Thursday, 8 July 2010
American food is obviously bigger than the sum of its parts. I get that. It's like trying to define Australian food by eating only a Four 'N' 20 and a Chokito. And I am aware that I was in The South, the home of deep fried coke, but I have got to say that most of the meals I ate in Florida defeated me with the sheer size.
Now, as most of you know, I am pretty good on the fang, but as you can see from the above breakfast shot, the Yanks do it BIG.
The above pic was a small serve of corn beef hash and eggs. And, as you can plainly see, it came with toast, several slices of thick, hot ham, toast, sweet butter and apple sauce. AND a hash brown. The actual corned beef hash is peeking out under the ham, to the left of the toast in the pic.
AND, the hash had been served into patties and fried.
One of the first problems I encountered was the American idea of appetizers. In my feeble, jet lagged brain, I thought of small plates of tasty nibbly bits to whet my appetite. This was also promoted by the fact that after the Appetizer section of the menu, comes the Entree.
Appetisers and entrees and entrees are mains.
And appetizers are freaking HUGE.
I ordered an appetizer of fried green tomatoes, naively thinking I'd get a wee tapas-like taste.
I got 4 whole sliced tomatoes. Deep fried and covered with cheese and salsa. Absolutely delicious, bit terrifying when I realised that I had also ordered another "appetizer" and an entree while I searched vainly for "mains"
That first night in Florida, I ate for Africa. I ate for King and country. I ate for my very reputation. Like a foie gras goose, I was pushing those last little bits of seared tuna with wasabi mayo, and those blackened grouper cheeks down with a stick.
And the other cah-WAAAZY restaurant thing I took a while to get my head around, was the sheer amount of choices.. both in supermarkets and restaurants.
Would you like fries, soup or salad with that? (Soup? With a sandwich?) White, brown, multigrain, farmers grain, rye or sourdough? Toasted or fried? Butter or mayo? Dressing with your salad, ma'am? Ordering a Coke became a battle of wills to see who would crack first. Cherry? Vanilla? Diet? Ice? Lemon?
Invariably, everyone I met was amazingly polite, but the number of choices and decisions I had to make simply to get a salad sandwich and a Coke, left me feeling quite wan.
I went to the supermarket (and yes, they do actually have Piggly Wiggly's in Florida!) and stared like a numpty at a whole aisle devoted to more than 30 TYPES (not brands) of Cranberry juice. Low-fat, added fibre, Cran-apple, Cran-respberry, Diet Cran, Sugar-free Cran.. the list went on and on.
Later in my trip, a bucket of steamed shrimp (no, that is not a typo.. I mean it.. a BUCKET of banana prawns) was ordered in the vain hope of consuming something neither fried nor covered in condiments.
I admit to developing a penchant for chips and ranch dressing while I was away, but only Lay's Kettle Chips, any other chip I tried was just too salty... like cave-your-mouth-in-seawater salty.
I was fed fried green tomatoes and cheese grits with boiled salted ham for breakfast, by two Southern Belles called Aunt Wee and Aunt Tee. I had iced tea, I ate a hotdog from a roadside diner. I had my very first coke slurpee, I ate a 7-Eleven Cherry pie, consumed mojhitos, Apalachicola fried oysters, soft-shell crab legs, Michelob beer and more.
And loved every damn mouthful!
Although, there was one thing I found, in a roadside gas station cum fast food joint, deep on 98, in the middle of the panhandle, that even I didn't attempt.
And no, they're not strange candies. They REALLY are what they say they are.