Confession No. 5 — I might have been wrong about the P’zone, but I’m sticking to my Peg Leg guns.

Are things as good as we remember them to be? Or do our tastes just change that much over the years?

Take music, for example. I remember spending my hard-earned lawn mowing dollars on an Asia album. (I know. Asia. Please, no feedback is necessary.) The guitars, keyboards and percussion were pure rock symphony; the varying tempos encouraged air guitar and drums; the album art was worthy of a museum display; and the lyrics were pure poetry. Yet, as a middle-aged guy, I’m truly embarrassed to have songs from this same album in my iTunes.

I remember getting chills watching Rocky Balboa struggle with Clubber Lang, as (Rocky’s) former nemesis, Apollo Creed, yelled tactical advice from his corner; or believing that a group of high school kids really could regain American soil from an army of invading Russians (“Red Dawn”). Those feelings were right up there with the tension I experienced on Saturday nights, when The Great Kabuki or any of the Fabulous Freebirds delivered cheap shots to the Von Erich brothers.

From a culinary standpoint, there are some memories that will remain only that, because there is rarely such a thing as a fast-food rerun. I’ll never know whether my 10-year-old palate was on the money with the secret recipe orange-colored sauce (served cold with steak finger baskets) at the Dairy Cream; or whether the kraut dogs at Carousel Hot Dog (a mall eatery) still stand out as the best ever. Both restaurants are long gone.

The variety platter at Alfie’s Fish & Chips. What did my colon ever see in this place? It’s actually pretty good, so long as you order child-sized portions. Check out my Yelp! review on this 1970s Texas City throwback.

Many once-beloved restaurants of my childhood are still around, though their menus have changed. Following is a list of some discontinued favorites. Not everyone will agree with my choices, but if you are a marketer for most of the following restaurants and you don’t want me to cringe when my children suggest we spend our money in your establishment — consider stepping back and remembering what helped you gain national notoriety. If you work for the nation’s largest pizza chain, there was really no need to add “bistro” to your title. I’m not fooled.

Peg Leg — Long John Silver’s

My memory gives this $1 morsel a perfect culinary 10. But, $1 for a battered wingette in the early 1980s? Long John Silver’s was definitely ahead of its time. Back then, chicken wings were still considered byproducts. You could buy a couple pounds for a buck, or two. But, even before wings caught on at restaurants nationwide (and quickly shot up in price), the fine people at LJ’s discontinued this deep fried goodness.

McDLT — McDonald’s

I’ve often said that McDonald’s food began going downhill when they replaced the Styrofoam burger boxes with cardboard. The waterproof Styrofoam was also greaseproof, and allowed the burgers to soak up just a little bit more of what made them decent to begin with. The international chain succumbed to pressure from vegetarian groups not long after that and quit using beef tallow in their frying oil. (And you wonder why those fries aren’t as good as they used to be?) But this space is reserved for the McDLT, not exactly one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, but one of McDonald’s most palatable options, ever. McDLT stood for McDonald’s Lettuce and Tomato, and it was served in a double-sided Styrofoam container. The meat and bottom bun were on the “hot” side, while the lettuce, tomato, pickles, sauce and cheese were kept in the “cool” side. The idea was for the consumers to build their burger at the table, and it was a damn good idea — except the cheese really belonged between the meat and the bottom bun. Many products have come and gone from McDonald’s over the years for various reasons (all centered on profit), but this mid-1980s offering happened to disappear about the same time the chain discontinued the use of Styrofoam.

Priazzo — Pizza Hut

The Priazzo, introduced more than 25 years ago, was Pizza Hut’s culinary opus. Other chains have tried to duplicate it, but Pizza Hut had it down. The Priazzo was an encrusted deep dish pie available in at least three varieties. My favorite included pepperoni, Italian sausage, plenty of cheese and sauce. There might have also been mushrooms. I seriously doubt I would like this dish today. Not only was it so rich that I could eat no more than two pieces, I’ve also learned as an adult that Pizza Hut is to Italian food what Asia was to rock and roll. The same goes for the occasionally reintroduced P’zone, Pizza Hut’s version of a calzone.

Fried Pies — Just about every fast food joint

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who doesn’t wish for the return of the 1970s-80s version of the fast food fried pies has a screw loose. I’m not speaking of the “healthy” cinnamon dusted baked/microwaved versions sold at a certain McPlace, or the thawed funky-flavored wedges hawked by the same people who claim I can have it my way. I’m talking about dangerously hot sweet goodness, encased in a golden rectangular crust. A close look reveals hundreds of little ‘bubbles’ — a result of being lowered into 400 degree oil. The crust’s consistency is unmistakeable, but difficult to describe. Think of it as edible bubble packing with a flaky tender finish. These morsels cannot be eaten on the sly, as the tiny oil pockets make a collective ‘popping’ sound when bitten. And there’s no such thing as waiting long enough for the gooey apple or cherry filling to cool. One bite and your taste buds go numb for a couple days. It’s well worth the pain.

Original Chicken Sandwich — McDonald’s

I should be ashamed that I remember this, but it was around 1980 when McDonald’s began nationally advertising its Chicken McNuggets. I was an excited 10-year-old. The only problem, though, was that our local McDonald’s only sold a recently-introduced chicken sandwich. The 1980 version of the chicken sandwich was pretty much the same as the one served today, except the chicken patty was slightly thicker, and it included “parts” from the white and dark portions of the bird. It was actually good, and I think I’d probably order one today as a guilty pleasure. By the way, that original version of the sandwich was yanked from the menu and replaced with the McNuggets not long after the ad campaign started. On a different note, if you ever ate the McFeast or sang along with the “You deserve a break today” advertising jingle, you are probably older than me.

