Jason Carr: Forbidden foods -- what I wished I could endlessly eat as a kid

A view of the consession stand serving free soft drinks and popcorn at the New York Premiere of 'Runaway' at Landmark Sunshine Theater on October 21, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Joe Corrigan/Getty Images for Universal Music)

A few thoughts about forbidden food from my childhood. Or if not forbidden, then at least denied.

Sign of the Beef Carver/Sveden Haus/Old Country Buffet/Ponderosa. What adult now who was of a certain age then wasn’t fascinated by the very idea of any of these restaurants? SOBC was basically a cafeteria line of delectable delights that had the added bonus of a guy in a full-on Chef Boyardee uniform at the end literally beef carving roast beef onto your plate. My mouth waters just thinking about it as if I was still 10. And then all the rest I named? Buffets. You mean I can load up my plate with anything I want no matter how ridiculous? And then go back as many times as I want? I wanted to live at Sveden Haus.

Airport food. Seinfeld did a great bit about this. Tuna fish sandwich? $13. Even as the stepson of a Delta manager I don’t think we ever ate at the airport restaurant. And it killed me. I imagined that the glamour of flying free on Delta would extend to a concourse cheeseburger. I was wrong. At least in A Christmas Story the Old Man came through with the Red Rider BB gun. Me? I got: “we can eat on the plane.” Which wasn’t bad. That’s how I fell in love with Chicken Kiev. And stewardesses. But still.

K-mart Cafeteria. I’ve written about this before. Why did this seem so exotic to me as a kid? To this day I wish K-mart still existed and if it did I would take my daughter and we would feast like royalty before heading off in search of the Blue Light Special. There was just a vibe and if you know, you know.

The snack bar at the movie theater and/or drive-in. Really this is more of a drive-in topic. They would play that countdown: “ten minutes until SHOWTIME!” And then show you dancing hot dogs and close-ups of hot steaming cheeseburgers and fries, pizza, candy, popcorn, fountain pop that was ICE COLD! We were solidly working middle class and, as I recall, money wasn’t that tight. Heck, my mom practically lived at Ethan Allen furniture decking our house out in true 1976 Colonial fashion. But did we ever go to the snack bar? Never. We always brought stuff from home. I would trade my kingdom to time travel back to 1977 and, ya know, actually go to the drive-in snack bar.

Now, in fairness to my parents, we did go out. Sometimes. My mom would take me to a place at Twelve Oaks called the Magic Pan. I would get a Monte Cristo sandwich and cheese balls. We also went to a place that was insanely popular for a hot minute called Carlos Murphy’s for a mix of Mexican and Irish food (don’t ask). And Bennigan’s? That was my introduction to cheddar and bacon potato skins.

But mostly it was a lot of, “we have food at home.”

It dawns on me just now that as my daughter approaches 12 years old, I have never taken her to a drive-in movie. And I can name you every movie I ever saw at the drive-in from age 5-13. That’s how magical I thought it was.

I’m going to take her before it’s too late. And guess what? We are going to the snack bar and I don’t care what it costs.

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