SocioCuisine on Roller Skates

16 Sep

When you think of harbingers of social paradigms, I doubt that Sonic Restaurants come to mind. For the uninitiated, Sonic is a chain of fast-food joints strongest represented in the midwest. You might have seen its somewhat annoying ad campaigns pushing its rocking drink selection; I’ve heard of people states away from their nearest Sonics catching the spots on TV. If you haven’t, Sonic bills itself as a jack-of-all-trades restaurant dealing in a host of Americana dishes – hamburgers, hot dogs, tater tots, wild mixed limeades, and the like – with roller-skating hosts that bring your order to your car. It’s a unique idea. It’s also a pretty bad restaurant.

My humble, Western Pennsylvania region saw the TV spots before anyone had an idea of what a Sonic was. How novel it seemed. In time, one sprung up seemingly overnight in a nearby city. My friends and I HAD to have it. We’d seen the commercials, and we wanted our limeades – and we wanted them on ROLLER SKATES.

In the sense of a mystery belying a reality, and creating a socio-culinary force, Sonic came to my home in much the same way as Beef came to Japan. We had known about it for some time- it seemed more an abstraction; not the taboo that Beef was for pre-Meiji Japan, but alike in the way it fascinated us and had its own, special aura. Kanagaki Robun, in his “Beef Eater” snippet, describes a somehow lousy man riding the Beef Bandwagon and polluting the atmosphere of a diner with his extroverted pro-westernism in early Beer era Japan. Sonic’s TV presence polluted our social atmosphere for a time- until we tried it. Unlike Beef’s ultimate catch in Japan, we quickly saw behind the veil of Sonic, and were severely underwhelmed.Tease.

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