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How distinctly American is takeout/delivery?

To those of you who do live/have lived in other countries: I was thinking about all the bad Thai I've ordered recently, and then it occurred to me that, takeout/delivery seems to center on Americanized versions of dishes, be it pizza, Chinese, or whatever.

For instance, when I think of eating Chinese in, I think of Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway in bed digging in to moo choppy gumshoe or whatever in Manhattan (see also this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/328531). No one's ordering in, I dunno, tripe and jellyfish. As for pizza, if I'm ordering it in, I'm not likely to be getting a pie topped with zucchini blossoms and fresh mozzarella.

So, pardon me for sounding ignorant, but the longest I've lived outside of the States was in Italy for six weeks, and we were doing the trattoria thing on the lira (man I miss the lira) every night of it...do other countries have a takeout *culture* the way we do? And does anyone else notice a correlation here in the US between takeout/delivery and the type of dish ordered? (BTW, I don't think it's just a matter of only ordering what will travel well—plenty of simple un-Americanized dishes that could fill the bill but don't. But maybe others disagree on this point?)

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  1. Delivery of anything, not just bad food, is the norm in Colombia. Guys with cheap Chinese motorcycles deliver for fast food places, drug stores, grocery stores, dry cleaners, and more - on a commission and tip basis. Many people here in Cali have lunch (the main meal) delivered. But it is all American -ish fast food that does not include Chinese. I often have my pharmacy deliver.

    Restaurants, grocery stores, and pharmacies send out rubberized refrigerator magnetic ads with phone numberrs and the like.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      So it's Americanized food even there, not Colombian food? What do you think is the connection?

      1. re: tatamagouche

        There are purely Colombian restaurant deliveries as well; but I think the whole delivery system was initially driven by the combo of Pizza places like Domino's and Geno's, cheap motorcycles and relatively poor people seeing an employment opportunity, and - in the case of supermarkets, that many of the rich previously had their trusted taxista go pick up a phone-in order.

    2. The 'delivery' culture in Argentina is second nature but the difference is that the food is exactly like what you would get in a restaurant but cheaper and brought to your door. Junk food delivery doesn't exist, thank goodness. Even Pizza Hut has had t close down as people are used to proper pizza. When I lived in Mexico, eating out was cheap but delivery was mostly of Americanised food (not sure what it might be like now).

      Here in the UK, we call them takeaways and they are lamentable, although the culture relies heavily on them. You can get fantastic Indian food in most towns if you eat out but order it to takeaway and it turns into a greasy, sub-standard affair. I doubt a Chinese person would go near a Chinese takeaway in the UK. In London you can get good food delivered but elsewhere, it's the usual, super-processed and ultra deep fried suspects so I avoid them like the plague.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Paula76

        I spent a month in BsAs in 2004 and EVERY fast food place delivered. Burger Freaking King delivered. MCDONALD'S delivered.

        Best of all: FREDDO delivered.

        The delivery culture in many countries is far, far more advanced than it is in the US, to answer OP's question.

        1. re: John Manzo

          Yes! Delivery Ice Cream was SO AWESOME during those BA summers . . ..

          1. re: John Manzo

            What I meant to say is that the junk food portion of the takeout market is negligible compared to what most people order which is proper, home cooked meals. Of course, absolutely every place delivers which is a godsend...

            How I miss those scrumptious empanadas...

          2. re: Paula76

            Ah how things have changed in Mexico. As others might expect... food delivered to doors has not been part of the culinary lexicon in Mexico until relatively recently. My dad would tell me stories of late 1950's Mexico City when they first moved they from Jalisco... the city's population & industrial base was increasing much faster than services & infrastructure as such many neighborhoods had no restaurants, cafes or even grocery stores. In those times... factories were being placed squat in the middle of rural farmlands on the outskirts of town.. attracted by the droves of cheap laborers moving from the countryside... and according to him... what a sight at lunch. Hundreds of wives & kids would descend on the the factory grounds loaded with little clay pots & serving dishes, baskets of steaming tortillas... and they would set up full on, multi course Comidas... Garnachas, Sopa Seca, Guisos, Frijoles, Tortillas, Frutas en Almibar... brewed Cinammon tea with Piquete on cold days... truly Al Fresco dining on the spot.

            As the 60's came around and infrastructure caught up... Subway & Public transportation in place... lots of Fondas sprouting up all over the place... the onsite banquets where traded for either dining out or traveling back home to eat with the family.

            Delivery really became popular in the 1980's with the Domino's onslaught... and the greater Americanization of the office workday with some of the lower level office workers having shorter & shorter lunch breaks.... today you will find Sushi.. okay lets be honest... California Rolls etc., delivered to offices and sold by street vendors.. and increasingly (in conjunction with the increasing waist bands) delivery of diet regimen meals.

          3. Takeout, or "para llevar" is increasingly easy in Mexico. Sam has me weeping as to delivery, which is increasingly available, also, on the same little motorcycles, in a plastic crate attached with bungy cords behind the seat. The ambulance I donated is too often the first responder to delivery guys who did nothing wrong but hurry.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Veggo

              Plus never having driven a motor vehicle previously.

