Sports and Barbeque – Stop Two

“Figure out where we’re eating in Bowling Green,” my husband said as we drove by horse farm after horse farm in rural Kentucky on our way to Nashville.

“Why are we stopping?” I asked.

“It’s the home of the National Corvette Museum and Western Kentucky University,” he said.

“How are the sports teams at Western Kentucky?”

“I have no idea. Their mascot is the Hilltoppers.”

“What’s that?”

“Beats me. We’ll find out.”

“There must be a barbeque place in Bowling Green,” I said. Twangy music two-stepped through the radio. “Whatever it is, it has to be better than the local deli where we ate in Bardstown. I haven’t had tuna fish with pickle relish since camp.”

I scrolled through Yelp and Urbanspoon on my phone. “I found a place.”

After assistance from Google maps and Siri piping in, we pulled into a rutted half-paved parking lot next to a gray Purdue University van. We pushed open the glass door to the restaurant and stood in line behind a tall guy wearing tattoo sleeves and a woman in cut-off denim shorts. Instead of country music, Fox News blared in the background. Not a good omen. I strained my neck to read the Sharpie-written menu on a whiteboard.

“Bad barbeque vibes here,” I whispered to Jim. We stayed anyway.

“Help ya’ll?” the man behind the counter asked.

“I’ll have the barbecued chicken plate, please,” I said.

“We’re all out of chicken, ma’am. It won’t be ready for another half-hour.”

I hovered in barbeque decision no-man’s land. “Go ahead,” I said to my husband.

“I’ll have the pork shoulder with Coleslaw and beans,” he said.

“I’ll have the pork shoulder, too,” I added. “No sides.”

We were given a number and grabbed an open Formica table that happened to be under the television. Fortunately, the current weather on Fox excluded any apocalyptic predictions.

Our order number was called and Jim picked up two Styrofoam containers, napkins and plastic forks. We opened up our boxes at the same time and were presented with four slabs of brown material that looked like remnants from the floor of a tannery. I broke a prong off the fork trying to cut the foreign matter. So, I picked up a piece and took a bite, hoping I wouldn’t break a crown.

In the background Fox was airing a story about a man who broke the window of a locked car using the leg of his wife’s wheelchair to rescue a small Pomeranian mix.

“I can’t eat this stuff,” I said, poking at the brown Naugahyde-like road kill and waiting for a growl, except this creature had died centuries back.

“This is the worst barbeque I’ve ever eaten,” Jim said, wrestling with his lunch like a fighter in the ring at World Wrestling Entertainment.

“Hey, look at that,” he said looking around the room. Posters of Western Kentucky University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams plastered the walls. “The Lady Toppers won the 2015 Conference USA Championships.”

Some consolation. It certainly didn’t help the kitchen.

Sports and Barbeque – Stop One

“Where are we having lunch?” I asked my husband, one of my favorite questions, as we headed out of the Louisville airport rental car lot. We were on the front end of a road trip from Louisville through the Bourbon Trail and ending up in Nashville. As a non-drinker, I was much more interested in food than the alcohol.

“I thought we’re going to Frankfurt Avenue Beer Depot and Smokehouse,” Jim said.

“That’s right, I forgot. They also have free miniature golf. I didn’t have a chance to practice my swing.”

As we drove down the highway, we passed a sign for the University of Louisville.

“Is the school’s basketball team any good?” I asked.

“They’re very good. University of Kentucky also has a great basketball team. They’re big rivals.”

A new important bit of information.

We parked the car in front of F.A.B.D., and grabbed a seat at a porch-side picnic table with a view of the two black smokers in the parking lot, but not too close.

“How ya’ll doing?” the blonde waitress asked. She handed us plastic-coated menus.

“I’m passing on the spicy cheese balls,” I said to Jim.

We placed our order. After our food arrived, my sports education continued over a plate of smoked chicken with tawny brown skin, a beef brisket sandwich stuffed into a bun, and two sides each. Country music wafted through the outdoor speakers.

“I wonder what professional sports teams people here root for?” my husband asked over the clamoring of a passing freight train. Multi-colored graffitied cars rattled down the tracks.

I stabbed at a chunk of potato salad and pushed a mayonnaise-coated onion to the side of the plate. “Tennessee Titans?” I asked, showing off my NFL knowledge.

“No, don’t think so,” he said, wiping sauce off his hands on a napkin. “Well, for football it could either be the Colts, or maybe the Bengals.”

I envisioned my son’s old wooden puzzle map and the proximity of Louisville to Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

“What about baseball?” I asked.

