Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chip Truck Visit #1, Miss Crispy's (Whitby)

My family loves chip truck fries.  And onion rings.  And some even like poutine.  It's always fun to visit chip trucks in the summer and find some hidden gems.  I will be reviewing them as often as my wallet allows!
Keep reading all the way down for the latest updates.

First up is Miss Crispy's in north Whitby (map at the link).  We first stopped here a couple years ago, and found out a teacher at our kid's school was the owner.  Less than two weeks later, she sold it.  LOL.  We loved the fries the first few times, but our last trip...they weren't as good.

The menu board is not huge.  Unfortunately, I can't remember if we got a small or medium.  Probably a medium.
I prefer the cardboard tray, but the foam clamshell is a runner up.  Easy for sharing and spreading condiments.  I don't like the cardboard boxes, unless getting individual servings.  We sample our fries with malt vinegar, salt, and ketchup in the corner.  These fries were good, don't get me wrong, but not as good as last summer.  They were a bit soft on the inside, and left my teeth kind of scummy.  They're not too fast to get made, but not the slowest either.  A good mix of the tiny crispy fries, and the bigger ones (I love the tiny ones).  We will visit again because they are close to us, and super close to where my daughter figure skates.
The onion rings are absolutely awesome.  They are crispy, and when you bite them, you don't pull out the entire onion.  I highly recommend them.  They are a really good value compared to other trucks we've been to since.  We did try the poutine last year, and it was good too.

This is a great place to stop if you're passing north through Whitby up to the cottage.  Just bring some gum.  Going south on Highway 12/Brock St....a little tricky to get to, you can only get in if you're westbound on Taunton Rd, east of Highway 12 (also called Baldwin St, north of Taunton Rd), or northbound on Brock St, just north of Taunton Rd.  If you're coming from the north, turn onto Broadleaf (opposite to Wal-Mart), go straight to McKinney, turn right, then right again at Taunton Rd, then enter at the Petro Can.  If you're coming from the west, you can turn north onto Highway 12, and follow those instructions for people going south.

The score for ambiance is pretty low.  It's behind a gas station, in a plaza parking lot.  There are sea gulls.  Not really any shade, but often there is a breeze.  If you're not in a rush, I'd recommend heading over to the park behind McKinney Arena.  And stop at Menchie's for dessert, LOL.

Edit to add:   We got back again for a medium poutine.  At first, I was disappointed to see the cheese curds, LOL, but they melted wonderfully this time into gooey stringy cheese.  The gravy was about the same as everywhere, plenty of it, nice and hot.  We got a medium, which wasn't huge, but good for the two of us.  The next guy after us got a large, and it looked huge...and it was just for him!

Unfortunately, it was very hot and sunny, so we sat in the back of my truck.  There was only one seagull this time LOL.  I do notice that the small fries is the cheapest I've seen, though if the ones we got earlier were a medium, then how small is the small?  The fries were much better this time.  More cooked, they didn't leave a scummy feel.  I liked that there were "naked" fries to try without the gravy (or just a little gravy).  I have renewed my faith in this truck.  Plus, he gave my girl a Freezie while we waited, and even had a blue one :)

2016:  This truck has changed hands again.  The man working there when we tried it was not the friendliest, but not "unfriendly".  Our poutine was fine, but I saw him walk by with what looked like frozen onion rings on the cardboard serving box.  They were not as good as last time! They had more of a breaded type coating, instead of battered.  More like A&W onion rings.  I also got a report from a visitor that they saw a woman with a bag of frozen Great Value (Wal-Mart brand, and WM is across the street) shoestring fries, and her fries were shoestrings and not very good.  She said her friend got poutine and got the thick cut fries.  If anyone has any updates on this, I'd appreciate it.  It's possible they hadn't gotten into the chip truck groove yet, but I can't keep spending money just to see if they improve

