Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why do we eat: Health or Taste? A look at Subway

Why do we eat what we eat?  Do we choose our food based on nutrition?  Do we choose it based on taste?  Whether it's ascetically pleasing?  Because of what we were raised eating?  Because of memories they bring?  Because of emotions they bring?  Because of price?  Because of the image we want others to see?

We choose food for many reasons.  Usually, it's not just one of the above reasons.  Of course, in many societies on this planet, people don't have any choice in what they eat.  They eat what they have available.  The Western world is a place of abundance and choice.  Isn't it nice to be able to choose?

Subway lobby
With the publicity Subway created from Jared losing weight, Subway gained a lot in popularity, doubling their sales.  Losing weight and eating healthy is a fad right now, like living Green.  It's good to be healthy and eat healthy, but we shouldn't do it just because it is the "cool" thing to do.  Think for yourself and value yourself.  Don't eat healthy just because society tells you to.  Eat healthy because you care about yourself and want to treat yourself with respect.

And there's other reasons to eat that shows value for yourself.  Give yourself the pleasure of eating food that tastes good.  It can be healthy and taste good at the same time.  I eat Subway a lot, but not for health reasons.  I eat it because I enjoy the tastes that the right combination of ingredients brings.  The right combination of ingredients is art.  That's why Subway calls their employees Sandwich Artists.

When I was a teenager, my mother ran the school kitchen.  Once a week, the owner of the local Subway would come and set up in the school lunch room and make sandwiches for the students.  The spring of my junior year, I wanted a job and my mom talked to him and he hired me to work there.

School was still in session, so I worked evenings for those first few weeks.  Most nights, I worked with the guy who was closing most nights.  I had worked with his sister the year before, and I had had a bit of a crush on her.  I got a long well with him, and he seemed to like me.  He figured since I was working during part of his shift, he might as well teach me how to close.

After a week or so, the owner had to leave town for a while.  He left his daughter in charge.  She and the guy who closed didn't get a long at all.  Just after school ended for the year, they got in a fight and he tried to quit, but she beat him to it and fired him before he could.  She had to close that night.  She and the girl who normally opened were the only people who officially knew how to close.  The other girl was needed for opening, and the owner's daughter didn't have time, so she finished training me and I became the official closer.

A sandwich being made
For two summers, I closed six days a week.  Most days, I started at five and worked until sometime after midnight.  It took a lot of time, but I made plenty of money, had something to do, and really enjoyed it most of the time.

At one point, I hadn't had much sleep.  There was one night that was my weirdest night there.  I remember walking into the walk in fridge and getting some meat I needed to restock.  I left and closed the door, then remembered seeing a knife sitting on a shelf.  I still have that image firmly in my mind, and my visual memories are usually spot on like photographs.  I can see every detail.  I went back in to grab the knife, but there was a package of roast beef there, not a knife.  It was very odd.

At the end of the night, I opened the door to leave.  Usually the door didn't squeak, but that time it did.  Or at least that's what I think it was.  What I heard was my name coming from across the empty parking lot,  It was a large parking lot and the only thing in it was my small car.  There was definitely not anyone out there.  The "voice" sounded like the stereotypical old "hag" or "witch" from movies and things.  Like a fairytale wicked witch of the Wicked Witch of the West in Wizard of Oz.  That creeped me out.

During my time at Subway, I experimented with the sandwiches I ate.  I got a free foot long each shift.  I would eat a six inch shortly after I came in, before the dinner rush, and another one around ten each night.  I figured out six or seven sandwiches I liked, made very specific ways.  The tastes were a pieces of art.  I loved them.

I always hated it when people who had worked at Subway came in, because theirs were the hardest sandwiches to make because they had to be just so.  Remembering this, I didn't eat at Subway at all for several years, because I didn't want to do that to the people.  Later, I compromised what I wanted and let them make it the normal way, with me just dictating the ingredients.  I enjoy eating at Subway to this day.


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