              1. re: Veggo

                Some of the para llevar in Oaxaca, where I have spent a fair amount of time, is very, very good! Interestingly enough, one of our favorite little neighborhood restaurants (whose chef used to be an executive chef in one of the bigger hotels in Acapulco) used to do a booming para llevar restaurant consisting almost solely of sides! Like arroz and frijoles.

              2. Take away/delivery is pretty much a standard here. We can have anything from pizza to Indian, to Aussie-Chinese to "authentic" Asian to pasta. Our local pizza joint also does a mean Asian noodle (char kwey tao, Nasi Goreng.. all pretty authentic). The pharmacy delivers, the dry cleaner USED to, as did the dairy.

                1 Reply
                1. re: purple goddess

                  In NYC, most low- to mid-price restaurants deliver, too - so whatever they serve, you can have delivered; whether your delivery is "Americanized" depends on where it comes from. Delivery is much more limited in other US cities I'm familiar with, though there are some third-party services that have a roster of restaurants they'll collect and deliver food from (these usually charge a fee *and* add a premium to menu prices for the service, however).

                2. Delivery is very common in Chengdu, China. Tripe is very much on the bill. There are things you wouldn't have delivered, like, I don't know, 'sizzling plate' dishes, but most homestyle foods travel well. Lots of people get lunches delivered to their work place, or get big dinners delivered to their homes. My favourite barbecue place has the boss on his cellphone half the time taking orders to be delivered, even though their delivery charge is astronomical by local standards.

                  1. In Korea we would routinely have meals delivered. The young kid on a bicycle with an "A" frame on the back would bring a metal "Hot Box" with all the dishes (actual bowls and plates), including ban chan. Then would come back later and pick up the dishes. Soups, rice dishes, Korean grill, Chinese, and American (both of the later very much "Koreanized") were all available just as you would get in the restaurants.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: hannaone

                      My experience in Korea was the same as Hannaone. I lived there in the mid 80's and from the looks of things, delivery goes back a long way before that. At the time there was very little "western food", I was there when they opened Pizza Hut and Burger KIng, and those places did not deliver. But for Chinese, Korean, and even some Japanese food it was very easy to have it delivered to the office at lunchtime or at home for dinner. There was even a place on the ground floor of my building that delivered for breakfast (hence my "fried rice" hangover addiction.)

                    2. Hey all, Newbie here.

                      Regarding delivery in Kenya, over recent years we have seen a proliferation of American style fast food delivery replacing traditional eat-in facilities with offerings including crappy pizza, fried chicken, hot subs and burgers.

                      But from way back when and still continuing we have an alternative delivery system that is not quite official, yet seems to work like a charm for myriads of workers in the city. This includes:
                      - Hot tupperware tins of rice and stew ($1.50)
                      - A plate of kheema and rice ($1.50)
                      - Freshly cut mixed bowls of fruit ($1.00)
                      - A huge variety of snack foods including - samosa's, kebabs, mandazi, sausages and chapattis ranging from $0.20 to $1.50

                      These offerings far surpass the Americanized fast food delivery sytems that seem to be taking over our country.

                      Just my $0.02

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: waytob

                        Jambo (mama?)! Habari ya kazi? But only in Nairobi I would guess. Asante sana.

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          wow Swahili on CH!! Muzuri sana Sam F.

                          One of the things I noticed when I moved to the US from the UK was that delivery in the US is by car and in the UK it's almost always on a 2 stroke motorcycle.

                          In fact the pizza delivery drivers are such awful drivers around London, we used to say shall we have Kamikaze pizza for dinner tonight. It was common to see pizza motorbikes in accidents.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Hi Sam, actually I have just recently been relocated to Mombasa from Nairobi, and my mind boggles at the variety of delivered food at my new office. Kazi ni Mzuri, lakini no joto sana...hence the need for cooling foods or extra spicy to make you sweat.
                            I now get freshly squeezed juices, hot kebabs, mamri - barazi (coconut stewed lentils with sweet mandazi), bombay sandwiches and 'mix' a name that denotes a large bowl of spicy lentil based daal with bhajias and crunchy chick pea and puffed rice buts served up with tamarind and cocunut sauces...mmmm
                            If it wasn't for the fact that the ocean is on my doorstep, ensuring I get a daily swim, I would put on 10 kilos in my first month here.

                            1. re: waytob

                              Ooh, can you translate these "Kazi ni Mzuri, lakini no joto sana" and also explain a Bombay sandwich for us English-handicapped wretches?

                              1. re: tatamagouche

                                In short - work is good, but its very hot (hence the need for cooling foods or spicy) - lunchtime I have a pint glass of chaas, a gujarati version of lassi, that has ground up curry leaves, fresh coriander, ground cumin and salt for flavour, the best thing in heat.
                                Bombay sandwich - two relatively thick slices of bread (the fresher the better), slather one with a fresh coriander based chutney and the other with a garlic, red chilli paste, a thin layer of sliced boiled potatoes, diced bell peppers, red onions, fresh green chillis, a scattering of cheese (we sometimes put marinated paneer). This is then toasted in a weighted toaster, to give you a hot, spicy, gooey sandwich that can blow your palate

                                1. re: waytob

                                  I'm so jealous. That all sounds wonderful.