2017: I had some kidfree time so I stopped in for onion rings. I'm not sure if it's  the same owners as last year. The man was friendly, telling me about this shredded cheese someone recommended, and he gave me a handful to try. It was No Name Italiano shredded cheese. It was good, but you know how packaged shredded cheese has that powdery dust? Yeah. I ordered onion rings, $4.50. I was a little scared when he walked by with frozen onion rings. They were really good though. More like our 2015 visit. I know they're not a huge seller, and battering to order is probably not practical. The Diet Coke was so cold and delicious.
 It does look a little smaller than in 2015, but since it was just me, this was fine. It wouldn't be, if I had brought kids!!
I forgot to get a menu shot so I tried to get it from my truck. I don't know what the third and fourth items are "Sweet Pot Pou" and "Sweet Pot Fri". If anyone knows, fill me in. There's chicken strips, deep fried pickles, mozzarella sticks, pogos, and some things at the bottom...hot dog....jumbo sausage. I don't see much creativity on the menu, just the standard stuff.

Finally tried the deep fried pickles! I had recently seen a flyer for "The Wholesale Club", a sort of food industry Costco type store run by the Loblaws company. One item in it was breaded pickles for deep frying (or baking). McCain's, I think. They were definitely fine and quicker than doing it at home from scratch.
The other item...onion rings. Yup, they are frozen. I saw the bag--President's Choice. They were also totally fine, but not nearly as good as a couple years ago. And in comparing with my other posts, I think other trucks also use these frozen onion rings. I guess I'll just buy a bag for at home. I've made Cavendish onion rings at home, and they were okay as well.
Considering the earlier photo were a bigger serving, and only $4, and were much more homemade tasting...I can't really recommend these if you can make them at home. If you're just out and about and craving onion rings, these will do.  But I much preferred the old ones--thinner, cheaper, and more of them!!  The picnic table has seen better days, but there was an umbrella at least, and I didn't notice any seagulls this time.

The good thing about this truck is that it apparently takes Apple Pay and credit cards. Just know that you're not getting homemade, "food truck" foods, you're getting frozen, pre-made "chip truck" foods.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Commercialization of Parenting and other Trends

Back when I had my first child, 2000, the internet was not like today!  No Facebook!  There were some forums, etc, but most parenting advice still came from magazines, books, doctors, grandmothers, the Sears catalogue and our own instincts.  Flash forward even just five years, and what a difference!  Suddenly, we can get the opinions and expertise of thousands of strangers to guide us in our parenting journey.  I noticed at the same time that parenting was becoming very commercialized.  There were gadgets, toys, tools, apps, for every parenting need you can imagine.  Look through a parenting magazine, and you'll learn through the advertising that you never need to hold your baby.  Straight from carseat to bouncer to exersaucer to Jolly Jumper to crib to stroller.  Swings came with speakers, heaters, vibrators, multi-directional and random movements to replicate being held.  Everything you need to feed your baby can be bought at Babies R Us.  Forget about the old ways, Grandma is ancient.  Get with the new century.

While new health reports have changed the way alcohol and tobacco is advertised in Canada, similar health reports have not been able to touch the formula advertising industry.  The "may cause" is too small.  People don't want to read the "may cause" concerns, because millions of babies get formula, and they're all "fine".

Let's look at marketing in another industry.

You've decided you need a car.  You open up the first magazine at the hairdresser's, and inside the front cover is a big spread for Ford.  Wow, Ford is awesome.  Look at all those models!  You must go check out Fords!  You flip through the rest of the magazine, notice there are some other car ads, but they're smaller, and not at the front and the info about safety and consumer satisfaction just doesn't catch your eye.

You go on Facebook and announce you're getting a Ford.  Which one?  You don't have a lot of money though.  Several friends say "How awesome!" and "Congratulations!".  Then "Get the biggest you can afford" or "get the cheapest; they're all the same anyway".  Then, a few more speak up.  "How about a Toyota?  They have fewer need for repairs".  You reply, "No thanks, I'm going to take good care of it so I won't need repairs, and my ex-boyfriend's sister's babysitter's cousin is a mechanic so I won't have to pay for repairs".  Someone else says "If money is an issue, about about public transportation?"  "No way, that's for poor people!".  Someone else gives the little known idea of car-sharing. "WTF is that?!  No way am I sharing a car.  I might get residue from someone else's religion!".

