|via Wikimedia Commons|
In particular, let's talk about Subway. There is a franchise in the town where I teach and there are a couple nights every year when I have about an hour between the end of one meeting and the beginning of an evening commitment. No time to run home. Going to the grocery store seems like too much hassle and doesn't really provide preferable quick options. Bringing something from home requires too much advance planning. And, I will admit, it does have the seductive appeal of a mild indulgence. Besides, it's Subway. That is the healthier, more responsible alternative to the Scottish Bistro, right?
I love a good submarine (not subway!!!) sandwich as I love few things. (In Vermont, they're called grinders.) I have devoted considerable time and thought to the elements of the perfect sandwich (read here). Given access to a full kitchen and prepped ingredients, I am fully confident that I could prepare a superior sandwich on my own. If I lived in New York City rather than northwest Vermont, I could easily acquire a more satisfying meal at a corner deli. But again, given the circumstances, I have neither. Subway it is.
I didn't grow up with Subway. Maryland and Virginia are still well-served by a robust local chain: Jerry's Subs & Pizza. I didn't encounter the global operation until college. Subway does require a little more patience than its competitors but the relatively fresh ingredients (are they really?) will generally win out for me if I have a few extra minutes to spare.
If you check the nutritional stats between Subway and McDonald's, Subway does offer a broader range of healthier, less fatty options. But, and this is a huge condition, one must choose carefully. Including cheese on that sandwich? How about mayonnaise or one of those other tantalizing squeeze-bottled condiments? Advantage negated. Even if you stick to the healthier choices, you're still getting a lot more sodium than you need, especially if you're adding a bag of chips to your meal.
And no, the ingredients, even the vegetables, are not as fresh as they seem. Fresh is an illusion for all chain restaurants, even the sit-down places like Red Lobster or Olive Garden. I know this. Under the right circumstances, I guess I've decided I can live with it.
I suppose that's what it comes down to in the end. Fast food is an inexorable part of the devil's bargain I and billions of others have made in navigating life in the 21st century. I know the choices I make are often, in ways both large and small, damaging to the greater good and even my own. But they make my life incrementally easier. I'm not proud of this. But it is the truth.
For the record, my order: foot-long turkey on white, no cheese, not toasted, all the veggies, mayo (my guilty pleasure), no chips, tap water. Met the factory specs very nicely. Done in plenty of time to make my call at 5.