                                  1. re: tatamagouche

                                    Not to hijack the thread...but will try to do a short update on Mombasa. I find most tourists tend to go for the big name best advertised places to eat, by-passing some of the best stree-eats in this city. Yes, we have some very good restaurants (not at michelin standard but fresh ingredients that aren't mucked about with too much), but some of the best food here is literally cooked where its picked or caught, from green coconut and deep fried casava chips smothered in fresh lime and chilli, baked sweet potato and sweet corn, heart of palm etc to freshly caught fish barbequed on the beach with just a squeeze of lime. More to come

                                    1. re: waytob

                                      "..but some of the best food here is literally cooked where its picked or caught, from green coconut and deep fried casava chips smothered in fresh lime and chilli, baked sweet potato and sweet corn, heart of palm etc to freshly caught fish barbequed on the beach with just a squeeze of lime"

                                      Where in Mexico is this Mombasa =)

                              2. re: waytob

                                Have you gone deep sea fishing out of Malindi? Great memories and on-board sashimi. We caught yellowfin for bait. When a shark tore one in half, we got to eat the rest! Of course we had wasabi and soy sauce with us.

                                Just stay away from too much ugali and always remember to give the gizzard from the m'chuzi chicken to the oldest person there (as you well know).

                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  Still a thread hijack, but one of my most memorable experiences was when I was guest of honor at a Maasai boma (had to spend a night there when working), was given the chief's daughters manyatta and they slaughtered a cow for the occassion. Being guest of honor means I was given first sip of the calabash filled with fresh blood mixed with milk....a trial by any force of imagination. The jiko cooked meat after that went down a treat.
                                  Caught an 80 pound tuna when fishing from hemmingways...the best sashimi I have ever had

                                  1. re: waytob

                                    Start a new thread and tell us everything!

                                    1. re: waytob

                                      Yes! But did you have the drowned flies in the milk and blood - like adding rasins!

                            2. I tried to take away a pile of couscous while in Laussanne. They did not seem to have any idea of the concept of taking away uneaten food for later. The rude couple (ok the man was rude, the woman was polite and explained that it is just not done). Well, they eventually, after much ado, fashioned what I can only describe as a fiant foil swan for us to parade thru town to ferry back to the hotel. The swan was about2 1/2 feet by 3 feet. We took a picture of it when we got back to our room. It was strange, embarrassing, insightful and sort of pissy inducing. The man at the next table... if he only knew how awful he was.

                              Where was I? Oh yeah - Swiss - they apparently do not take away. Too low brow.

                              16 Replies
                              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                "They did not seem to have any idea of the concept of taking away uneaten food for later."

                                You're right. It would seem a very odd request to most of us Europeans.

                                1. re: Harters

                                  Why do you think that is, Harters? I mean, I'm a clean-plate girl so I almost never think about takeaway to begin with, here in the US or anywhere else. Is it that the portions are more reasonably sized? Is it more a class-based taboo about not looking like you can't afford to waste food? Something else? And where precisely are you from?

                                  1. re: tatamagouche

                                    I remember first being in the States when the server volunteered to pack up the over-ordered remnants. It was decidedly odd. Now it's just natural. There is always that dilemma though, what is a sufficiently small quantity of food that you would be too embarrassed to ask for it.

                                    1. re: tatamagouche

                                      We're talking about two different things here: takeout or delivery food on the one hand, and taking home half-eaten meals (i.e., doggie bags) on the other. Takeout does exist in some parts of Europe, certainly in the UK where it's called takeaway, while doggie bags are essentially non-existent throughout the continent.

                                      To your question about why that is, tat, one can only speculate, but I think it's in large part because portions are by and large much more reasonable than in the US, combined with a certain propriety regarding food - perhaps in the same way that most Europeans eat things like pizza (and even in many places, sandwiches) with a knife and fork.

                                      1. re: tatamagouche

                                        I don't agree the portion sizes being more reasonable in Europe. I just got back to the States after living in Germany for three years and I was routinely overserved. Places took pride in the fact that their schnitzel covered the entire (huge) dinner plate. And hey, that's fine, I take a look at it and think, "cool, sandwiches for a week", but it drove me nuts when I'd get attitude for asking for it to-go (and yes, I did learn to ask in German). Some places would literally refuse to give it to me to go, much like Mr. Vanilla's experience in Switzerland.

                                        1. re: mjhals

                                          Yes, I guess I was somewhat overgeneralizing, portion size does vary by country. I lived in Germany myself and don't recall portions being that big, but that was 30 years ago and I could eat much more then than I can now, so that may be a factor. ;-)

                                          In France, though, I'm delighted to find that I can almost always order a starter, main course, and dessert, and finish all three without feeling bloated, something I can almost never do in the States.

                                          1. re: mjhals

                                            Well, the schnitzel is supposed to be covering your plate, at least when they call it "Wiener", or "Wiener Art". People get ticked off when they're not served a breaded carpet. I still find most modern German restos have much more reasonable portions than what is served in the US.

                                            And taking a doggie-bag depends on the place. It's certainly not as common.

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              Mmm, breaded carpet.

                                              I've only been to Austria, not Germany, but I too recall ordering, like, steak tartar, as it was translated, and getting an entire dinner plate covered with a thick layer of ground raw beef. Not that I minded...

