Holiday Food and Drink

Random Christmas Food Traditions: Junk Food, Arby's and Red Lobster

Quickie-mart junk food, roast "beef" from Arby's and Cheddar Bay Biscuits from Red Lobster were what we ate around the holidays when I was growing up back in Florida. Sure, Christmas Day had the usual suspects of turkey and cornbread dressing, but before Christmas and after, we bowed down to the chain restaurant culinary gods, Arby and Lobster.

The Arby's deal was an offshoot of our Christmas Eve family tradition of eating at gas stations. For years, we would drive around as a family and look at Christmas lights in the greater Gainesville, Florida area. It somehow became a tradition to pause at a little quickie mart and grab dinner there. You like Yoo-Hoo, you say? That one was always a favorite with me, along with cheese puffs, beef jerky and the occasional peanut M&M. I think the only rule was that every calorie had to be empty. It may be weird, but I sure enjoyed the always-elusive red Powerade and cream-filled cupcake pairing I got to devour with my parent's permission every Christmas Eve.

When that gas station closed, we moved on to another one that just so happened to have an Arby's attached, so technically we were still sticking to the gas station-only rule on Christmas Eve. Big beef and cheddar, anyone?

And what could be slightly less nutritious than the all-gas station supper? How bout a trip to Red Lobster, the comic sans of seafood restaurants? This started as a celebration for my dad, who has the misfortune of being born on December 29. For Christmas gifts, my Aunt Elsie always gave everyone Red Lobster gift certificates, and we used them to go out to eat unlimited shrimp or the Lobsterfest offerings after Christmas. Say what you want about the seafood there, but those Cheddar Bay Biscuits are better than anything yo mamma could cook up.

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Lennie Ambrose