Monday, November 14, 2005

Eating Like a Stuck Pig

Despite Northwest's complete reaming of our travel schedule, changing my beautiful nonstop reservation to one that included TWO LAYOVERS between here and Little Rock, it was not so bad getting there. Corky's BBQ of Memphis has a branch in the Memphis airport (as does Interstate BBQ), so we looked forward to a big rib lunch there. It wasn't as good as the set we had in Memphis proper -- these had a sauce on them instead of a dry rub -- but who are we to complain? We live in Connecticut! These were the first ribs we'd had since February! They made the long journey much easier to bear.

When we got off the plane, we jumped into the rental car and headed for Hot Springs, where we had heard of a magical place called McClard's. They are renowned for their barbeque, but we had heard of a specialty of theirs called a "Whole Spread" -- two hot tamales (different than the filling-wrapped-in-masa kind -- in these, the filling is mixed with the masa, then steamed) on a plate, covered in chopped beef, Fritos, onion, and cheddar cheese. This came accompanied by half a packet of Saltines. They make a "Half Spread", too, with one tamale, but we foolishly thought that since there were two of us, a Whole Spread made more sense. WRONG.

We couldn't finish it, but we tried hard. Our 80-something waitress kept coming over to refill our iced tea and make sure we had enough of everything. I was literally WOLFING this down -- remember, I had ribs a mere two hours earlier -- because I wanted to make sure I got my share before Andy could annex any. We were wordlessly fighting by swallowing much too quickly, dumping McClard's own incredibly delicious barbeque sauce all over the mess, shoving more and more of it into our mouths, nabbing the moistest morsels of tamale for ourselves. It was one of the best meals I have ever had, in one of the warmest and most comfortable settings. This was by far the high point of our trip.



We waddled back to the car after buying two bottles of the sauce (for $3.50 apiece! I LOVE ARKANSAS! It is so cheap to eat there!!!) and drove as fast as we could to Mena (where Andy's brother's wedding was to take place) so we could make the, um, dinner reservation that Andy's mom had changed to fit our schedule. Needless to say, we couldn't eat anything. I ate a salad, but that was it.

The next morning, we drove with several relatives up to Queen Wilhelmina State Park so we could have breakfast on top of the mountain. They had a breakfast buffet -- words that I usually cringe over, thinking of rubbery eggs and limp sausage links -- but for $5.95 (!!!!!!) I didn't complain. And I needn't have worried -- Arkansans know how to eat breakfast. I had:

- one and a half biscuits with cream gravy
- several strange fried potato patty things that had clearly been fried in lard, they were so crisp and salty and perfect
- deep-fried french toast sticks
- several pieces of very thin and crispy bacon
- grapefruit (as penance)

They also had a dessert buffet -- all you could eat for $2.25. I will post photos of the amazing rainbow of creamy desserts as soon as our computer at home starts working again. They must be seen to be believed. I didn't eat any, though, because I knew that that night was the Hoedown (aka rehearsal dinner), catered by a Texas camp chef who had been smoking his brisket for two days. I had to save some room. Often when I travel, I get a little bit... overfull... because things do not move the way they should. Ahem.

I have to say that the rest of the weekend was kind of a blur, with the hoedown, the wedding, the reception, the quick evacuation of Mena, the later discovery that we had evacuated just in time because a couple of hours after we left, a TORNADO touched down one mile south of Mena. Sheesh. Anyway, here is what we ate the rest of the time in Arkansas:

- smoked brisket
- amazing and delicious and incredible smoked chicken
- smoked kielbasa
- potato salad
- baked beans
- cole slaw
- peach cobbler
- large quantities of iced tea and coffee
- beer smuggled into the dry county from across the border in Oklahoma

- more biscuits and gravy
- green chile omelette
- hash browns (all consumed in a very, VERY smoky diner called the Skyline Cafe, which had been serving breakfast since 1922. The waitress told us not to believe anything we overheard because seated right behind us were several members of the Liars' Table.)

Then the wedding reception, which was utterly unlike any other wedding reception I have ever attended. No alcohol, no music. No dancing, no toasting. Baptists. Again, photos to come:

- macaroni salad
- broccoli and grape salad
- chicken salad (all salads mayonnaise-based)
- two homemade cheese balls: one ham and black olive; one pineapple-pecan
- German chocolate cake in shape of football
- white wedding cake in shape of normal wedding cake

Then Little Rock, where we could once again consume beer (too much of it, in my case) without feeling like criminals, at a restaurant chosen out of desperation in Little Rock's Riverwalk district:

- fried artichoke hearts
- artichoke and spinach dip
- grouper sandwich (left French fries uneaten)
- too much beer

Then hangover food the next day:

- banana
- Frappuccino (this really is the miracle cure, folks)
- half a pulled pork sandwich from Interstate BBQ in the Memphis airport
- half a seven-layer burrito from Taco Bell in the Detroit airport
- apple
- diet Pepsi
- several packets of powdered aspirin

Then I came home and ate four frozen Potato Latkes from Trader Joe's and another apple. My stomach is a bottomless pit. You don't have to tell me -- I'm already on my way to the gym. Right now. Ugh.

4 Comments:

At 12:36 PM, Anonymous sonya said...

I don't know if this will offend your sensibilities on many and varied levels, but a certain part of this entry brought to mind David Sedaris' essay about the time his parents sent him to Greek camp in Greece. There were no doors on the bathroom stalls, and, being easily flustered, he decides the best course of action is to just "hold it" for the three or four week duration. Near the end of camp, he describes meals as an exercise akin to packing a musket.
I'm extremely sorry for this comment.

 
At 2:39 PM, Blogger Mrs. Delicious said...

I have read that essay. And I can identify. Oh, can I identify. Poor Andy is always the one trapped in the car with me as the musket starts to, um, vent.

 
At 12:53 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Wow, all that food sounds wonderful. I'd love to go to the southern US for some food like that!

 
At 4:37 AM, Anonymous Dead Author said...

Ah, BBQ. Growing up in Texas, it's hard to avoid. Or resist. In fact, The Mesquite Pit is not two miles from the house where I grew up. I've only had Memphis style once. And it was okay. I much preferred Texan BBQ.

If you're ever in Austin, you must go to either The County Line (http://www.countyline.com/) or The Salt Lick (http://www.saltlickbbq.com/). And even the vegetarian can eat well at The Salt Lick (if they dare to go).

 

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