Monday, August 18, 2008

Bell Burger

Fast food is crap. Almost without exception, you can whip up the same thing at home in a few minutes, twice as good at a quarter of the cost. Once they stop offering it on every corner though, it becomes an iconic memory of the cherished past.

Taco Bell used to be a model of efficiency, where bulk food commodities were prepared on site into a few different and delicious food items, offered to the public at reasonable prices that still allowed for generous profit margins.

Huge bags of pintos and blocks of lard were pressure cooked into frijoles in huge vats. Hamburger was browned and seasoned in large rectangular pans. Lettuce, onions and cheese were shredded and loaded into two gallon bags. They were all then stored in the reefer until needed. Corn tortillas were deep fried until crispy and racked up by the hundreds above the steam table.

For a few bucks you could feed a large family.

Taco Bell has changed ownership many times since the '60s. The menu has become bloated and expensive, some of the locations even sell pizza. The food is shitty. I don't go there. Still, it was the comfort food of my youth.

I used to like everything there. They would gladly customize your food items however you would like, for a little extra money. Long before meat or combination burritos were offered on the menu, you could ask for them. Green sauce , red sauce, hot sauce? No problem. One of my favorites got wiped off the menu at least 20 years ago.

The Bell Burger was a Calexican specialty that Taco Bell did very well. A hamburger bun was dressed with a little red sauce. On a bed of lettuce was placed a generous scoop of seasoned taco meat, then a little onion and cheese. They were really good. They cost $0.19, so if you were hungry, you could have two or three. Some old time, independent taco stands still offer a taco burger. The problem with most of them is, they are over stuffed, greasy, and too moist. Too often after the first bite, the remaining sandwich turns into a decomposing amorphous mass. Kind of defeats the whole concept of a taco sandwich. They also cost about six bucks per. Serious junk food money, for an exploding sandwich.

I miss Bell Burgers. If they still had the old menu at Taco Bell and they were pumping out food items at say, $0.79 each, there would still be a Taco Bell on every corner and they would still be making a fortune. As it is, there is one across the street from a high school in my neighborhood, with an open campus. At lunch, you see maybe four or five kids there at a time, tops. At least they probably get quick service.

Look for the old Taco Bell stands in your neighborhood. They are easy to recognize by the distinctive adobe shack design. Most are converted to independent fast food joints and due to the good locations, prosper. It's fun to see the different uses they put to the signature fire pit in the front. One I pass by is a Bahn Mi stand with a Buddah statue in the pit, offerings of fruit and Flowers at its feet. Another is a Hawaiian Barbecue with a koi pond, complete with lotus blossomed Lilly pads and a little tinkling clam shell fountain.

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