“The Reds or the Cardinals, maybe.”

“Basketball?”

“Based on geography there’s no obvious answer. The Indiana Pacers would be my first choice.”

We finished our lunch and as we meandered to the car, passed a guy laying slabs of pork ribs with a grainy red rub on the smoker.

“Those look great,” I said to him. “How long do they take to cook?”

“We got a late start today,” Rib Man said. “They take around 6-8 hours.”

Oh well.

“Where was the miniature golf?” Jim asked as we pulled out of the parking lot.

“In the back,” I said. “Maybe we should come back for dinner. “Then we can find out what professional basketball team people support.”

BBQ

You Aren’t What You Eat

 

“I’ll have the Golden Grilled Reuben poor boy,” I said to the bartender at the Parkway Bakery & Tavern in New Orleans. “Hold the bread.”

My husband, Jim, and son, Ben, rolled their eyes. The bartender looked at me like I had recently risen from the grave. I was one of the gluten-free people.

“Wow, I’ve never had anybody order that before,” he said. “Wait until the kitchen hears about this.”  He swiveled around and yelled over the blaring Cajun music. “Hey Jake, can we do a Reuben without the bread?”

A muffled affirmative drifted from the back during an accordion riff.

“We’re good.”  The wipe-down rag draped over the bartender’s arm fluttered in the breeze, drifting through the screen door like a flag surrendering at a battle. “You want the pickle with that?”

“Sure.”

“I’ll have the Grilled Smoked Alligator Sausage Link poor boy,” Jim said. “No mayo.”

“Same for me,” Ben said.

After the bartender left, my son turned to me. “You’re the only person who would order a Reuben poor boy without the bread at the Parkway.”

“You two wanted to eat here,” I said with a smile. “At least I didn’t order a Reuben salad. The only lettuce and tomato here is decor for the sandwich.”

Ten minutes later the sandwich, sans bread, slid on the counter. “Here you go,” the bartender said, with a soupçan of a snicker as he delivered a plated avalanche.

Mountains of corned beef buried by mounds of sauerkraut floating in Thousand Island dressing and smothered by Swiss cheese covered a white plastic landscape.  The pickle teetered on the edge of the plate like an errant branch.  I squirted a stream of brown spicy mustard in a curly-Q over the top of pile.  My knife caressed the pile of meat as I scooped up a smallish piece of the Reuben.

“How is it?” Jim asked.

“Good.” I didn’t miss the bread.

I haven’t always been gluten-free, or a even a healthy eater.

Growing up, my family ate some of the staples of the 1960s—fried chicken, baked steak, iceberg lettuce salad, Hostess berry pies, smoked tongue, frozen vegetables, filet of sole only on Fridays­—, and the occasional lump of stuffed cabbage where I begged to leave the table because I had too much homework.  When my parents went out for the evening my brother and I were treated to Swanson’s TV dinners.

We survived.

Thirty years later in my strive for ongoing self-improvement, I tried the high carbohydrate-low fat diet which I gave up many oat cakes later.  I explored the Zone Diet for four months.  I thought I felt better,  but more likely the latest the anti-depressant had kicked in.  I dismissed the Paleo Diet since I have little interest in nuts, seeds or elk, although I like wild bison jerky.  When a dietician in Mill Valley suggested I try an elimination diet to help with stress, I was more stressed out over what to eliminate—eggs, nightshade vegetables, sugar, dairy or mammals.  My one attempt at vegetarianism lasted from breakfast to lunch.  I concluded that I no longer had to pretend to like quinoa, or tolerate tofu except in miso soup. Despite articles claiming that gluten sensitivity might be a placebo fixation I decided to stop eating gluten.   I had no problem acknowledging a placebo effect that worked.

A year later after the New Orleans no-bread Reuben—which really wasn’t that great, I found myself in a similar situation at the Sage Deli in Hollywood, FL with Jim and my father-in-law.  I perused the menu while glancing over at the gray-haired couple on my right wolfing down the lox plate special, and the heavy-set woman on my left slurping matzo bowl soup.  The chef salad with iceberg lettuce, hot house tomatoes, turkey and American cheese—no croutons—wasn’t calling my name.

The waitress with the straggly brown bangs and a pierced nose sauntered over.  “What’ll you have?”

“I’ll have the tongue sandwich, please,” I said.  “No bread.”

“Do you want the center or tip cut?” she asked, tapping her pencil on the pad.

A major decision.  “Center.”

