I moseyed into a 7-Eleven the other day — as one does. I picked up a newspaper and a Diet Coke and sighed heavily when I saw that there were 57 uniformed grade schoolers in front of me, fresh from a hard day’s work at the nearby private school. (Should one really have to stand in line in a “convenience” store?) This gave me a chance to notice my surroundings (which I rarely do in a 7-Eleven). I know they’ve sold hot dogs and nachos and some other brownish, withered cylindrical foods I can’t identify that roll around on a sort of metal treadmill, but today I noticed something I hadn’t seen before: a machine set up next to the hot dogs. It looked like a self-serve drink machine. It had two spigots — one for chili and one for cheese. Okay. I can almost accept the chili faucet, but … damn — I don’t want to live in a society that dispenses “cheese” from a Big Gulp machine. “Have more cheese!” I think the sign said. I’m not talking about a pump here — those are, sadly, ubiquitous, and I have wincingly accepted them. This thing looked like the kind of soft drink machine you set your cup under and voila! … CHEESE! All that was missing was the ice dispenser in the middle. The potential for abuse is … well … it would seem to be unavoidable. What if I wanted a Super Big Gulp-quantity of “cheese”? Would they object? What about a “cone” made of tortilla chips with the “cheese” dispensed like a soft-serve ice cream cone? With a little curl on top. And then dipped in chocolate. I felt queasy. God knows I eat as much junk food as the next person (probably more), but I’ve never understood the phenomenon of pourable cheese. That’s just not right. Not right at all.
More recently I noticed (in the very same 7-Eleven) a new product that, I think, is a breakfast item. It’s ALSO one of those cylindrical things that tumbles endlessly on metal rollers. Something like a corny dog-shaped, breaded or battered thing with bits of sausage and … gravy! … inside. Gravy. Wow. That looked nigh on inedible. Kind of like a normal person’s breakfast of sausage and biscuits and gravy, but instead — for convenience — compressed into a long tube that you can eat on your morning commute. I bet the astronauts eat those in space! (Hmmm … maybe gravy in a handy dispenser….)
Speaking of junk food, I was trying to describe a Pink Thing the other day. Are these available anywhere but Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington? Very definitely amusement park fare. It’s a sort of pink-flavored (…I don’t know what the actual flavor is but it tastes pink…) frozen ice cream … thing on a plastic stick. When you’ve licked away the last remnants of pink noveltiness, you’ve got a little surprise — a cartoon character or something artfully carved out of the plastic stick. I wonder if they even still make them? I think I would feel too self-conscious, as an adult, asking a pimply-faced teen-aged kid, “So. I’d really like a … ‘Pink Thing’. Can you help me out … big boy?”
And what happened to Mrs. Baird’s Devil Dogs? A Devil Dog was a sort of cupcake, shaped kind of like … I don’t know … a squashed hot dog, I guess, made with devil’s food cake and a creme filling. Mrs. Baird’s Bread is a North Texas tradition. Until its recent re-location, the factory used to be near the neighborhood I grew up in. Right outside the main factory was a little outlet store that sold day-old bread and other assorted day-old things. My father always called it the Used Bread Store. That was our Devil Dog stop. There’s nothing like a Day-Old Devil Dog. Feel free to quote me on that. But, seriously, I haven’t seen a devil dog in years.
And speaking of convenience food, I saw a Schwan’s truck not long ago! In Dallas? I was introduced to Schwan’s trucks out in the Big Bend area where the nearest grocery store could be a hundred miles away, over desert and mountains. Schwan’s drivers deliver frozen food right to people’s doorsteps. I never thought about it, but how else would people in the desert ever be able to eat store-bought ice cream or anything else that requires freezing? Need a frozen entree? Orange roughy, perhaps? No problem! Just wait for the yellow Schwan-mobile to drive up and the nice Schwan driver will pull one out of the Orange Roughy compartment! Sort of a frozen-food automat on wheels. And you don’t even have to put up with the annoying ever-present “Turkey In The Straw” blaring at you. So I can see that Schwan’s would be a welcome luxury to people who live a million miles away from the nearest Dairy Queen or Kroger’s. But … Dallas? I don’t know how many people live here (TOO DAMN MANY) — but it’s well over a million. I’m assuming there are more than enough places to purchase ice cream sandwiches and frozen french fries here in town. Maybe they make deliveries in the Big City and I’ve just never seen a truck here. Either that or the driver made a really wrong turn somewhere.