I Have a Dream

In food on 01/21/2009 at 10:16 am

We went skiing this weekend at Mountain Creek, a relatively new resort in Vernon, New Jersey, where they sank millions into this nouveau-faux-Bavarian lodge with heated outdoor pools and gondola lifts on three mountains. There’s even a baby half-pipe being constructed at the base of one of the slopes. The one thing they skimped out on was the food court, little better than ones found in malls, more like a cattle pen. I think they subscribe to the McDonald’s philosophy of ‘if you make the amenities uncomfortable and unattractive, it’ll get the customers in an out faster.’

If they wanted people to come back next time and not bring their own coolers of food, or not to leave to get food in town (I saw a family with Burger King brown bags), they would put more energy into providing an edible menu. Then again, once your purchase the all-day lift tickets, they wouldn’t care if you stayed or not; they’d actually prefer you to stay off the slopes so there’s less congestion. So back to the first argument of why not provide good food so you do linger longer? Profit margins?

We had lunch at the ‘bar and grill,’ more like takeout grub; the pseudo-paninis were pressed bread that looked and tasted like thick crackers thudded in our bellies for hours afterwards. They were accompanied by the worst generic greasy Lays potato chips and mushy sour pickles.

Mark Bittman references a scientific article about ‘gourmand syndrome,’ in which anterior lesions in your brain cause a short circuit in your serotonin pathways and makes you have a ‘passion’ for very rich foods, i.e. gluttony. Serotonin is a feel good drug your body naturally produces to help you make decisions about stuff like your appetite, but it also affects your mood, hence the massive industry of anti-depressants aimed at preserving serotonin in your synapses. Serotonin comes directly from tryptophan, which is found in higher concentrations in turkey. So that Thanksgiving meal makes you extra happy, quicker.

To keep customers happy, then, it would be logical to provide good food, especially at places like stadiums, airports and ski resorts where you have a captive audience. However, we can all agree those are places where the food is the worst and most expensive. Granted, you can’t expect to hire restaurant quality chefs at places like that, where a cafeteria would be more profitable, and quick-fried pre-made par-boiled things are easier to whip up than the organic versions of the same items, especially since the seasonal hires are in the high-school age range, capable of operating a microwave, at best. Privately-owned places would also not want to license out to chain fast-food places since the profits would be cut at least by 50%.

When you are snowboardingg, or hiking, expending lots of calories, you get hungry for something massive and savory, never something greasy or sweet. You’re intuitively trying to replenish the lost electrolytes excreted in your sweat. The most bang for the buck would be southern comfort food, slabs of bacon wrapped chicken, sausages, cheeses and hearty bread. How hard is it to have a food manager set up a rotisserie chicken spit with a grill station for the dogs, and a sandwich maker? Stock up on some good quality beverages, healthy but delicious, fruit smoothies even (what, a couple of blenders?)…not too difficult, AND labor-friendly. The best roast chicken I ever had was in the hills of Taxco, Mexico. For $3, I got a whole chicken in a bag, meat falling off the bones. All they sold was this chicken, lined up in rows and rows behind the counter, turning and crackling in its own juices, being slowly licked by the flames below.

I have a foodie dream, to have a fleet of Q.Q! lunch trucks, outfitted with a rotisserie, a diner grill – flatop for eggs, bacon, pancakes (though I prefer waffles, so maybe both), giants steamers for my steamed bread etc., convection oven, industrial ice cream machine like on Iron Chef, snow ice maker, and ship them out to all these food-destitute places and just feed people with real easy good food, and the knowledge that real easy good food doesn’t have to be hard to make, that they don’t always have to settle for the greasy stuff that clogs their arteries but doesn’t make them happy.

I am a slave to serotonin. My brain knows the difference between being uncomfortably stuffed and being well-satiated. There’s already a company of custom-designed ice cream trucks that are shipped out in this fashion, where they have supermodels handing out free ice cream at Nascar races and rock arenas. I just want to take it a step further and actually take that glitz and glam, inject it into the food that’s served, and make gourmands out of all of us.

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