Saturday, January 20, 2007

Two for the Road

I have just finished my new favorite humorous food book... Two for the Road. Find it on the side bar to look it up. If you have never read Jane and Michael Stern in Gourmet magazine, you are missing out. Their books are hysterical because of all their adventures in "road food". Their job is to drive around the country and find restaurants in out-of-the-way places in America and write about them. The last chapter was so hysterical, I was dying laughing in bed the other night. Here's an excerpt from "In the Bondage of a Chef". I know it's long, but it is hysterical.
The setting is a small Southern town where they go to a restaurant that has won awards...but when the arrive, it is empty and they are the only two customers, and of course, well known as food writers....
Shrimp and lobsters notwithstanding, JAne hates fish. She can scarf downthe occasional Mrs. Paul's fishstick, or something deep fried and served in a basket covered with lots of French fries and coleslaw, but fish that tastes like fish, expecially half-cooked fish modern, is the stuff of nightmares.
Fortunately, Michael likes fish. "This is good," he said merrily, forking up Dyvina's little treasure form the plate. "I think the sauce is some sort of mango thing."
"Have mine," Jane offered.
"Ah, you like it!" said the waiter as he returned to whisk away the plates. From a tray he had parked on a nearby stand, he swirled another course down in front of us. "Enjoy!"
More fish. This one had blue flesh instead of pink, and its sauce was an ominous mauve.
"S*@t," Michael said when we were alone. But he dutifully ate it and then without being asked, reach over and plucked Jane's portion off her plate.
"What's in the sauce? Blueberries? Plums?" Jane asked.
"All I know is that we didn't order it," Michael said.
The waiter appeared again. He had a bounce to his step. "And this...." he said, taking a dramatic pause, "is a special gravlax that we serve only twice a year."
"Lucky us," Jane said.
"What do we do now?" Michael said when we were once agian alone with the unwanted dish.
"Leave it to me, "Jane said, upending her large, elegant place and sliding the gravlax into the napkin on her lap. "Give me your plate, " she commanded. She dumped the other serving of gravlax in her lap, twirled the ends of the napkin together and walked to the ladies ' room.
She soon reappeared and sat down with a smug look on her face, but no before grabbing a fresh napkin from a nearby empty table and spread it on her lap.
The waiter appeared again, and again, both times with fish, then with a helping of very rare duck breast fanned out on an enormous platter with sliced figs.
Like a jungle cat lying in wait for its prey, Jane followed the waiter's entry into the dining room, her eyes locked on the two plates he carried. As soon as he disappeared behind the swinging door, she snatched another napkin from an adjacent table, plopped the fish into it, and walked briskly to the bathroom.
"That was fast" the waiter commented to Michael as he glanced at the empty plates.
Alone in the ladies' room, Jane whipped open the big linen napkin and dumped the oversized fillets into the bowl. She hit the flush lever, but instead of disappearing, the pieces of fish stuck. Water began to back up toward the rim. Jane flushed again, and for a moment the water seemed to swirl downward. Then, with a great gurgle, the fish formed a massive bolus and the water surged up, over and onto the marble-tiled floor.
Jane peeled off her silk blouse, stuck her bare arm deep into the toilet bowl, and began pulling hunks out, flushing and reflushing until, with a mighty gulp, the toilet emptied itself. Using every paper towel in the ladies' room, she did her best to wipe the overflow from the floor, washed her hands, put her blouse back on, and returned to the table looking damp and pale.
"Could we have the check?" Michael asked. "My wife is not feeling well."
"Dyvina will be so disappointed. She has many more dishes for you to try."
"I'm sorry, but we really have to go" Jane piped up, with desperation in her voice. "Let's get out of here before someone goes in the bathroom" She then whispered to Michael.

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