Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dog of the South

I'm currently reading The Dog of the South by Charles Portis. Most of you probably know Mr. Portis as the author of True Grit, but I'm quickly learning that he has other books that are worth reading. The Dog of the South is a story of man who's tracking down his wife who has left him for another man. It's that simple. There are no subplots or literary posing. It's simply a quirky romp that is one part Hunter S. Thompson, one part No Country for Old Men and one part Coen brothers. If you like road books, absurd humor, and the subversive, you'll like this book. If you don't like any of these, I'm OK with that.

Since this is a food blog, I thought I would share a food-related passage. It occurs early in the story when the narrator dines at a Texas restaurant that is run by a couple from North Dakota. He's skeptical of their ability to serve a good chicken-fried steak.

You can usually count on a pretty good chicken-fried steak in Texas, if not a chicken-fried chicken, but I didn't like this setup. All afternoon I had been thinking about one of those steaks, with white gravy and a lot of black pepper, and now I was afraid these people from Fargo would bring me a prefabricated vealette pattie instead of fresh meat. I ordered roast beef and I told the waitress I wanted plenty of gristle and would like for the meat to be gray with an iridescent rainbow sheen. She was not in the mood for teasing being preoccupied with some private distress like the others. She brought me a plate of fish sticks and the smallest portion of coleslaw I've never seen. It was in a paper nut cup. I didn't say anything because they have a rough job. Those waitresses are on their feet all day, and they never get a raise and they never get a vacation until they quit. The menu was complete fiction. She was serving the fish sticks to everybody, and not a uniform count either.

I hate menus that are mere fiction. I hate the prefab, frozen, deep-fat fried CFS. Give me a hand-pounded, hand-breaded, never-frozen,, cook-in-a-skillet, chicken fried steak. The same goes for a pork tenderloin sandwich. Oh, and please hold the canned gravy. It's tough to find a good chicken fried steak in Kansas, but I hear they have a good one at the Leon Cafe in Leon, KS. That's just hearsay though.

This passage made me think of this scene from the movie Five Easy Pieces:

the dude abides,


Jenni said...

I detest Jack Nicholson, but that clip is hilarious. It's true, too, that the prefab vealette pattie has taken the place of a real hand pounded, hand breaded chicken fried steak. Now, that bit about the Leon Cafe is only hearsay because you haven't checked it out yourself. What are ya waitin' fer? You'll have to season your gravy yourself, though. They don't put enough salt and pepper in it.

Johnny said...

The Five Easy Pieces scene is priceless. It makes me wanna eat in a truck stop and watch that movie.