                                          2. re: tatamagouche

                                            Yep. I had those very same questions. The woman next to us who was seated with the rude man - well she was gracious enough not to come right out and say it is not done because then you look like a low down low class beggar hen scratching pitiable loser. Of course we gathered that was the sense of us what with all the uncomfortable stares, tongue clicking, snearing, huffing, groaning and the extraordinary todo all for a little lama and couscous.

                                            I cannot eat a pile of meat, veggies and couscous bigger than a breadbox!

                                            BTW - never had problem having food boxed up in any of the surrounding countries... and beyond.

                                            Only other hiccup we have had in Europe was in Poland. They put our stuff in in an actual bowl. They did not fuss or make a show of it. We obv. returned the bowl the next day. We filled it with homemade granola. Watching them looking at the granola... I wish I had a camera on me.

                                            So Polish v Swiss. Which has the more graceful reaction?

                                            1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                              In Australia the practice of taking home uneaten food (it's also commonly called a "doggie bag" here) has been around for as long as I remember but of late a significant number of restaurants will not permit it for health reasons. The potential responsibility (possibly legal) for food poisoning has led them to refuse such practices. When food has sat on a table for some time and is then taken home (obviously with still more time before it is refrigerated) and not eaten for perhaps 24 hours the risk of unacceptable bacteria levels developing is obviously enough to deter restaurants from permitting the practice.

                                            2. re: tatamagouche

                                              It's probably a mix of things. Certainly portion sizes in the States are generally bigger than we have in Europe. I can easily eat three courses in any European country but with many places where I've eaten in the States, I couldnt manage three.

                                              I don't feel that there's a class issue here as the doggy bag is simply "not done" at any level of restaurant. Maybe it's something of a cultural difference between the two continents. There's a much greater eating-out culture in the States than we have so I think that, for many Europeans, restaurant eating is for an "event" - celebration, date, that sort of thing.

                                              You ask where I'm from - well, it's a smallish town of some 300K people in Cheshire, which is a county in north west England. I was born in the county and have lived for all but about six of my 58 years.


                                              (Edit: It's not clear from where my post has ended up but it's a reply to tatamagouche's)

                                              1. re: Harters

                                                We're of the same age (I'm 59). It is time to think and act globally. We have no other choice. We should not contribute to food waste - even if we have to doggy bag!

                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  I can work that one out. btw, 300,000 is quite a large population by USA standards. They have many small towns. To put it in perspective, 38 state capitals have populations less than that.

                                                  The effects of world war two still linger on. I am of the same age as you and Sam. As a kid in Liverpool the only plate you left was an empty one. And there was a good chance you left still hungry. No, hungry is not the right word. Given a chance we would have eaten more and followed the American model. Eating a lot was unusual for many of my generation - as the expression. "Eat up, you're at your Aunty's now".

                                                  Even though two more generations have rolled by that mindset lingers, not only here, but in much of Europe.

                                            3. re: Sal Vanilla

                                              OP was talking about something else, not taking left overs from your meal.

                                              1. re: PeterL

                                                My apologies.

                                                OK Let's see. Got easy and well wrapped take away from the many food vendors in the Naschmarkt in Vienna. Sometimes they wrapped things up like i was making a long journey, by foot, over the border - but we appreciated the conscientiousness.

                                                I hope this smooths things over.

                                                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                  Heh—and did they keep on your epic trek or did you have to resort to cannibalism?

                                            4. I'm not sure exactly what the OP means by "culture" but, in the UK, we've had takeaway in the form of fish & chip shops since 1863, when the first one opened in Mossley, Lancashire. As patterns of immigration have changed over the years, so have the takeaways so we now also have many Chinese and Indian takeaways. It is not good food, generally speaking.

                                              In more recent times, there's been a growth in pizza takeaways and American (and American style) burger/fried chicken places, These are the vilest of all - I exclude the well known multi-nationals here - they are pretty much same quality as in the US - your call how you want to interpret that :-).

                                              Some places deliver; most don't.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Harters

                                                In more recent times, there's been a growth in pizza takeaways and American (and American style) burger/fried chicken places, These are the vilest of all - I exclude the well known multi-nationals here - they are pretty much same quality as in the US - your call how you want to interpret that :-).

                                                I don't understand what that means. If you are suggesting that these rubbish shops actually produce pizza akin to that found in the US (a statement already rendered problematic by the size and diversity of the US) you are dead wrong. I miss pizza so much, and while I've occasionally found something decent in London, the situation here is bleak.

                                                I will not even start on the burger issue, but again, if you're suggesting these crap takeaways are producing burgers on par with those found across the US, you're simply wrong.

                                                1. re: Lizard

                                                  No, that's not what I was suggesting, nor is it what I wrote.

                                                  What I wrote (if you re-read my post) is that we have had a growth in American style pizza/chicken/burger takeaways and they are vile.

                                                  I specifically excluded the multi-nationals from that comment. A McDonalds burger in the UK is pretty much how I find a McDonalds burger in America.

                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                    Thank you for clarifying. As you will see from my post, I didn't understand your meaning. I still don't entirely as 'American style takeaways' suggests that these sorts of things popular everywhere in the US, and that is not something in my experience. The UK takeaway focusing on pizza/burger/chicken seems an extension of the chippy/kebab- we fry it you buy it-- type of place.

