When my daughter was a teenager, about a dozen years ago, she went through a vegetarian phase. Back then, the payoff for orthodontist visits was a trip to Taco Bell, where the only thing we could eat were bean burritos and tacos.
It wasn’t my favorite meal, but the mushy beans in that soft tortilla or crisp shell were kind of soothing, and the sweet “hot” sauce made the experience decent enough. I usually polished off two or three.
I was thinking of those Taco Bell stops during a recent week of travel. I had determined, as a way of avoiding the pitfalls of airport food, to be vegan for the length of the trip.
This isn’t easy. By the time I got to Terminal C at Dallas/Fort Worth, I couldn’t bear another Veggie Delite from Subway, a bad chopped salad on lousy bread. So I wandered up to the Taco Bell Express opposite Gate 14 and optimistically asked the cashier if I could get a bean burrito without cheese or sour cream.
He pointed out a corner on the overhead display where the “fresco” menu offered pico de gallo in place of dairy, then upsold me on a multilayered “fresco” bean burrito for about 3 bucks. As he was talking, the customers to my right and left, both fit, suit-wearing people bearing expressions of hunger and resignation, perked up.
They weren’t aware of the fresco menu, either. One was trying to “eat healthy on the road;” the other copped to “having vegan kids.” Like me, they were intrigued by a fast-food burrito with about 350 calories, or less than half as many as a Fiesta Taco Salad bowl. It wasn’t bad, either.
Twelve years after the publication of “Fast Food Nation” and nearly as long since Morgan Spurlock almost ate himself to death, our relationship with fast food has changed. We’ve gone from the whistle-blowing stage to the higher-expectations stage, and some of those expectations are being met.
Various states have passed measures to limit the confinement of farm animals. In-N-Out Burger has demonstrated that you don’t have to underpay your employees to be profitable. There are dozens of plant-based alternatives to meat, with more on the way; increasingly, they’re pretty good…
Read More: Mark Bittman, nytimes.com