samedi 24 janvier 2009

Dining lightly on the road, in the USA

Welcome to Famous Dave's
Newark, Delaware


This was our second family dining experience in Delaware. It was an improvement on the first, a gray clapboard, sad-sack diner at an intersection in Milford, Delaware, returning from a trip to the Eastern Shore a few years back. Both times we were traveling with nearly teenage or outright teenage boys, and a three hour car-ride is simply too long to go without a meal.

Especially when the buffet for the next meal at Aunt Jeanne's house promised an awfully good chance of being vegan.

The strip mall offered a Wendy's, a Bertucci's, some other things I didn't -- or no longer -- recognize, and Famous Dave's BBQ. Famous Dave's. From across the immense parking lot, my sister tried to pick out the name in script over the door, "Fungus Dave's BBQ? Anyone want to go to Fungus Dave's?" Hilarity broke out. The hilarity of the improbable -- not only that it would be named Fungus Dave's, but that we would actually seriously contemplate going in and sitting down for a meal of BBQ on the way from breakfast to an all-afternoon buffet, which was allowed to be an uncertain affair. It could be plentiful, or it could be unrelentingly sparse and vegan. Not a thing you want to risk with two teenage boys. The mood from hunger can be fouler than the inside of the sports bag.

It was an experience. It shows just how far you really can travel from home and how much that can change you.

Or, just how diverse we Americans are.

The first table inside the door hosted a group of men in trucker hats, getting on in age.

Another, a family Sunday lunch.

The next, a group of women were being served cocktails in glasses the capacity of my sister-in-law's powder room sink in Viroflay. It was a shower or a birthday party. You could tell because it was exclusively female and there were little gift bags tied up with ribbon.

We were seated at our own table and just begining to take the inventory of the stuff up on the shelves that really could have come from our 3-bedroom ranch on Haverhill Drive in Dewitt -- I wanted so badly for my BFF in elementary school, Jeni Rose, to be there. She can still (I found her living in Paris!) recite the names of all the trial products that were floated in the area where we grew up. We were, she told me just a couple of years ago, amazed that I hadn't ever realized it, a trial market; those Jell-O parfaits weren't for everyone in 1970 -- when a new party walked in. A woman, a man in Eagles gear from head (scarf) to toe (sneakers), and a girl. I'd say little, but no one in that group could possibly be described as little. Unlike our waitress, they looked like they took three squares daily at Famous Dave's.

And cleaned their plates.

I tried not to stare. To be fair, the Eagles were playing in the Super Bowl play-off right after they'd get up from the table and drive on home to bowls of pretzels and chips, ranch dip, nachos and beer and soda. The game's three-hours long. They'd be finished in time for dinner and the second play-off game.

Welcome to the United States of America, Fatback Fried Pork Rinds (skin on!) -- traditional or Hot BBQ style -- and Krispy Kreams or colon cleansing detoxes and Oprah's (the other "O") Acai (ah-sigh-ee) Berry Diet.

We made it all the way to Maryland House on I95 South before my intestines insisted on a stop and a "grande" tea at Starbucks. Phew.

And, of course Jeannie had a plentiful spread, complete with the "con carne" version of her crock pot of vegan chili, in addition to the three Tupperware containers of my sister's chili, frozen and waiting in the cooler in the back of the minivan, ready for the ball the next evening.

Since then, I have been living on the platter of Whole Foods humus, stuffed grape leaves and eggplant relish we brought home from the ball, my sister's enchiladas (I am sure she is tormenting me, since she has lost 23 lbs and looks like it, while I... never mind), and oatmeal (two packs of instant in the morning!).

I could use colon cleansing and a handful of acai berries right about now.

Bon appetit!

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