy that familiar taste that seems to give life purpose (That’s why depression rates are higher on the East Coast compared to California). For us in California, In-n-Out is a lot like freedom, rainbows and kittens: Sometimes we take them for granted. We forget that there was once a time in the days of the pioneers where In-N-Outs were harder to come by. It was, in fact, only two short years ago when In-N-Out finally arrived within ten miles from my home (Northern California, you trouble me so). We grow accustom to In-N-Out, and at times we forget its greatness. One day, maybe not tomorrow, but sometime in the rest of your life (Casablanca anyone?), In-N-Out may be gone forever, and when it vanishes, we will ask ourselves “Where did all the time go?” or “What would I do for one more burger?” Even I, your hardly humble author, take In-N-Out for granted, typical Californian I am. Just three days ago, I commented “Well, we could go to In-N-Out, but I can go there anytime”. So, in light of that tragedy, and in order to right said wrongs, I decided that I needed an In-N-Out Burger.
On Wednesday, after debate class, a friend of mine drove me to In-N-Out in order to fulfill my duty as a Californian (Other Californian duties may include but aren’t limited to easting sashimi, not owning sweaters and saying “like” or “You know” five times a day). The burger is hardly a perfect one: The bun could have more flavor, the patty could be thicker, and they could wake up and smell the proverbial cocoa and add bacon on their menu (Bacon is the “Third Rail” of sandwiches…that was a joke about Medicare, but I have no idea what the political writers mean when they say “Third Rail”…is it like “Third wheel”?). While the burger may not be perfect, is a certainly amazing for fast food standards. I ordered my usual: Combo Number 1 with pickles, chopped chilies and mustard fried along with fries and, of course, Diet Coke. Maybe because they serve so many burgers each year that they have the science down or maybe it’s because they use quality and fresh ingredients or maybe it’s because they pick some of the brightest young minds to work their kitchens (Yeah, you think the reason why we haven’t found alternative fuels is because we aren’t working hard enough? Think again: We’re putting our best and brightest in In-N-Out kitchens), but whatever the cause may be, the result is exemplary: A perfect combination of flavors that will even make me, a burger connoisseur, fall madly in love with their fantastic creation. The subtle sweetness of the spread, the melted cheese, crisp lettuce and grilled onions, heat from the chilies and crunch from the pickles, the burger is reminiscent of Reagan’s tax policies: So simple, yet so good. Well, actually, complex supply side economic theories can complex at times, and if you don’t have social safety nets, they can unfairly target the poor and that’s not good, but you get the idea.
So why does a burger aficionado like myself love In-N-Out? It’s not the greatest hamburger in the world, so why does it hold such a dear place in my heart? My answer is one word: America. You see, In-N-Out is more than just a mere hamburger: When Harry Snyder created In-N-Out in 1948, he held more in his hand than just a spatula, he held a vision. He made more than just a burger, he made a way of life. This issue is bigger than you, me, and even bigger than those people who order 4X4s. This is an issue of America.
When you walk by those familiar palm trees and when you enjoy the quality you can taste and cleanliness you can see, you are experiencing something far loftier and far greater than a meal. It takes more than somewhat spongy bread and slightly overcooked patties of beef to bring the smiles In-N-Out brings to any of the 275 locations near you. It takes heart, undaunted courage and a commitment to the American Dream.
In-N-Out represents everything right with America: Good food, efficiency, smiles and a strange obsession with bright colors in decorations. In-N-Out only uses American employees, American products and American courage (courage that comes in handy when facing irate customers asking for a copy of the secret menu). We need to look no further than our own brave men and women in uniform. While serving aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, three members of the US Navy were asked what their landlubber instincts longed for most: One said something boring about family, and the other said something else that was boring that I have since forgot. The third, the wisest of all the three, finally spoke: She said she missed In-N-Out.
So in similar spirit, we must follow the wise words of women and men in uniform (I actually never liked the term “in uniform”. I mean, waiters, UPS drivers and Disneyland employees wear uniforms too, are we supposed to pray for them on veteran’s day?) who are doing battle with terrorists. We must always remember and never forget In-N-Out, and we must never take it for granted. Taking up healthier options like a salad or a wrap and “saving In-N-Out for another time”? Ha! That’s just what the terrorists want! Nay, instead we must hold on to our burgers like we do our freedoms. For, to quote Ronald Reagan, “A good burger joint is only one generation away from extinction”. So I urge each and every one of you to follow your instincts, fulfill your patriotic duty, make your founders and humble author proud and, well, go to in-n-out.
Post Script: Given people’s patriotic moods yesterday, I was originally going to post this last night, but refrained as it might be in poor taste (ironic for a food blog). However, I sense my ties between burgers and the war on terror may have left some of you feeling like you had to keep in a somber mood in sprit of the anniversary of 9\11. Well, regardless, if you’re not laughing or eating a burger right now, then you’re just letting the terrorists win. So laugh, eat, and enjoy life.