                                                    That said, crap takeaways may well be a widespread global phenomenon. Even so, these sorts of corner places have been known to inhabit some places in the US, but are by no means the more uniform wide-spread phenom I've encountered here in the UK.

                                                    (Of course that would be the case, though: The UK is small and relatively homogeneous, or at least aims to be-- do not let me get into a policy rant. This is, along with the size of other European nations, what leads so many Europeans to make broad comments about the US and its culture. Americans join in because they are apologetic and want to look good. As a 'halfie' I just find myself annoyed by everyone.)

                                              2. This is so, so interesting to me, you all—thank you so much! I want kheema in Kenya! And Eat Nopal...those 1950s feasts...sigh. Keep answers coming...

                                                1. I live in Longyearbyen, Norway, basically the world's northernmost town with any restaurants, and you can get anything from any restaurant delivered by taxi for roughly a $7 surcharge. Not everyone is equipped to package everything, but most things aren't a problem. And when a burger costs $20 and a basic meal upward of $40 it's not like the extra cost is a deal-breaker, especially if you're ordering for several people.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: juneaufoodie

                                                    Jeez, a $20 burger? Why so much? Beef-cost related?

                                                    (I mean, there are plenty of $20 burgers in the US, but they're usually "gourmet".)

                                                    1. re: juneaufoodie

                                                      Tromso? Go eat some pannestekt torske tonger for meg!
                                                      Luxuries in the Nordic countries are very heavily taxed (and the dollar is weak), but free health care, universities, mass transit, pensions, etc. offset this. In Norway, it was said, that 1/3 of the GNP was spent on winter. You get the jist.

                                                      Funny, when I lived in Bolivia they had the taxi delivery system mentioned above, but we had no phone.
                                                      In Viet Nam, I had a hot turkey dinner delivered by helicopter!

                                                    2. In India they have bikes or mopeds that deliver lunches in these metal cylinders. Of course the meals look pretty good, rice in one part, some meat or veggie with sauce in another, etc.

                                                      Often there are companies that make these meals, but not like chain restaurants or anything. I don't know about other meals, I just saw the delivery lunch on a TV show, maybe Anthony Bourdain?

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: ktmoomau

                                                        Yes, yes, of course, the tiffin wallahs [shaking head side to side as only people from the sub-continent can do]!

                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                          Oh no! You're not one of the figure-of-eight nodders, are you? Someone that leaves me wondering if it was a yes or a no ?

                                                      2. I don't think "Americanized" is the right word. Some things are ubiquitous in American culture - crappy Chinese food comes to mind. Other things are not - I was a teenager before it was even possible to find crappy pizza near my home town in Southwestern CT. I wouldn't call Domino's pizza an Americanized version. The Americanized version of the classic Neapolitan pizza is the New York style pizza, and further Americanization yielded things like Chicago style pizza. What you're talking about is more the Industrialization of food. A lot of the crappy take out in America filtered through another culture before it got here - Indian is a perfect example, having come to the US from the UK in more or less the exact form we eat it.
                                                        Crappy delivery, at least in New England, is also a primarily urban phenomenon. And it's a phenomenon I've seen in every city I've been in, regardless of the culture. The sole exceptions to this that I've encountered are the cities of Mediterranean nations, which have largely avoided the industrialization of their food cultures, but at the expense of being able to find much food that is not indigenous, and not being able to get a damn cup of coffee to go. And these other nations did not get their crappy food from America. Central Europe has absolutely the worst takeout, delivery, and street food I've ever encountered, and it's their own Germanized crap. Japan has a wealth of Japanesized (or however you'd bastardize that) versions of American foods that are about as authentic and tasty as average American Chinese takeout.
                                                        What it comes down to is that most people love large quantities of crappy food, no matter where you go in the world. There are a lot of people in cities. Most people also don't want to spend a lot on food. Modern food production lends well to creating a lot of crappy food for little money. And, perhaps most substantially, people the world over are lazy (primates generally are very lazy creatures). It's a perfect storm with the result that nearly any modern city is going to have a wealth of crappy takeout.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                          Yes, one needs to take care with conflating "industrialized" and "Americanized"—good point (although I imagine "we started it").

                                                          But what you're saying about mechanically produced crap isn't necessarily specific to takeout, is it?

                                                          1. re: tatamagouche

                                                            No, it's not. I think crappy delivery and takeout is just the most visible symptom of a culture of crappy food that permeates nearly every corner of the world I've been to.
                                                            And I'd agree that "we" started it, but I think that "we" includes both America and Britain. I think that's just a product of Anglo-Saxon culture being the first culture to jump into an overly aggressive, industrialized capitalism. But I don't think it was a domino effect; I think this food related side effect of industrialization developed independently throughout the world. I also don't think it's a coincidence that the Mediterranean region has done the best job of anywhere in the first world of keeping food standards high, and they are also the only part of the first world that has modernized to focus more on service related industries (including finance, trading, shipping, etc.) than on industrial level production.

                                                        2. Typical in Hong Kong, both deliver and take out. I don't know if you've seen the movie "In the Mood For Love". The female character in the movie was getting take outs with her own thermos. This was set in HK in the 1950's.

                                                          1. I haven't been to Japan in many years, but one of my enduring memories is the lunch delivery service of bike riders with large trays of steaming bowls of udon. I never saw them spill a drop.

