Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In Between the Lines Pack More Lines


Whenever S.B. and I travel anywhere, the first thing we do is scout out where we're going to eat. I’m not talking the local Olive Garden or Applebee’s, either. Those we can get at home when we’re in a rush, don’t feel like sushi, or have had enough carne adovada burritos that month to feed a small South American putsch. I’m talking a city, town, or region’s best locally owned and operated restaurants. We want to know where the fish are jumping and the is duck poaching. Whose got the fluffiest pancakes, the juiciest burger, the coldest martinis, and the best bar chatter. High brow or low brow, it doesn’t matter – we just want to see what the locals got in ‘em.

As a result, we've managed to find if not fabulous then at least highly interesting food in places as out of the way as Silver City, New Mexico, Spearfish, South Dakota, Columbia, Missouri, Just Off The Interstate South Louisiana, and Where the Fuck Are We Montana.

But traveling for work is another matter. Usually, mealtimes are all about expediency, which means I end up assaulting my arteries with a crap hotel buffet at breakfast, a crap chain restaurant burger at lunch, and a crap chain restaurant pasta at dinner. Not even the one glass of teeth-staining Merlot I allow myself to wash it all down with can kill the pain. Although, the cheese cake usually does. Sigh. It’s all so cheap and dirty.

Anyway, imagine my joy when on my second day last week, I spotted next door to the client’s plant a little eatery that looked for all the world like something locally owned and operated. Okay, so the name – Helga’s House of Sausage – should have clued me into something essential about the eating habits of those who live and work in the belly of our nation’s industrial parks. But. It didn’t.

Come 12:00 noon and left to my own devices, I headed on over to Helga’s. My next clue that I was unlikely to find anything edible that wouldn’t immediately send my cholesterol frolicking out of control in flip flops and a gypsy skirt? That came courtesy of the hostess, a woman of indeterminate Scandinavian genetics who looked like once upon a time around the year of the Munich Olympics she’d been capable of bench-pressing a cruise ship. I’m not sure even AB could have taken her. Anyway, she blasted me with an ice queen stare and then barked a question no restaurant hostess in a major American city has asked since Jesus roamed the earth: “Smoking or non-smoking?”

“Uh, non-smoking?”

One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. “Table for one?”

“Yes, it’s just me.”

Instead of another barked question, a heavy sigh. As if I were not so much a customer, as yet another burden in her already heavily weighed-down day. As punishment, she ushered me off to a corner table in the back. At least I was out of range of the cigarette smoke.

As for the menu. Well. Although it is one of my firmest held culinary beliefs that I didn’t stagger my way up the food chain in these here high heels to spend my life eating only vegetables, neither do I find it a particularly good sign in a restaurant that the ENTIRE menu is dominated by meat. All of it served in exactly the same way: breaded, fried, gravy slathered, and accompanied by two slices of limp Wonder Bread and a side of iceberg lettuce between which a few quarters of anemic tomatoes are allowed to peak for one brief moment before being suffocated by an entire bottle of Ranch Dressing.

When my waitress finally managed to take my own order, such was her disdain you would have thought I'd asked for roast infant with a side of sauted toddler instead of a Club Sandwich, hold the mayo.

But one good thing did come out of the meal. I had an epiphany. One regarding our country's crisis of health. I don't think the problem lies with lack of gub'ment initiative. Nor with the insurance companies. Or even the drug lords. I think the problem lies with our great big mouths.

20 comments:

Wow, that was awkward said...

And the place was packed right?

You said cheap and dirty. Heh heh.

Mmmmmm, snausages - I am a Bohunk Slavic dude from Chicago you know. That picture is arousing. Haha

Anonymous Boxer said...

Ahaha - bench pressing a cruise ship! Yeah, I think I'd steer clear of HER, HELGA (or was that Helga?) and her fat-laden-coronary occlusion of a meal. I love that you and The Mister make a point of finding good food places to eat when traveling. I'm afraid I tend to order room service in fear of repeating some awesome food poisoning I once had after eating in an authentic BBQ joint in Houston. Although I did once have a most spectacular dinner in New Orleans and I need to remember that....

Doris Rose said...

ah yes, in Wisconsin the German restaurants undt sausage haus' were found in every small town. You might also find a few Italian-but that was pretty much it for ethnic.Still, some were excellent. Local joints are always good for a story.

iamnot said...

