This is not America

As the late great David Bowie once said, aided and abetted by Pat Metheny… This is not America. After all, a pub is surely a British confection…

Millers Pub sign

… a place where people come to experience those strangest of contradictions, private conviviality in a public space, a pretence of lucidity born through imbibing intoxicating liquids, where you may elevate yourself to bar room philosopher status while talking bollocks…

Millers Pub [2]

But This is not America, it is a Greek Salad after all. The freshest, juiciest, most tasty of Greek Salads, topped with succulent mouth-watering chicken, with that give-away sign that just maybe this is America… size! At this point I had been eating my way around a continent for 9 days, failing to completely finish a single meal. Constantly being portion-challenged. Surely I was not going to be beaten by a salad?!

Millers Pub Famous Greek Chicken Salad

Staggering into the daylight, a brisk walk was needed to help digest a meal successfully devoured. Then it dawned on me, an El Train was a clear Chicago give-away… This is America.

Millers Pub [1]

Until we speak again, just remember, if you haven’t voted a grotesquely unqualified egotistical megalomaniac into the most powerful job on the planet, you can safely look around and say… This is not America.

Advertisements

Breakfast in America

What goes on in America stays in America… eh? It seems not. A couple of weeks touring the diners of Chicago and New Orleans will certainly give any returning traveller a few extra pounds they didn’t originally take with them; and I’m not talking sterling currency here.

Breakfast in America is not just an album by the old UK rock band Supertramp. It’s an institution not to be taken lightly (as if ‘lightly’ could ever apply to food in the US); it demands time and effort… and an expectation that you might be beaten by the challenge on more than one occasion.

Yolk is a great starting point on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. An unpresupposing exterior camouflages gastronomic morning mayhem. That’s why people are often queueing to get a table; but quintessential US counter culture (of the eating at the counter variety, not the return to flower power variety) gets me in immediately. The more than pleasant greeting of a young woman in a tee-shirt claiming to be ‘Handling your huevos since 2006’ provides a warm inner feeling long before the order arrives. It also leaves me lamenting… “who is going to handle my huevos when Duck One achieves his infantile wall building wish?” The ‘Works Omlet’ with a side of joyous noise eases me nicely into the lazy challenges of the day ahead. Marvellous!

Eggsperience, off the Michigan Avenue Magnificent Mile, keeps the theme of the hen going strong. Omelet or pancakes is the first decision of the day. Oh for such difficult decisions every day! A fleeting thought about a healthy orange juice and blueberry start to the day quickly succumbs to the need for sides of a pancake stack and bacon…

Eggsperience blueberry pancakes

But, a gaze over a shoulder also suggests another visit could be needed for that omelet option! Perhaps a vegetarian compromise could be made. Though perhaps all good vegetarians should be introduced to the necessity of a side of bacon!

Eggsperience vegetarian omlet

The famous Lou Mitchell’s, west of South Loop is an institution that should not be missed on any visit to Chicago. tired of blueberries? Why not add bananas to your pancake stack to bring some variety to the practice of indulgence? I think a side of raisin toast is also called for…

And, before leaving Chicago, get messy with a late morning Cubana sandwich at Xoco, a mere waddle from the aforementioned Eggsperience. A cucumber and lime drink might help balance the spicy fried pork and avocados wrap.

Not to be usurped in the breakfast challenge, New Orleans has its own crowds gathering to sample the delights of Ruby Slipper on Magazine Street. Again, the solo traveller gets to jump the queue with a stool at the counter. Time to try out the Louisianan Omlet of shrimp and grits, with a side of sourdough toast. A foundation fit to build any day upon.

Then there is the splendour of the Palace Cafe on Canal Street. A fine location to keep exploring the unique pleasures of a southern breakfast. This time the shrimp and grits are accompanied by a creole muniere ( don’t ask me, I’m just here to eat the stuff) for added spice to kickstart yet another day of challenging levels of relaxation!

