While my brother was here we took the chance to go out to eat. One day was just the local Chinese buffet. The casual reader might think that given all the time I spent in Singapore I might have had enough of Chinese buffet food, but no, on a couple of counts. For one, most Chinese buffet food is more or less American creations, or at least are only vaguely recognizable in the kind of Chinese food that actual Chinese people from China (or the Malay peninsula) would make, primarily being in a lot less spicy and more sweet. Also, I never actually got to a buffet place in Singapore. The prices there were always rather higher, and usually were only listed for people going in pairs at least, whereas I prefer meals where my only companion is my current book. I don't know why buffet places in Singapore work that way, except that I imagine it's for the same reason there aren't really free-refill drinks over there, that the Singaporean kiasu spirit will lead to people sneaking in 55-gallon drum tanks and filling up on the free food.
The other place we went was to a Checker's, a fast food place that colonized central New Jersey a while ago but which I'd never been to before. The first thing surprising me about it is that there's apparently no way to dine in; they just have drive-through, at least around here. I don't particularly object to the existence of drive-through, but in my world-view part of the appeal of a fast-food place is that you sit in what is ideally a tacky plastic landscape sculpted to architectural ideals of 1974. Eating in the car is a desperate move for people lacking time, and taking fast food home to eat -- with the exception of pizza -- just doesn't compare. But take it home we did.
There's two dive-through lanes, although only one was open, which we didn't realize; they came on the system to tell us they couldn't help at that speaker. The other was that the poster boards showing meal selections is really designed towards people who kind of already know what they want; they need a panel you can read before getting in line, so you can make a selection without forcing the people in the car behind you to wait. I eventually went for a cheese burger and my brother mentioned a theory of a friend of his, that the taste of a food item is improved by the number of animals who have to suffer for it. Case in point: hamburger, to meat-eaters, good. One animal killed. Cheeseburger, better. One animal killed, one kept in the dairy farm for life. Bacon cheeseburger, even better. Two killed, one enslaved. There's a fallacy here somewhere, since I think the best part was the batter-dipped fries, but I admit I don't know just what the fries were dipped in. We also got by accident an extra empty fry cup, which I've now left in the counter in an inconspicuous place. I'm hoping to discover, when we get back, which will happen first: my mother throws it out, or my father fills it with debris and turns it into a permanent fixture.
Trivia: Meriwether Lewis in Philadelphia in April 1803 spent $289.50 on 193 pounds of portable soup, the highest sum for any area of provisions. Source: Undaunted Courage, Stephen E Ambrose.
Currently Reading: The Old Post Road: The Story of the Boston Post Road, Stewart H Holbrook. It turns out this road was actually several roads.