US Diners Blog Day 3 – bigger and definitely not better

Up and at ‘em, into the Chevvy and motoring down to LA and then across to Phoenix for the wedding of our darling friends Chris and Mia. Chris Bianco, by the way, is Jamie’s partner at his Union Jacks restaurants in the UK as well as being owner of the brilliant Phoenix institutions Pizzeria Bianco and Pane Bianco.

We were looking forward to some good ol’ fashioned diner food, mac’n’cheese, meatloaf and chicken, but what we got was a rude wake-up call about Middle America’s road food. As suspected San Francisco exists in a culture bubble, with the foodie districts not providing a true reflection of the States. There are no “Good Ol’ Diners” on the freeway – it’s just chains; Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, McDonald’s etc. While the US aren’t that vastly different from the UK in terms of motorway offerings – it seems the UK is trying to offer better healthier alternatives from supermarket mini-stores; think salads and wraps from M&S or Waitrose.

We have driven through perhaps the largest orange grove in the world, mile upon mile of fruit-laden boughs, so I was anticipating a super-refreshing juice at our first fuel stop. Taco Bell, Burger King or Pizza Hut? Er….Taco Bell then for a bit of Mexican. Burrito, and something orange-flavoured inspired by the thousands of acres of groves.

“We don’t have anything orange, just soda.”

“Any orange soda?”

“No.”

I guess it was a bit of wishful thinking, that somehow there would be a connection to the food this place was surrounded by – but no such luck. This is the opposite of Frisco – where there is local produce everywhere. The burrito tasted of nothing. Well apart from rice and wrap. Rich’s taco was rubbish – too much cheese and not enough good filling stuff. He was left hungry so I donated a chunk of my burrito, that didn’t help much either.

We continued East from LA and its dreadful traffic – with the sun setting on our backs it was dinnertime. The same options were available in Blythe, on the Californian/Arizona border – but this time there was a Wendy’s. So famous we couldn’t resist. Try ordering “half a Baha Salad” with an English accent in Blythe – again I was asked for an encore to much giggling.

The salad was okay – they had no halves so I was given a full size one – a massive scoop of guacamole with beans, shredded lettuce and carrot, but it was the dressing that was so surprising. Two massive sachets of ranch dressing which turned their healthiest option into just another ‘treat’ totaling hundreds of extra calories. But at least there was an option to portion control.

The queue for coffee was unbelievable – it’s hard to know what to say here as the Americans seem perfectly happy with this situation – but man, were they huge. I’m no waif, to say the least, but here I felt petite! There were children, dozens of them, perhaps weighing twice as much as they should. Older gentlemen, 30-40 stones clutching their massive bags of chips, corn dogs, cookies and cans of Coke. It’s all heading in a very bad direction, if the collective nation won’t listen to those trying to highlight the issues and dangers of obesity, then how can it be helped? New York banning giant sodas is such a positive step, but it is the tip of the iceberg, an iceberg smothered in ranch dressing presumably!

Day 4 was full of so much more hope, with those supporting Jamie’s campaign speaking out in favour of change……


Jim Tanfield

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Jim is Jamie's Website Editor, and writes, sources and commissions editorial content for JamieOliver.com.
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