Thursday, February 5, 2015

Lab #10: FOOD

  Everybody enjoys dining out, whether for a special occasion or just for fun. Over the past week or so I have been observing the people in the restaurants I went out to, keeping tabs on the variety of people and groups that I saw, and in which restaurants. While this comes from a very limited source group, thinking back on all of the places I've been in, I believe a fair assumption can be reached of diners in the south. This is what I've found.

  Fast Food Joints: Fast food restaurants are not known for their inviting atmosphere or friendly staff, and certainly aren't the place for having a meal out with your family or relatives, or date. They are meant for fast-paced people as an on-the-go bite, and not so much for those who wish to stay inside and enjoy their food. That being said, the few joints I observed had a good variety of people coming and going, and even some staying in for a bit. During my time of observation, I went to three different fast food chains, one "legitimate" restaurant chain, a local coffee shop, and two local diners: a barbeque joint, and a small Mexican restaurant next to a gas station.
  The fast food chains were pretty typical as far as the quality of fast food goes; it's not a elite dining experience, and so when people eat in, they usually do it for the sake of company. There were people there eating with their children, old couples, people on their lunch break, or just friends out for a bite to eat. One particularly funny incident occurred when two guys came into one of the establishments with a picnic cloth, a candelabra, full sets of plates and silverware, wine glasses, and a framed panting of sunset on a vineyard. They literally got their food and set up an elite dining experience with the painting propped against the window and coke in their wine glasses. They ate their burgers with silverware and talked in fake British accents until the manager asked them to leave. I thought things like that only happened on the internet.
  The "legitimate" restaurant is a step up from traditional fast food, but is still a chain. We went their for my grandmother's birthday, and we had just arrived in the after-church hour, when the entire place was packed wall-to-wall with church-goers, families and such, all eating and chatting and being social. People even stopped and talked to one another from opposite tables.
  As for the local places, they are not chains, and so much of their success (or prevention of failure) is based upon creating a friendly and inviting atmosphere, or just really good food. Good food is one of the best ways to bring people together, and these two separate places capture the essence of that in their own way. The barbeque joint is a personal favorite of mine that I have been going to since I was young. They are prized for their exceptional food, friendly staff, and vintage decor. Nearly everyone who eats there at any given time eats with others; I can't recall having ever seen someone there eating alone. The small Mexican place, however, is much too small for many large groups of people to eat there. There are only six tables in the whole place, and two cooks working the back. They are very busy, however, and the wait can get lengthy, as their food is wonderful, and well worth the wait. People like to chat in line, however, but many people there only spoke Spanish, so I wasn't able to contribute.

  Family Dining: Less and less people don't have the time, patience, or money for cooking dinner every night and eating at the dining room table with their families, but I am lucky enough to have a household that does. The only times we don't all eat together is when some of us won't be home in time to cook, or when we have copious amounts of leftovers. Lots of families dine together, but they dine out, which in many ways seems less intimate than having an old fashioned homecooked family dinner. There are plenty of other ways for families to connect, and sometimes they just need time apart, but conversing over food does seem to be a funny trait of people that brings them closer together.

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