I dive in head first. My last trip included "Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles."
Fried chicken livers and waffles...freakin'paradise!

I read something recently about food consumption in America. Basically, we're all eating 2 ounces a day more than we were in the 70's...and I'm betting those aren't fat free veggie ounces either.

The key to weight control is what it's always been...keep your mouth shut.

EmmaK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EmmaK said...

The House of Sausage is one to avoid then? My worst experience in the restaurant world of the USA is Olive Garden. They offer an unlimited free salad bowl but I would have paid them to eat my salad, overcooked pasta and bland sauce. They need to be closed down for crimes against culinary standards.

moi said...

WTWA: Packed to the gills. More cheap and dirty where that came from. I get food and sex mixed up a lot.

Ab: Oh, Lord, the food poisoning I've risked in the pursuit of my particular happiness.

Doris: I do loves me some sausage. But not at every meal.

Iamnot: I'm still green with envy at your whole chicken liver and waffle experience. Which just goes to prove that, thankfully, CA is not all fruits and nuts.

Emma: And just what the frig is UP with the olives at the Olive Garden, anyhow? You got this humungo bowl of lettuce and only TWO olives in each bowl? And those weirdly inflated, bleach-soaked ones to boot? Yew.

K9 said...

gak. you shouldve gotten a massage from her instead. ever seen the moive "seven beauties?" thats the helga im picturing. at least house of sausage wasnt a chippendales dinner theater. count your blessings grrrrrrrrrrl. grrherhahahaha

moi said...

K9: A Chippendale's Dinner Theater? Now I've heard everything. "Waiter, there's a hair in my soup." Yew.

czar said...

Sounds like the kind of place you'd want to sit at the counter for entertainment, smoking or non, and watch the goings-on among the employees. And at least you were in America, where you have a vague idea what the sausages contain.

Friends were over in Europe about ten years ago, and street marketers were handing out bags of chips. They immediately seized upon my friends (a pastor and his wife) as obvious Americans. The husband asked how the street guy knew they were Americans. The response? "Slightly overweight, and wearing tennis shoes."

ThursdayNext said...

I love scouting out restaurants as one of my favorite aspects of vacation planning. :)

There is no portion control anymore in this country. One of the craziest shows on Food Network is Guy's Big Bite. Everything is supersized at the places he visits...not healthy at all and not appetizing!

The Troll said...

Amen Sister. Big mouths, bellies and buttocks.

moi said...

Czar: "Slightly overweight, wearing tennis shoes." Hah! The goings on were good: At one point, one of the waitresses chewed out an elderly gentleman for complaining that the cigarette smoke from the smoking section was bothering him.

Thursday: The portions in restaurants are approaching shocking. Just because we CAN doesn't mean we SHOULD.

moi said...

Troll: You know the old commercial jingle, "I'd love to buy the world a Coke?" Here's one for the New Millennium: "I'd love to buy the world a gym membership."

VENTL8R said...

Supply and demand.....

NYD said...

Meat. Meat! Meat!! Meat!!!
I am pretty particular about the places where I will dine with my wife, but when I am on my own I will choose the dingiest greezy spoon I can find.
I just feel at home in a place that is a potential inferno of burger grease.

K9 said...

here small plates are the big deal. i like those 6 dollar gigs...4 shrimp in a skewer with a tiny dollop of rice -tiny sliders....tapas....i love the lettuce rolls.

Wicked Thistle said...

"Smoking or non-smoking?" Still alive in Texas, I recently learned. And while there may not have been a Helga lurking at the front door with a stern expression and whipping ladle in hand, there always seemed to be a man called Bubba nearby. Real nearby. A little too nearby, actually.

moi said...

ventl8r: Certainly. And, as an anarcho-capitalist pig, I'd never suggest we regulate what goes into people's mouths. I just don't want to PAY for it, ya know?

NYD: Funny, I have now made a little tune in my head to Meat, Meat, Meat, Meat!

K9: Eat lean, stay mean. Grrrrrrrr.

Wicked: S.B. reports the same thing in Okleyhoma, too. I think I'd rather run into Bubba than Helga.

VENTL8R said...

Supply and demand.

At least mine was short enough to remember....