I swore off meat in fourth grade after reading a pamphlet I got at an Earth Day fair with a picture of a leering fat-cat agribusiness scion peeking out from behind a Ronald McDonald mask on the cover. Weirdly, it didn’t keep me from eating fast food.
For years my jam was Jack in the Box’s teriyaki chicken bowl without the chicken or Wendy’s broccoli-and-cheese baked potato. Then I discovered the “grilled cheese”—that’s a cheeseburger without the patty—at In-N-Out.
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It was my dad’s favorite place to eat, usually on the sunny patio overlooking the carwash next door. He even owned an In-N-Out T-shirt. At home he was often volatile and sullen, lurking in the den with the shades pulled down checking his stocks or watching the evening news in stony silence. I suspect he was depressed and bitter. But he always seemed at peace sitting under one of the red and white plastic umbrellas waiting for our number to be called.