October 10, 2004

Sliders & Spikes

They've been a staple of contemporary culture (especially in the Midwest) since 1954. They are often derided, but seem to have some nutritional value. They have been featured in a major Hollywood movie, and like their biggest competitor, have been the target of a really frivolous lawsuit. The only thing they lack is William Shatner's campy spoken word-esque treatment. I'm talking about, of course, sliders.

That's right - White Castle Sliders. Those little 45 cent hamburgers in the little cardboard boxes. They are, in my opinion, one of the highlights of American dining.

Eating one is, in itself, an experience - the slightly crumbly burger, the tangy crunch of the pickle, the crackle of onion, the soggy bun - gives it a unique texture in one's mouth. It's a mixing of flavors, and is an unconventional presentation. In a time when Hardee's has created the "Six Dollar Burger", when McDonald's is the subject of an unflattering documentary, the slider's presentation - small, affordable, in a cardboard box - remains extraordinary. (Plus, the fries are also in an long, rectangular box - no messy paper bags! According to WC, they are known as "spikes")

Affordability is also key - from enjoying them as a quick pick-me-up meal (thanks to coupons in the Chicago Sun-Times) when I was a child, to late post-party dining in college, to enjoying "crave cases" at my friends' parties, sliders have been a staple of my diet. (My slightly doughy figure serves as confirmation of this). Although I wouldn't advocate them as a regular diet staple, as far as "fast foods" go, they are great value for the money.

Finally, they are very simple - White Castle is to fast food what the Ramones were to rock music. Taking the basic ingredients, adding a slight pinch of creativity and hard work, and voila - the Platonic ideal of convenient dining. The fact that there is a White Castle cook-off confirms the versatility of the slider, and for these, we shouldn't make fun of White Castle, but praise it as a highlight of American ingenuity.

Of course, this is strictly my opinion, and am not doing this to either gain free food or even be nominated for the White Castle Hall of Fame, but if either happened...I wouldn't complain.

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