“Wheat or rye?”

“Neither,” I said. “Hold the bread.”

Recycled

“I’m recycling the Jewish Home for the Aged mailing,” I said to my husband, Jim.  “I assume you’re done with it.”

“Very funny.”

“The plastic packaging from the smoked turkey can also be recycled,” I said to him as he prepared to open the cabinet to the kitchen garbage can.

“We can compost the paper towels­,” I said. “The coffee grounds, too.”

“I already dumped them,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Why are you all of a sudden so conscious of composting and recycling?”

“It makes me feel better,” I said.  “After all, I bring my canvas bags to the market—the ones you got for free from all the American Bar Association Tax meetings.”

My brain had become so rewired that even on vacation I assumed I should recycle the empty toilet paper roll from our hotel bathroom.  I consider myself environmentally sensitive,  except I wouldn’t think of asking the butcher to fill my former Grey Poupon mustard jar with ground turkey just to save a piece a waxed paper.  Yet, I recently discovered that I’m a Marin recycling novice compared to some who take their efforts to the extreme.

I had tossed my package of wild king salmon in my cart at Whole Foods and started to walk away from the fish counter when a melodious British accent made me turn.

“I’d like an octopus please,” the slim fortyish woman said.

She wore a gray wool bowler over her long reddish-brown hair, and what looked like the new M.A.C. Viva Glam Rihanna lipstick—based on the picture on the MakeUpAlley.com website.   I couldn’t tell if her accent was real or faux-Madonna.

The man behind the fish counter picked up the purple and brown cephalopod and dangled the ten-inch tentacles in the air like it was a Cirque de Soleil contortionist. “This is a nice one.”

“Lovely,” she said, pulling out a large Best Foods mayonnaise-type jar from her shopping cart.  I hoped there were no egg salad remnants inside. The octopus deliverer, aka fish counter guy, held the bulbous creature over the jar as if preparing to shoot a three-point basket in an NBA playoff game while coaxing the tentacles to cooperate.  Finally with one dunk the octopus slid into the jar with a swoosh, its tentacles pressed up against the glass as if pleading for escape.

I’m not always sure about the protocol of recycling.  Do I rinse out my used cardboard box with the current drought, or do I send the salad dressing-stained box straight to the recycling?   However, with some things there is no question.

The next day I sorted through the delivered mail, and pulled out an envelope from the Republican National Committee.

“Is this a joke?” I asked Jim. “How did you get on this mailing list?”

“I don’t know,” he said.  “Go ahead and dump it.”

“First I’ll shred it to leave no trace that the RNC entered the house,” I said.  “Then, recycle.”

The Dinner Party

             “What do you do?” I asked my dinner partner with the bad overbite.     

            “We just moved here from London,” he said, in a Michael Caine-like accent.  “I work for a software company in San Francisco.”

            My software knowledge is limited to notification updates on my iPhone.  

            Eight people were seated around the rectangular mahogany table set with matching yellow-and-gold Fleur-de-lis placemats and napkins which looked like they came from Sur la Table.  The hostess Katrina, on my right, was discussing the role of stay-at-home moms with Brittany who sat opposite her.   I think they were born the year I graduated from high school. Snippets of the conversation from the corner, led by Stefan, an avowed psychiatrist, hung like poufy clouds over his head.  My husband, Jim, two seats over, was dissecting NFL draft prospects with his seatmate.   I melted my sitz bones on the edge of the chair and made another attempt with Mr. Software, also known as Glen. 

            “Since you’re from the U.K.,” I said, casting around for some common ground.  “Are you familiar with The Alexander Technique?” 

            He stabbed a piece of overcooked veal chop with his fork as he pushed aside a chunk of turnip gratin woven with clumps of Gruyère cheese.  I couldn’t fault him for that.

            “I believe my sister took lessons before she took up the clarinet,” he said.  “ She told me to think about my head being pulled up by an invisible string.” 

            Glen  lengthened his neck like an erect giraffe about to chomp on a leaf from an overhanging branch.  “It’s all about posture.”

             “Not exactly,”  I said, pausing before launching into a basic principle of the Alexander Technique.  “When one tries to fix something by doing, another part of the body tightens.” 

            I was met by a blank stare. So I smiled and turned towards Katrina and Brittany who were now debating the merits of  day camp versus sleep away camp—a no-brainer in my opinion.   I looked down the length of the table and checked my watch.  It was at  least thirty-five minutes until we could graciously make our exit.  I pushed my chair back and got up to talk to the dog.