                                                            11 Replies
                                                              1. re: PAO

                                                                Delivery is still huge in Japan, especially at workplaces that are not near restaurants. My workplace received delivery from a few bento companies and one restaurant, and my sister's company receives delivery from a large chain bento company. The only places I saw doing home delivery were pizza places.

                                                                We had one Indian restaurant in my city that offered take out. It was very small and extremely popular, so the owner opened up a take out stall in the department store. So far as I know, most take out comes from the stalls in department stores. We also had a Chinese take out stall, a place with pastry and pizza, and a few other stalls.

                                                                1. re: PAO

                                                                  I'm in Japan now (and have been here for 20 years), and there is all sorts of delivery still going on. However, I no longer see the types of bikes which carry dishes that are retrieved later. You used to see people order udon and it was served in real ceramic bowls or laquerware of some some sort. Later, the bikes came and picked up the dishes. This seems to have stopped.

                                                                  These days, you can still get everything from sushi to Chinese to curry to pizza delivered or as takeaway. I think that America didn't even originate the idea of take out food. It's very likely that it originated independently in a variety of cultures.

                                                                  1. re: Orchid64

                                                                    I lived in Japan about 5 years ago and the dishes were still used at all 4 places that delivered to my workplace. The food would usually be delivered from 11:30-12 and would be picked up at 3 or 4.

                                                                    1. re: queencru

                                                                      Japan's been into delivery for decades. Growing up in the Yokohama area in the1950's & 60's, we had bicycle delivery everything - sushi, donburi (fresh unagidon!), etcetc... When I was back in the 1980's they had graduated from bicycles to Honda Gyro's with these huge compartments in the back.


                                                                      Running gag in Kuitan is the delivery of all kinds of foods (which he always has someone else pay for) - from huge stacks of steamed pork buns to trays and trays of sushi.

                                                                      As to bad food here in the US, it just depends on the place and what people are ordering. The local Sichuan place delivers their five-flavored tendon, dan-dan noodles and chilli fish as easily as the place that brings the pu-pu platter. You are what you eat - or what you take-out.

                                                                      1. re: applehome

                                                                        As easily, perhaps. But as often? I'm think what I'm trying to tease out is whether there's something about delivery that lends itself to LCD ordering. Home is (arguably) a comfort zone, where we feel most inclined to order in foods that comfort us—whereas when we go out, already being out of our comfort zone, we may be more willing to try new things. For those who grew up with Sichuan five-flavored tendon, that might sound like a basic delivery item (whereas they'd be less likely to order in, say...??), but the majority of Americans, I think it's fair to say, haven't grown up with it. If offered it at a restaurant, one hopes they would accept; at home, though, they're more likely to go for that pu-pu platter.

                                                                        I got around to theorizing as much in a blogpost, which I'll attach here just for reference's sake (which in turn links to this thread).

                                                                        http://www.denveater.com/denveater/20... dearth-of-decent-thai-takeout-in-denver.html

                                                                        1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                          Well - there are maybe 2 or 3 Sichuan places in the area (depending on how you draw the borders) where there are maybe 30 or more standard Americanized Chinese places, so the ratio (good to crap, authentic to Americanized... whatever ratio we are measuring) remains constant, whether delivered or eat-in. The Sichuan place that delivers near me is not LCD, it is a destination restaurant for Chinese 1G/2G's from all over the region - they're just not lucky enough to live close enough for delivery.

                                                                          The sushi deliveries when I was a kid in Hodogaya were from the best sushiya in town, not the cheapest - my mother always felt that you go out for (or get deliveries from) food you cannot make yourself. The unagi was special because it was fresh from the guy that farmed his own in his rice paddy/hatchery (also raised koi), even the kare was special because it was made by an award winning cook.

                                                                          But what about US, now? Is American take-out culture LCD even if other places in the world aren't? Yeah, probably - but any more so than the general level of American dining, comparably speaking? I mean, if you're going to average in Per Se into the dine-in side and then complain that delivery is junk food, then you're not comparing apples to apples. I haven't read your blog, so don't know your argument (I tried, but the page comes up blank - your host needs more bandwidth/port allocation).

                                                                          There are no authentic Thai places around here, although there are plenty of Vietnamese/Laotian places in Lowell (unfortunately, not near enough for delivery). There are 2 Americanized Thai places - sweet glop, traffic light curry, peanut butter and chicken pad thai up the yin/yang. If I wanted a really good Thai meal, I'd have to drive into Boston/Brookline. But that's the distribution I'd expect based on current American food standards.

                                                                          Hey - if you order take-out from the local "Japanese Steak House", run by plenty of people with slanted eyes, you not only get the Tokyo special surf and turf, but you get sushi! - All the farmed salmon and yellowtail nigiri and California rolls you could ever hope to have while sitting in your living room. Now, that's the exact distribution I'd expect in America today.

                                                                          1. re: applehome

                                                                            (Actually, looks like the link broke. This one might too, but FWIW,


                                                                            At any rate, yes, I suspect you're right, it's partly because 3/4 of the representatives of any given cuisine suck to begin with. But is it possible the remaining 1/4 are less likely to mess with delivery service, and if so why?

                                                                            (Not to get OT, but since you're Boston based, this whole thread started because I couldn't help comparing the Thai I've been encountering here in the Rockies to Khao Sarn and Dok Bua...)