Whether it’s movies, music or food, I chalk most of my childhood fanaticism up to … being a child. Still, I occasionally like to sneak a peek at a cheesy old boxing flick, with hopes that I hear at least one verse of “Eye of the Tiger.”

Following is a recipe I developed after Wendy’s recently discontinued what was probably their best menu item ever — the boneless Thai chicken. (Their burgers might be in the running if they’d figure out that buns should be toasted.) For the record, this dipping sauce is more complex than the one I fell in love with at Wendy’s. I hope you enjoy it.

Thai Sweet & Hot Dipping Sauce

1 Cup – Sugar

My version of Thai Sweet & Hot Dipping Sauce seems to work well with just about anything needing some zest. While the stuffed shrimp (pictured) stood well enough on its own, the dipping sauce was an excellent compliment.

1/2 Cup – White vinegar

1/2 Cup – Water

2 Tablespoons – Minced garlic

1 Tablespoon – Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon – Soy sauce

1 Tablespoon – Chili paste or Chili Garlic paste

1 – Kaffir Lime leaf, minced

1 teaspoon – Toasted sesame oil

Combine first six ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to rolling boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add half the minced Kaffir Lime leaf. Continue simmering until reduction is the consistency of a light syrup, about 15-20 minutes. Once sauce has reduced, remove from heat. Add remaining Kaffir Lime leaf, chili paste and sesame oil, and stir. Bring sauce to room temperature. Want to tame or fire up the spice? Adjust chili paste. Can be stored in refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Serve with anything fried — chicken, pork or seafood. This is also a great dipping sauce for eggrolls or springrolls. Take that, Wendy’s!

Makes about a cup of dipping sauce.

Comments

  1. Catherine says:

    That suffed shrimp stands out as the best shrimp dish I have ever had. Your readers are in for a real treat when you post that recipe!

  2. guardian says:

    What? No “Whaler?” Am I old if I know “2 all beef patties….”

  3. The McDonalds Original Chicken sandwich is darn close to the real original one. Of course when you add more bad stuff, it’s better. So as long as they glob on excessive mayo, it can pass as a good now and again treat.

    Speaking of McDonalds, and nuggets, I miss the dark meat nuggets. They were by far my favorite. A friend of mine and I would go out to lunch in high school and share a 20 piece box. She got the white, I got the dark. I still eat the white meat ones, but I will say this. If they EVER get rid of their sweet and sour sauce, I’m done with McD’s forever!

    • Sarah, I’m with you on the dark meat nuggets. I could take or leave the sweet and sour, but McD’s hot mustard is the bomb.

      • I can’t say I’ve ever tried that. Perhaps sometime in the next 30 years of my life I’ll try a new sauce lol. It’s funny, I’m the biggest “must try everything once” person, but I can’t not get the S&S sauce at darn McD’s.

  4. My favorite McDonald’s memory was a plastic General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard as a container for the Happy Meal.
    Don’t worry about your love for Asia. It was the heat of the moment. As far as continent bands go, they were much better than Europe.

  5. Reblogged this on The Unorthodox Epicure.

  6. krismarie77 says:

    I don’t remember alot of these items, but probably because when I was a kid we didn’t go to FF places much. My mom was a “food snob wannabe” I think cause we would always go to the sit down and eat family restaurant places or the places you could get escargot “American” style. Then after I was adopted by my grandparents, and I wasn’t cooking the food myself, we would have dinners or lunches at out of the way ethnic places. The town I grew up in doesn’t even have a McD’s or any other FF place. HA! I’m serious. Didn’t stop me from driving 10 miles to TB in college for a chilito though. LOL Until I woke up and realized I really didn’t like them.

  7. Adam,

    Funny post. We all have “those” albums: mine was REO Speedwagon…:-)

    And I do think our palates change as we get older, but sometimes I do wonder if we let the “snobs” get to us…

  8. smiling really big here- :) great post, and oh a Mc DLT!!!!! dang those were good!

  9. As horrible as I KNOW they were for us…I loved McD’s FRIED apple pies! 2 for a dollar…I would get two and enjoy both of them myself! LOL

    • Conni – It’s too bad that they bake those pies nowadays. Still, I’m sure they are just as bad for you — but at least the fine folks at McD’s can microwave them!

  10. By far the most interesting food/restaurant review I have ever read. Greetings from Granny! You stopped by Granny’s Parlour. It is my turn to visit your kitchen. Aspiring snob? Yes, but far from snob! It is with great pleasure that I will introduce you to our readers.

  11. Christy Cummins says:

    I recently found your blog through Juanita’s Cocina and I love it. Had to go back to the beginning to read your earlier posts, hence the comment on an almost 2 year old post. No shame in loving the Asia. I have fond memories of them. It was the first concert I attended as a high school freshman in 1982. Loved their music then, and after hearing an Asia 30-year retrospective recently on the radio, I am loving them again. I would like to see them tour again, however I think they only have one original member now. It would probably be like seeing Journey without Steve Perry, or INXS without Michael Hutchence (others I saw in the 80s). McDLTs were my favorite fast food sandwich back in the day. Funny how I love food blogs and actually comment more on the music. Darn those retrospectives… Anyway, love your witty commentary!

    • Thanks, Christy. And I’ll have to thank Jen as well. — It’s funny that you mention Journey without Steve Perry. The new lead singer (Arnel Pineda, who is Filipino) is almost a dead ringer — with equal range. It’s weird. Look up the video ‘Like a Sunshower.’ It’s new. But quintessential Journey nonetheless.

      Again, thank you for stopping by. I would appreciate it if you would tell 50 of your closest friends about my little corner of the world — and the fact that I once played air guitar to ‘Heat of the Moment.’ :-)

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