You go to the Ford dealer and check out the cars.  Such variety, such price ranges!  How to choose?!  Yes, your friend said they're basically all the same, so go with the cheapest.  You do.

The problems start right away.  You have to fill up with gas on the way home.  You didn't think about that...you have only a few dollars.  Gas runs out before the next pay day and what do you do?  THen it needs an oil change and you figure you can do it yourself...but do something wrong and now it needs repairs.  Then you start hearing a funny noise.  You ignore it for awhile, but it doesn't go away.  You can't get it over 80km/hr now.

You turn back to Facebook with your issues.  Friends start off "IDK, my Ford is awesome" and "Could it be this?  That?  This?  This?  This?" and that's too overwhelming so you ignore it all.  Someone suggests it could be cause it's a Ford and that was a bad choice.  "You're not supporting me and I'm blocking you!".  Then it gets worse...."should have bought a Toyota", "Bus passes can be written off your taxes", "I lost 30lb by walking everywhere".

Are these comments helpful?  The writers probably think so.  But to the poster, they're not.  They're in denial.  Ford was glossy, a big spread, obviously the best choice or it wouldn't have been at the front of the magazine!  Why would you question it?  They want your business, so they're not going to suck, are they?!

It is damn near impossible to give suggestions to others these days.  "That's your opinion!" they say when you suggest no infant cereal is needed.  "Babies are all different" they say when you suggest no cereal before six months.  "My doctor said 4 months is fine" they say when you say the current recommendation is six months.  You try to offer studies, health organizations official statements, and other data.  You remind them that baby cereal is less than 100 years old and was developed specifically for malnourished babies--not average babies. They refuse to see alternatives because they believe the advertising and magazines.  Formula and cereal wouldn't be sold so readily if it caused problems!  They were fed cereal at 2 months and are perfectly healthy.  It was good enough for their parents, it's good enough for their child.

On one hand, the internet has opened up a world of information most people could never have accessed before.  Yet, there are so many people that have narrowed down their minds like never before.  I don't get it.  People should be more critical, more investigative, more open minded, more willing to change when new info shows otherwise....but yet it seems people are putting blinders on to science, research, history, and are only open to names/brands they recognize.
True story--mom asks for other mom's opinions on when to start cereal.  You offer the latest statement made by Health Canada saying cereal is not needed.  You get told that's your opinion and everyone's entitled to their own opinion, and it doesn't help the mom asking the question.  WTF.  Sure--it IS my opinion, based on experts doing years of research.  Shouldn't research trump "I had it at 3 weeks and I'm fine"?

Another trend I hate...telling moms that they know best, they know their child better than the doctor and other moms, and do what they think is right.  Why would a new mom automatically know what's right/best?  Deciding to give cereal at 3 months is not an intrinsic, human response like wanting to hold a baby that's crying.  Why would mom be asking if she knew what was right?  People say "I knew my child was ready at 4 months!"...the biggest aspect to a baby's readiness for (any) food is the solidifying of the intestines and the production of digestive enzymes.  How the heck do all these moms know this about their babies?

I was at an OB/GYN's office.  They had a fancy tv screen with health info constantly changing.  One section was on circumcision.  It was all about what to expect, and the "pros".  NOTHING contrary or negative was shown.  I wonder what the circumcision rate of male babies born to moms at that practice is.  I'd love to compare to an office where there is no circumcision information offered.  Or, how about an OB/GYN's office that has reading material that is only pro-breastfeeding.  If the only magazines available were things like "Natural Parenting".  Would that have an impact?  Once again, Health Canada says circumcision is not necessary.  Why are doctors still promoting it?  Oh...they get paid cash when they do it.

Why are young people letting marketing decide their parenting strategies? We all want what's best for our babies.  But  how can they really think Nestle has their baby's best interest in mind when their profit depends on making parents think their products are necessary?