                                                                            1. re: applehome

                                                                              I've sat near the phone at several of our more "authentic" Chinese places and listed to the takeout/delivery calls coming in, and I have to conclude that the boring Americanized stuff is keeping them in business. Oh well, if that's what it takes, go for it. (Come to think of it, at several places when calling in orders I have to be extra careful that they get it right, because people with weak English will hear "general Gao" or "beef with broccoli" no matter what I say.)

                                                                              1. re: Aromatherapy

                                                                                And do you see those same people in the resto, ordering said glop, as well? Or do they steer clear of the doorstep? That's part of what's interesting me, the difference between what happens when some of us Americans order in vs. when we dine out.

                                                                                1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                                  Hmm. Depends on the restaurant but I'd say not so much. You may be on to something. I'll pay more attention next time I'm evesdropping on the order calls!

                                                                  2. In the UK there are burger and fried chicken chains, and pizza places and kebabs - plus the ubiquitous Chinese and Indian places - but I only have take-away in the form of fish and chips, maybe once every 2 months. I've never had anything delivered, ever (I'm 46).
                                                                    It doesn't cost a lot more to eat in a restaurant than to get a take-out - and I have no interest in the junkier forms of take-away food.

                                                                    1. I lived in the Philippines for 10 years. :) I grew up there, and there's a McDonald's and a local fast food chain but that's pretty much it. I don't know what it's like there now since I haven't gone back in a while, but when I was living there delivery or to-go was not all that common. We had it, but usually people ate at home or went out to eat...period. Ordering delivery was actually a treat, whereas here it's more of an alternative.

                                                                      Food is very readily available here in the U.S. Sometimes, even though I've been living here for 11 years now, it still surprises me that there are so many 24 hr. restaurants/fast food places. The servings are much bigger, too. It's a little unfortunate because there is an obesity issue in the U.S. (and in other countries too, of course). It's hard not to overeat when everywhere you, everywhere you turn (especially in urban areas like SF) there's a restaurant or cafe. Food is this country seems very abundant.

                                                                      1. Sorry to move away from the OP's topic. All-you-can-eat is common in the US and Canada. I remember when I first came here and saw an AYCE breakfast. I was astonished and pigged out. Previously I had only ever seen this at a hotel. I certainly had never seen a Chinese / Indian buffet. I haven't lived in Europe for quite a while - have they become more common there? (And anywhere else in the world for that matter.)

                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                          I can't say that I have ever seen an AYCE place in Mexico. The closest would be:

                                                                          > Cantinas which serve free food as long as you keep drinking.
                                                                          > Fondas... the traditional family run eateries that serve inexpensive multi-course meals... will always serve you as many beans & tortillas as you want to eat following the main course... before dessert.

                                                                          Portions of meats & expensive ingredients are traditionally very stingy in Mexico.... so the common culinary philosophy is you start your meal with a BIG bowl of soup... then you have a smallish entree... then eat beans & tortillas until you feel satiated and finish up with a small dessert & coffee etc.,

                                                                          Mexicans coming from the U.S. always whine at how small portion sizes are in Mexican Fondas... but I think its much healthier that way as you are filling up on vegetables, legumes & grains.. and the food will stick to your ribs such that 6 hours later you are still not hungry.

                                                                          1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                            Contributing to the OT-ness, the US and Canada have nothing on Taiwan when it comes to AYCE. There, they call it "eat till full". There's a whole street behind the large Sogo in Taipei that's full of different AYCE hot pot places. My favorite was a Thai-style hot pot place where they used tum yum soup as the base. Much like the US, the food was AYCE, but they charge for the drinks.

                                                                            I remember quite liking this Japanese-influenced AYCE seafood place where they had the fresh fish and shellfish on ice in front of the preparation stations. You leave a chit with the number of your table and specify the actual item you want them to cook and then they bring the freshly cooked dish to your table.

                                                                            One thing I saw there that I've never seen in the US was AYCE where you order off a menu. I've been to Thai, Malaysian, dim sum, and Chinese restaurants like that in Taipei. You order items off a menu as usual and they bring them out in smaller plates. You then just keep ordering more until you're full. The food comes out fresher because it hasn't been sitting around like it usually is in a buffet.

                                                                            So Americans didn't invent AYCE Chinese buffets, and in fact their versions are pretty primative by comparison. :P

                                                                            1. re: huaqiao

                                                                              AYCE places are common in Japan. Usually meat oriented things like yakiniku, shabu-shabu, Ghengis Kahn, or sometimes crab or sushi, where you order extra servings until you're stuffed.

                                                                              AYCE buffet dining is called "viking style". Chinese and Indian are common but there are many types of places that do it. The term "Viking", I've heard, was introduced by a Danish restaurant in Tokyo a few decades ago. Most hotels will have a small breakfast buffet. And there a many buffet chain restaurants that vary in degree of quality from crap to not bad.

                                                                              There's a whole Japanese chowhound sub-culture dedicated to AYCE dining. They publish popular books and have magazine features on where all the best places are.

                                                                              ...Ooh, and there are many all-you-can-drink izakaya as well. I used to go to a place every Saturday that cost $7.00 for AYCD Sapporo and served good small plate $3 dishes. Less than $20 for an entire night... And cute waitresses as well. Glory days. Glory days....

