Have you visited an airport lately? The long signs, the searches at security, the late flights. That's all true—some of the time. But, other days you breeze through check-in and security, only to find yourself sitting around the airport, revisiting Walden Books for a second time, and snacking on unhealthy, overpriced food you didn't want in the first place.
Actually, you probably do need that food, since you are unlikely to get anything to eat on the plane, unless it's one long flight. So, travelers are spending their money as if they think their plane may not get back to land safely, and this is their last chance to buy, buy, buy.
Both O'Hare and Midway are experiencing a rise in these hungry travelers. This is good for business, but not the best news for travelers. Even with a new food court that opened at Midway in 2001, options aren't great for anyone who pays attention to what they eat. The best that can be found at Midway is low-fat soft-serve frozen yogurt. The worst? The usual pizzas, cookies, hot dogs, and bacon.
O'Hare, which recently was rated as one of the least healthy for dining options, offers diet soda, coffee, and tea. Anyone wanting more can pay a dollar for soggy pieces of fruit. Or, and what usually happens, hunger wins out, and the McDonald's sees record business.
What about real food? Pork. Yeah, really, pork. Pork is gaining market share in the fast-food market. Since 1996, the food service market for pork has risen 11 percent.
Bacon is where it's at. First used to top off a sandwich in 1972, by A&W for its Teen Burger cheeseburger, it is now found everywhere. Arby's recently added bacon to its healthy sounding Market Fresh line of sandwiches. So, now you can find a Turkey, Ranch and Bacon sandwich on its menu. Scoring even higher for them in market research, is the Ultimate BLT, featuring thick cut, peppered strips.
'But, even all those strips of bacon on my Deluxe Bacon Double Cheeseburger just aren't enough,' you say. Well, hold on, before you give yourself a heart attack—that'll come soon enough. A&W (remember, the guys who started the whole bacon boom) are busily brainstorming ways in which to add bacon to even more than just sandwiches.
Recently, the masterminds over there have cooked up A&W Fun Fries. BBQ Bacon Fries is one of three Fun Fries options, and takes the heretofore unhealthy French fry and makes it seem positively diet by comparison. First, the fries are topped with barbecue sauce, and then a topping of cheese sauce. The sorry, soggy fries then get a topping of bacon 'crumbles' (your guess is as good as mine), which are purported to carry even more bacon flavor than, well, strips of bacon.
If those sound good, but just seem to be lacking, oh, I don't know, sour cream, then opt for the Southwest Fries, which are topped with sour cream, onions, bacon crumbles, more cheese sauce, chili and beans, salsa, and a few peppers.
Not to be outdone, Burger King created the Back Porch Smokehouse Cheddar Griller, and even partnered up with the National Pork Board to promote the new treat. And, the industry is now pushing non-bacon pork as well.
Hardee's sells something called the Pork T (yes, you can find it in Illinois), and Bojangles (thankfully a North Carolina outfit and not in the Midwest) serves a breaded and fried pork tenderloin sandwich.
Still, don't look for pork sandwiches to overtake what's already out there. Pork can be more expensive, require more cooking time, and the texture can be a problem in fast-food outlets. Pre-cooked pork products, like the ones already available in groceries, are overcoming some of these problems.
If all this talk of pork has you salivating, then be sure to visit the National Pork Board's www.otherwhitemeat.com . Here you can find pork recipes (Pork Fiesta Soup anyone?), e postcards of pork dishes, pork facts (the Ancient Chinese were so loath to be separated from fresh pork that the departed were sometimes accompanied to the grave with their herd of hogs), pork screensavers ('a slide show of a variety of pork meal pictures' or 'a bunch of cute little pigs in costumes') and vote on your favorite pork products in the annual Consumer's Choice Pork Awards. Last year's winners include Genuine Pulled Pork Bar-B-Que Slathered with Dinosaur Bar-B-Que's Bar-B-Que Sauce and Pork Chops on a Stick.
While visiting, try your hand at Pork Trivia, like 'What's the highest price ever paid for a hog?', click on Pork Racing to find out all about their sponsorship of race cars, and visit the Pork Post Office to sign up for the site's monthly email newsletters.
While this is good for you and me, you must be wondering, 'How can I indoctrinate my children into the fine world of pork?' Your worries are solved at www.pork4kids.com, where kids can enter a coloring contest about pork, find kid-friendly recipes like Four Fruit Salad (to be served with Garden Fresh Pork Fajitas), make your very own pig costume, make a cyber sandwich featuring ham, or watch Peggy the Pork Chop in her very own cartoon co-starring Henry Ham and Robert Rib Roast.
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