Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ashamedly All American

Warning: the following entry will contain descriptions which discerning/gourmet foodies may find distasteful. Descriptions of what is commonly referred to as 'junk food'. (Mummy Pea, I suggest you look away...!)

In the name of research, however, I feel that my last few weeks in the U.S. of A deserve some food recognition - coming to the end of my four months of global travel, this is a flagrant attempt to seamlessly make the transition between my heavily food centric travel blog and my new, unashamedly food centric food blog (minus the travel, but hopefully with equal lashings of adventure).

The last few weeks of my travels in the North East of the states have seen me on a quest to experience 'typical American fare'. Whilst the ensuing calorific orgy may seem horrifying to some readers, and the trans-fat contents appearing quite in contrast to my normal requirements of nutritious nosh, please do rest assured that I've been endeavouring to seek out only the absolute
best junk food available, as oxymoronic as this concept might be. However, even a healthy appetite like my own routinely balks at the enormous portions available in this neck of the woods - maybe I'm more European than I gave myself credit for? Many a doggy bag has been brought in at the eleventh hour.

But those are my excuses out of the way, let's tuck in shall we?!

Fall-Off-the-Bone Ribs
Yeeehaaaa! Texas Roadhouse is fully responsible for unleashing my dormant cowgirl.

My heart melts as I spy the chargrilled decadence of ribs - they can barely keep the meat on their bones at the sight of me. It's almost obscene the way they offer themselves up to the hungry diner, falling apart, whispering seductively 'go on, tuck in, you know you want to...'. The sweet perfume of BBQ sauce is enough to make a head swim. It's oh so wrong but....oh so right. I can't stop myself, I can't think straight. What velvety meaty lusciousness. Thank goodness for the sense and sensibility provided by the jacket potato and steamed veg that surround these naughty little bones.

Like a Boa Constrictor eating a small pig, the feast is finally over and, satiated on pounds of meat, skin and clothing straining at the seams, diners sit in stunned silence, barely aware of the strains of country music filling the surrounding air. Even the mechanical, rhythmic clunk of the staff's cowboy boots line dancing at the next table will fail to rouse or amuse you. Chamomile tea anyone?

Burger & Fries
If you're going to do it, you might as well do it properly.

Zagat-rated and media-hyped, Five Guys Burgers & Fries is the place to be. At first you might mistakenly think that this is yet another American Burger joint, but appearances can be deceptive. Five Guys is oh so much more - with the brightly tiled walls plastered in posters and newspaper coverage of this famously acclaimed old school hangout. So, here's how it's done.

Whack your order in, tailor your toppings (pickle, tomato, lettuce if you please), fill up your bottomless soda, and sit back and mentally prepare yourself for this moment. Make time and space in your head for the burger onslaught, because this, my friend, will require all of your faculties intact. Your name will be yelled, so scuttle up, little one, grab your bag and run. Crouch possessively over your small fast-food table, and silently contemplate your brown paper bag. Slicks of grease from the real potato fries will soak tantalisingly through, and winks and flashes of the foil-wrapped burger will taunt you from inside. It is what it is: the Holy Grail of Burger. Enjoy this moment, go on, it won't last long.

Then finally, allow yourself that first ravenous bite of grilled meat burger, succulent juices running out over your chin, the tang of pickle bursting onto your tongue and piquant mustard exploding in a joyous rhapsody of fast food delight. Salad crunches reassuringly, reminding you that, believe it or not, there are more important things to life than just meat. What about those picture perfect old-fashioned fries...

Initially I turned up my nose, but now I know better. And that little, nagging, curious part of me wanted to know what the big deal was. What is it that turns those American kids' tongues bright blue/orange/red in all those teen flicks.

I've now been initiated into an ancient American secret, revealed to me at the local 7-Eleven corner store. A tradition known only as: the Slurpee

However much icy goodness you think you can take, pick the appropriate sized plastic cup, pop the domed lid on top and get in position. Crank the valve of whichever e-number riddled, electric-coloured poison you're after today - I'll have Blue Raspberry or Cherry please (much to my foodie chagrin, my one true vice is terribly fake flavoured drinks) and watch in delight as the frothy, fizzy, foamy icy slush comes pouring joyously out. Once filled, pay, and...


Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich (PBJ if you please)

Packed with nutty goodness, Peanut Butter is an underrated easy way to quickly boost your protein intake. So it remains a mystery to me why Peanut Butter has never really caught on across the pond. A classic addition to American lunchbox, the Peanut Butter & Jelly (jam) sandwich is quite a craft, and one of which I am in full appreciation (it must be my early American upbringing). So when I stumbled upon an article all about the nutty nuttiness of Peanut Butter & Co., an entirely peanut butter obsessed store located in Greenwich Village, I knew that my trip to New York would not be complete without a visit.

I went for the PBJ Classic - with my favourite 'jelly' flavour, grape, and wholemeal bread. With a glass of ice cold milk in hand, I settled back in my chair to enjoy the nutty goodness which stuck reassuringly to the top of my mouth, taking me right back to my days as a three year old frolicking upon the doorstep of my San Franciscan house. The reassuring rescue effort of the milk means you needn't panic for too long about the asphyxiation potential of peanut butter at its finest.

Some say that we're all searching for the ultimate food which transports us right back to our childhood. This one is close, but not quite cigar...

The search continues.

Stack of Pancakes

No visit to the States is complete without a proper breakfast in a diner. Preferably at an establishment which will provide an obscene amount of menu choice which should leave the visitor in question gawping and speechless. I mean, really, 47 varieties of pancake?!?! Determined not to be overwhelmed, I made my decision swiftly and callously - the Patriot. Not just bananas and blueberries on the inside, but bananas and blueberries on top as well. America, land of choice and freedom.

Now, much as I theoretically love the fluffy, buttermilk sweetness of all-American pancakes, drenched in suffocatingly sweet maple syrup (another vice), my problem comes with the quantity of pancakes received. I'm afraid to say I bowed defeat at the mountain (8?!?!) of 'Patriotic' pancakes which arrived, and ate maximum 4 forkfuls. America got the better of me. I'm lucky to have exited the diner alive - I had visions of me being dragged wailing and screaming out of the diner, covered in sticky, gooey maple syrup and flecks of light-as-air pancake batter. Thank goodness I'm a gracious loser.

1 comment:

Clare B said...

Although obviously I must claim not to be moved at all, and say "I'd rather have a crayfish salad", I have to admit that now I am craving burger and fries... Still not convinced by the peanut butter though!!