                                                                              1. re: Silverjay

                                                                                I'd forgotten Danish. There used to be a place I went to in Manchester called the Danish Food Centre thirty years. That was AYCE - but with a difference. Quality married with quantity. A rare combination.

                                                                                1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                  P, you have rekindled a nice old memory. There used to be a danish restaurant, The Copenhagen, an easy walk from the Plaza Hotel ,about 57th st., as I recall, that had a huge buffet on ice of fish and shrimp and everything danish. Sometimes my sister and I would play hookey and take the train from New Haven and gorge ourselves. I think my danish ancestors lost most of their recipes on the boat ride.

                                                                                2. re: Silverjay

                                                                                  I remember on one of my first trips to Tokyo in the 90's my friend took me to a place with AYCD beer. I was pretty shocked because it was so cheap and I had heard all the horror stories about how expensive things were in Tokyo.

                                                                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                                                                    Why glory days, SJ? They don't do this anymore or you can't go? Are you back in the US?

                                                                                    1. re: Silverjay

                                                                                      Viking style, I love it... no doubt a creative transliteration of smorgasbord.

                                                                                3. In Japan, most neighborhood sushi, soba/ udon, Chinese (Wafu-Chuka that is), bento, and many other types of restaurants deliver to homes and offices. Those restaurants will deliver the actual bowls, trays, and utensils, as well the food. There is usually no surcharge or tip to pay for delivery. After you finish your food, you leave the the bowls, etc. outside your door the same way we do with room service stuff at hotels in the U.S. Restaurant staff will pick it up the next day.

                                                                                  And much of recent Japanese culinary history has its' origins in street stall food- i.e. sushi, tempura, soba, and unagi. Many of these types of regulars sit-down restaurants today maintain streetside takeout windows.

                                                                                  1. For the record, the dish I most often order from my Chinese delivery is fuqi feipian: tripe and tongue in Sichuan pepper oil.

                                                                                    As for the takeout culture, there is nothing uniquely American about food to go. Roman excavators have found take away steam tables in the bottom of ancient apartment dwellings where plebs would stop by for farcimines to eat with their puls. It's not far different from the tables of food one finds in the siu mei of China. And what would India be without its tiffinwallahs or dhabas to feed those on the go? Given the street food culture that flourishes in other countries, I think the state of American takeaway might be severely behind the times!

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: JungMann

                                                                                      Well, street food's one thing, but delivery to your home from an establishment's a different matter.

                                                                                      But sure, who doesn't want farcimines with their puls! That sounds like a Yiddish curse.

                                                                                      1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                                        I can't comment on delivery charioteers in ancient Rome, but tiffinwallahs in India do deliver often massive quantities of bright tin boxed lunches.

                                                                                    2. All fast food restaurants and cafeteria style places, as well as the majority of standard restaurants, deliver. McDonald's delivers. Burger King delivers. The cafeterias attached to the mosques deliver roasted chicken, if you want. Fresh fruit drinks are routinely delivered to offices in the middle of the morning (the juice man!).

                                                                                      There has always been takeaway foods in civilization. The average ancient Romans in Rome relied heavily on takeaway foods as the standard apartment did not have cooking facilities.

                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                        RP, you should post a profile and tell us where on earth you are.

                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                          Yeah, where mosques have cafeterias?! Although come to think of it, don't some of those US megachurches have food courts?

                                                                                          1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                                            I apologize. I live in Dubai, where crews of Philipinos on delivery motorcycles bearing the name of popular fast-food joints are a common sight. Infuriating, too, as they will often ride their motorcycles/scooters between the cars!

                                                                                            The larger neighborhood mosques tend to have a small cafeteria and/or corner grocery next to the mosque. I can be wrong on this, but I was told that the rent from the stores helps to support the mosque. Besides, worshippers often stop at the cafeterias after prayers.

                                                                                            The cafeterias serve typical Arabian/Middle Eastern food, and fantastic fresh fruit drinks. Some of the cafeterias offer excellent chicken or lamb (or even tikka) schwamas (or gyros) for the equivalent of $1.50 apiece.

                                                                                            1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                              One of the best meals to be had in Kenya is at the Makindu Sikh temple, on the road between Nairobi and Mombasa. Huge vats of black lentil daal, potato or butter bean curry, fresh paper thin chapattis served up hot with salty butter, a 'farsan' - generally a savoury addition to the meal and cold lassi...and the most amazing thing of all....its free to any person who walks in

                                                                                      2. I grew up in a mid-sized city in SW Ontario in the 60's. I remember 3 things being available for delivery then: pizza, Chinese food (of a rather dreadful sort), and fried chicken (don't cook tonight, call Chicken Delight!). My family very seldom ordered in or for that matter went out to eat, except while travelling - and even then would often pack a lunch for shorter car trips. The restaurant culture was very restricted - primarily coffee shops, fisn and chips places, and a few "fancy" roadhouse-style joints on the outskirts of town. Since I became interested in food in my early teens, it was with relief and delight that I discovered the wonderful man I met at the U of T and married very soon thereafter came from a restaurant-mad family. Full circle in a way: we live in NYC but rarely order in despite the variety of things on offer, I either cook or we go out.