Palace Cafe Canal Street [1]

Palace Cafe shrimp grits and creole muniere

Cafe Pontalba on Jackson Square is a place to trade the creole for a touch of the cajun in your culinary morning. A cajun omelet with side of cajun potatoes could just about provide sufficient ballast for a steamboat trip along the Mississippi…

Talking of Jackson Square; for those of us with an interest in cathedral architecture and the Louisiana State Museum, a corned beef hash at Stanley’s comes highly recommended while you gaze at the architectural heritage from the comfort of your diner counter stool.  If you like your eggs ‘sunny side’ let the yolks drain into the corned beef. Just don’t shout out ‘Stella’ in a Marlon Brando impersonation, lest you startle the staff and clientele alike.

Alas, it’s getting near the time to head for the airport. The hotel provides a last port of call, and quite possibly the last eggs I will want to see for, well at least a few days!

Hotel St Marie 2 eggs breakfast

Until we speak again, it is time to return to a good old UK diet. Next time you’re in America check out the title of an old Supertramp album for guidance, but drop any notion of three square meals a day being a good idea (unless square is the shape you are aspiring to achieve).

Zak Show dot Com

 

A Dumbfuckistan Christmas

With rotting thanksgiving turkey drumsticks littering the yard a whole three weeks after they had been discarded Clint Junior III knew it was time to get in his demands for christmas before the younger competition cottoned on to the annual ritual. After all, his younger siblings Earl, Cheyenne, Savannah and Walt still seemed distracted by the imminent arrival of the triplets (already named Sky, Harper and Brett II even before the gender of each is known). Seems like one more local dude from the neighbourhood bars has unwittingly gone out for a few Buds on a March night only to become the unsuspecting star of a Father Christmas Horror Show nine months later. But Clint Jnr. was nothing if not resourceful, and knew it probably meant one more sucker to roll, down on his luck in guilt city. The local cats are busy welcoming the festive season in with traditional style:

        

But on one of his rare sojourns into school, in search of a pack of Lucky Strikes, Clint Jnr. had recently lucked upon a strange tale about christmas, something about wise-asses and a star opening up the door to loads of gifts. He may not have been the largest wing in the bucket but he had a sixth sense when it came to personal gain for minimal effort. If he could spell out this story to all the family, as they gather around the daily delivery of a grease mountain from the Colonel’s Giblet Shack, he would be in the driving seat… he gets first dibs when it comes to staking a claim on the spending of the welfare check down at the local mart.

  Aunt Ruby and Aunt Krystal were always first to arrive at the smell of the chicken and fries, and always had their own unique ways of interrupting a story with their own interpretation. Clint Jnr. only has to make the merest suggestion that three wise men are on the scene when Ruby shrieks “I remember them… it’s George, Don and Dick.” To which Krystal can’t help but spit a few fries across the table trying to remember which Dick… “There were so many…”.

Who needs a horse’s ass for a manger when you have Dumbfuckistan’s finest on hand? Clint Jnr. remembered the story had a star and a hill or something that the wise men were trying to get back to, but was more distracted by the idea that the kid in the house gets all the presents. Ruby downs another Rolling Rock, belches for attention-seeking effect, and announces that she has solved the puzzle… without any thought of irony she says “Jesus, that star must be Obama; how did he become a messiah? I heard that Washington joint is a bit of a stable. Come back Dick and George and Don… grant Clint Jnr. all his christmas wishes.”

Clint Jnr. licked the grease from his fingers, and lead the crescendo of praise around the table and worn out armchairs for their place in the land of the brave and the free… “This christmas I think I would like a personally monogrammed drone.” he said, as he grew ever more comfortable into a vision of yet another all-American defender of the constitution. He was rapidly outgrowing the Remington 12 gauge shotgun and Smith & Wesson handgun he received last christmas. As the warmth of christmas spirit filled the land, all in the National Riffle Association could raise a glass to their latest convert. Meanwhile every self-respecting parent should be thinking more seriously about personal home tuition for the kids, instead of enrolling into the local state sponsored target range (aka school).

Personally, I have been Juno, and until we meet again I am glad I live where I do.