Nov 10, 2009

A Homage to Fried Meat

There's this thing I have to do every time I'm in the States. If at all possible, I must go into a greasy diner and order chicken fried steak. CHICKEN. FRIED. STEAK. It's a dish of pure genius. My step-dad, Mike, introduced me to the wonder of CHICKEN FRIED STEAK over a decade ago, and I've never looked back.

Get this. It's beef. How wonderful! It's a beef steak, but they call it chicken. Americans are terrific. They take this piece of beef, and they pound the hell out of it. Then they batter it and fry it, and serve it with eggs and potatoes and toast and sausage gravy. That's another amazing American culinary accomplishment. A thick, white-grey gravy that you can pump onto any meal and immediately take five years off of your life.

A few years ago I was in Oregon with my friend Andrea (hi Andrea!). We were doing our version of camping - tenting it for one or two nights and then retreating to a motel to regroup and watch trashy television while eating Jack-In-The-Box and drinking cheapcheapcheap liquor. It's a tradition the foundation of our friendship is built on. (That and shoulder biting, but that's a story for another day.)

So we're driving around (or I should say I'm driving around and Andrea is pretending to navigate) Oregon and we end up in this tiny little town for lunch. Low and behold, on the menu is CHICKEN FRIED STEAK! I'm so excited, I talk this dish up to be not only a meal but a good friend that you eat and then carry around on your hips lovingly for the rest of your life. Somehow this pitch pursuades Andrea to try it.

I remember the attempt to order our CHICKEN FRIED STEAK like it was yesterday. First of all it took forever to get attention from the waitress, which was weird because we were the only ones in there. Front and centre and looking hungry. Pretty hard to miss, but she did her best. When she did talk to us, she was a little hostile.

Me: I'll have the CHICKEN FRIED STEAK.
Andrea: Me too.
Waitress: You want the half order.
Me: No, I'm pretty hungry.
Andrea: Me too.
Waitress: You want the half order. (Walks away)

The food comes - plates the size of frisbees built for giants with huge slabs of meat hanging off the side, two eggs, enough hashbrowns to fill a severed head and a stack of thick over-buttered toast.

Me: Um...I thought you were giving us the half order?
Waitress: This IS the half order.
Andrea: (Audible Whimper)

I think, to Americans, portion control is considered a form of censorship.

This time in Oregon, Bev and I end up in a great little cafe right downtown. It's one big counter surrounding the waitresses, making it super easy for them to refill coffee on a regular and timely bases. I loved it for that alone. Finding the CHICKEN FRIED STEAK on the menu only upped their street cred.

Once again I waxed poetic, and once again my companion turned aside common sense and ordered this artery-clogging meal of delight instead. We were served the regular sized meal - big by normal standards but still smaller than that back water town's "half" size by a long shot.

Perhaps it was because I was so happy I'd fulfilled my American meal tradition. Perhaps it was the massive clot of meat and grease my body was having to fight to break down, taking valuable resources away from my brain functions. Or perhaps it was the unusual amount of caffeine in my system thanks to the overly attentive serving staff and their handy coffee pots. But shortly after this meal was over I did something that those who know me, really know me, will likely not believe. But it's true. I swear it. I have a witness.

And I'll confess it all.


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