Of Fast-Food Meals in a Bowl, Rice or Mashed Potato-Based, and Fried Chicken Musings...

Categories: Cheap Eats
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By Meredith Brody

Is it just us, or do most of the suggestions tossed around the boardroom - peas, coleslaw, melon balls, prunes, mints, little gifts, poppyseeds, curds and whey, lake trout -- in the Jack-in-the-Box commercial for its new Teriyaki Bowls sound more appetizing than the real deal: "your choice of sirloin steak (yeah, right) or grilled chicken on a bed of steamed rice topped with broccoli, carrots, and teriyaki sauce," especially in the uninspired, uninspiring, gloopy-looking "beauty" shots provided of said Teriyaki Bowls?

(Well, except maybe for laser pointers. But we'd welcome an inexpensive bowl full of buttons, marbles, or acorns, which are alternative suggestions. Especially at a drive-through window!)

The meal-in-a-bowl concept, pioneered at KFC (pun intended) provided tons of fodder for stand-up comedians, who pictured sad-and-lonely guys, too dispirited to wield a knife and fork, spooning up mashed potatoes, corn, chicken nuggets, and gravy from a bowl. (KFC also has rice-based bowls. And it turns out that Jack's Teriyaki Bowls, posited as "new" in the current commercials, are actually a re-introduction of a concept introduced in 1993 and removed from Jack's menus in 2003.)

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Even Nora Ephron, in her autobiographical novel Heartburn, alludes to mashed potatoes as the perfect food for such down times as, say, the end of the affair: "Nothing like mashed potatoes when you are feeling blue. Nothing like getting into bed with a bowl of hot mashed potatoes already loaded with butter, and methodically adding a cold thin slice of butter to every forkful."

When I'm in a chicken-and-mashed-potatoes mood, I go to Popeyes, and I add a container of red beans and rice and an extra biscuit, too. So far Popeyes has maintained its standards since the death of its eccentric founder, Al Copeland - well, since his holding company went into bankruptcy, as a matter of fact - but we've got our eye on them. (Not the mind's eye. The stomach's.) We don't want them to go the way of KFC, famously hated by Colonel Sanders after he sold away his famous fried chicken 11-herbs-and-spices recipe and pressure-fryer method.

If you want to try the real thing according to Colonel Harland, go to Casa Orinda, where, as legend has it, the Colonel sold them the equipment and recipe, long, long ago. We're not sure. But we sure like the results.

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