All-American Fare

You know what I’d like today?

A cheeseburger, fries, and a thick chocolate shake.

When my family came to America in 1962, we were housed at the old St. Regis Hotel on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, which was across the street from one of the first McDonald’s.

It did not serve croquetas or platanitos, or batidos de mamey… the fast foods of my people. We were quickly informed Americans would find those disgusting.

They did, however, serve chocolate shakes so thick that your cheeks would hurt trying to pull them through the straws. Their burgers were slathered in ketchup and mustard… condiments we’d never experienced, as tangy and luscious as they were exotic.

And they had fries… crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside, oily but never soggy, and salted in a way that left you licking your lips hours after you’d savored them.

In time, the shakes became fattening, the burgers threatened our arteries, and the fries were unmasked as a source of empty calories.

We followed Americans in eschewing the fast foods of our youth, and started pretending we liked nasty green things like kale and edamame.

But let’s be honest. They don’t measure up.

What we “feast on” today is so much sadder and poorer than what we experienced in 1962, when Americans flew the flag, voted for candidates instead of parties, and welcomed seven-year-old refugees and their families, giving them the chance to start brand new lives. We had to learn a new language and give up many of our customs, but in return, we were allowed to forge creamy, sweet, tangy, meaty, golden and delicious futures.

Happy Independence Day.

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