My college experience had a lot of ups and downs. Most of them due to the fact that I didn’t know and had to figure out how to financially support myself. However, one of the best things about college was visiting my favorite chain sandwich spot Quizno’s. Fast forward 11 years later and I now live around the corner from one of the last Quizno’s locations. So recently I found myself down a rabbit hole trying to find out what happened any why so many restaurants have closed over the years. The story is actually pretty sad. Apparently, the first restaurant was started in Denver (used to live there too) and then it grew and became a franchise opportunity. At the time, there was a unique take on the market because the sandwiches are toasted. It was something that had not been done before. This was also combined with sandwiches that bordered more on the gourmet side. They had it on lock for a good minute. However, apparently no one has a monopoly on a toaster and once Subway started offering toasted sandwiches without an extra cost and those infamous “5 dollar footlong” commercials. The financial troubles continued with the company going into massive amounts of debts and having a slew of unhappy franchise owners who were barely able to turn a profit. Apparently, the ingredients for the sandwiches were more expensive than most and the Quizno’s parent company also had a contract with the food company so they profited from selling franchise locations the equipment and ingredients. All this came to a dreadful head when a franchise owner decided to (very tragically) take his life due to his financial situation and the fact that the company allowed another franchise to open up close to his existing store. A recipe for failure. The company continued to tank and hundreds of stores started to close because the franchise owners couldn’t become profitable. Fast forward to the present where Quiznos is hanging on by a thread and most stores have closed. They needed a different strategy and unfortunately it was too late to pivot. So the next time you eat a toasted sandwich, think of the chain that made it happen.
This pandemic has driven many to turn to food as a source of comfort. I would be lying to say that I haven’t indulged in the occasional “bad” carb after a particularly stressful day. People are cleaning out the junk food in supermarkets while leaving the produce and grocery aisle practically untouched. The emphasis on certain comfort foods reminds me of one of my favorite food experiences as a kid and teenager. Camping. There is absolutely nothing that tastes as good as food made by a campfire after a long day of hiking. I went camping with a group of people and while we were outdoors, no expense was spared as far as the food budget. S’mores, grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, tacos, peach cobbler, vegetarian hotdogs and other delicious wonders were available in abundance. It was a great time to enjoy nature while also experiencing the community component of preparing food in large quantities and having good conversations as we huddled around the campfire for warmth. Nowadays, I find myself preparing more food than I ever have at any point in my life. I make dinner in the evenings and meal prep for most of my lunches at work. I’ve become more comfortable doing it and I find myself making more things from scratch and passing on some of the more processed foods. Nothing excessive but just a more intentional effort to eat a bit healthier than before.
I’ve always lived fairly health conscious. I’m familiar with many fruits and vegetables and I was raised as a vegetarian/vegan. However, recently due to a change in my workout regimen and weightlifting routine I’ve had to start eating meat as a means of increasing protein and helping me recover in between workouts. It’s been a challenge so far because I have no idea how to cook meat and the texture of it is way too chewy for my liking. One thing that I can appreciate is the fact that I’m cooking more and getting a chance to become more familiar with the layout of my kitchen because traditionally I’m not a fan of cooking for one. So far salmon and crab are my favorites and I like the challenge of experimenting and figuring out what recipes taste good. I’m seeing favorable results so I’ll continue to stick with the meat thing. I feel better overall and I have more energy. I have more endurance when working out and I’m seeing changes with the way my clothes fit. I just wish chicken tasted as good as tofu.
I have a theory that many people who have experienced financial hardship at some point in their lives have found a struggle meal. Now, a struggle meal is a meal that you would not normally eat if you had a decent looking bank account. It can be as simple as ordering off the dollar menu at a fast food store or even buying store brand butter and sugar to make sandwiches. While I haven’t known the poverty that comes from not knowing where my next meal is coming from, I do know the uncomfortable feeling of an overdrawn bank account and a week or two before the next payday. Not a great thing. Ironically my “struggle food” is lentils with vegetables and rice. It’s also probably my lazy food as well when I don’t feel like preparing anything for a few days. My point is that when you are working towards a goal you make the necessary sacrifices because you want a good end result. You forgo always splurging because you’re saving up for something. The sacrifices now pave the way for the rewards down the line. Then you can have a commemorative struggle meal instead of a real one.