Or at least I did. When I was a child, on occasion, we’d go into New York City. And for a treat, we’d eat at the Automat, run by Horn and Hardart.
We got to reminiscing last night at dinner with friends and all of us remembered the Automat, a place where you inserted coins in machines and food was dispensed to you. For those who didn’t grow up near one of these marvels, or who haven’t seen the preserved remains in the Smithsonian, here is a link to an article that Smithsonian magazine did about them.
The last Automat closed in the early 1990s but I was surprised to learn that they lasted that long. I would have thought that the “modern” fast food places would have put them out of business long before that.
As a kid, the Automat was the future to me. I thought that one day everybody would eat this way–that food would be dispensed by machines and there would be no need for people to be involved.
Well, little did I know that the Automat was a hugely labor driven industry–you just didn’t see the people. And frighteningly indeed, today, some folks almost do eat out of vending machines for two meals a day. Thankfully, I’m not sure anyone really eats out of them for three meals a day!
But perhaps even better, the trend today is away from all that, and toward more fresh food. While the Automat was a version of “fast” food, it was still prepared behind the scenes and still replaced in those revolving cases on conveyers so it would be fresh.
The food I’m talking about today, however, is more, farm to table fresh, artisanal fresh (if that word isn’t so overdone as to be a cliché) and homegrown fresh.
Thank goodness my childhood dream of automated food didn’t come true!