Monday, August 24, 2009

Nashi & Sonic Drive-Ins

Pilcher Park in Joliet and its totem poles were unexpected good finds. We’d gone down that way to investigate the possibilities of apple picking. Or to be more exact, apple- and Asian pear-apple picking at a u-pick-em orchard near Lockport, Illinois. It’s almost a straight shot south of us on I-355, which was extended through the Lockport and Joliet area only a few years ago.

I expected a bigger operation, but when we got there we found a house with apple trees spreading out behind it. I asked one of the proprietors about the place, and she told me it was a hobby that got out of hand, producing a lot of apples and Asian pear-apples. The latter are cultivated like apples, she said, and in the case of her orchard will be ready to pick in about three weeks.

Asian pear-apples are worth the wait. They look like apples, sort of, but have the sweet interior of pears, only better than most pears. In Japan, they’re called nashi, a more exotic name than pear-apple, certainly, and what we call them around this house. Yuriko considers them a high-cost fruit, and they are, especially in Japan, but even somewhat at Costco.

So we went on our way, and ended up spending our apple and pear-apple budget at a Sonic Drive-In in Lockport. When Lilly saw it, she lobbied hard to go there, since apparently she has fond memories of one we visited in Tampa in 2005. She claimed to remember it better than Disney World on that trip, which was probably an exaggeration. But it didn’t take too much urging on her part.

For about $15, you can get three Sonic burgers (one with cheese), three shakes (two peach, one vanilla), a small order of fries, and a kid’s meal featuring chicken strips, fries and a small bottle of chocolate milk, brought to your car by a carhop on skates. She comes after you insert your debit or credit card in the slot at the order sign, so it isn’t quite like how Richie, Potsy and Ralph would have ordered (I forget to look for a cash option; you probably have to push a special button for that).

Sonic does go out of its way to make hamburgers more like those of old, though of course it’s by formula. Still, I’m reminded of Sill’s Snack Shack in San Antonio, a non-drive-in hamburgerie we used to patronize in the late ’60s and early ’70s, until McDonald’s cleaned its clock. So Sonic has that going for it.

We had Sonic Drive-Ins in the San Antonio of my youth. There was the time, during high school exams in the spring of 1977, when about ten of us jammed into a car driven by the only one of us who could legally drive, and descended on the Sonic on Broadway in Alamo Heights. Such youthful car-packing might be unlawful in Texas now, and even then it was the stuff of potentially lurid headlines: HEIGHTS TEENS SPUTTER AND FRY IN FIERY WRECK. But we arrived safely, and spilled out onto pavement and on top of the hood and trunk to eat our lunch, surprising the waitress.

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