Monday, September 26, 2011

Yelping about Food and Gardens

Garden bounty
We were up in Clarksburg on Saturday, dropping the dog off to be groomed and so with two hours to kill, we thought wouldn't it be nice to go out for breakfast. Both of us were thinking about coffee, eggs and bacon, so I downloaded on my new iPhone the Yelp app and asked it where we should go. Nothing nearby looked promising, but a Bob Evans.

Now Yelp is asking for a review and like all social networks, I already have four new "friends" on Yelp, who include a work colleague, a cousin, an old friend from high school and a gardener. If I write my first Yelp review, these four individuals presumably will see it and I'm a little concerned that my reputation will be tainted for the very reason that of all the great places to eat around the DC area, I will be noted for having eaten first at Bobs.

But never mind that. Here is my review. A bright, cheery facade falsely promising the healthy and hearty. Modest attempt to look clean, resulting sadly in a soggy seat with drizzled drops left behind on my chair from the wipe rag, which was surely soaked in dirty dish water. After swapping out chairs, a friendly waitress came by and gave us a book-length menu filled with every combination of breakfast fare. We read it and couldn't find what we wanted. Two eggs scrambled, toast (Jim), grits (me), bacon and coffee. Waitress pointed out classic breakfast, which we happily agreed to. Out in the parking lot, I watched two couples get out of their car. The girls were beautiful, the boys not so much. The boys had cigarettes, the girls waited with them until they finished smoking. One of the girls continuously tugged self-consciously at her shirt, pulling at it to make sure it was covering her tummy. I sipped my coffee and the blue mug felt warm and comforting in my hands and I closed my eyes and enjoyed the calm of just sitting and waiting to being served. I measured breath going in through my nose and out my parted lips, calling up my yoga instructor's mantra and thinking only if only, I could ever learn to relax and just be in the moment. The food arrived. The eggs were that flat yellow cafeteria material, rubber and tasteless. My biscuits, which came as an un-asked-for side, where oddly white. No integrity. Nothing held them together and they crumbled when you buttered them. The grits, also ghostly white, were soupy and of course, tasteless. I peppered them. Didn't help. I salted them. Not good either. Jim tried dunking the bacon in. But the bacon was rough. It was hard to bite into and when it finally chewed up, little bits of it parked into the crevices between my teeth. I looked around the room, remembering now why I never go to these places and felt sorry for all the people who do. We paid our $20 and tipped the nice waitress.

And like all things in my life, connected and interconnected, the New York Times on Sunday was spot on with their article by Mark Bitman, "Is Junk Food Really Cheaper," which argued that the real cost of preparing good wholesome foot at home, was merely the time and energy it took to do it. Lost to our culture is the desire to make and serve food. And so off people go to Bob Evans to eat ghastly food. Eating and growing and preparing food is a huge part of my life, now. I do it because I enjoy it. And the results are so rich and tasty. That poor girl in the parking lot, pretty but very overweight, her gross boyfriend, baggy pants and shaggy face, sucking on his cigarette. I know, I'm a snob. I'm sorry for judging. I'm sorry, really I am. But oh, if she was my adopted daughter, I think I could help her.

Most weekend, Jim makes me my breakfast. It's his favorite food to cook. That man can scramble an egg that tastes like manna from heaven. The toast is served perfectly hot, dripping with butter. The bacon is salty and a perfect combination of crispy and chewy. He always finds a fruit to decorate my plate, some berries, a melon, a pear. I eat it happy.  Dear Bob Evans, the only thing I can say for you is that I liked your coffee. But I won't be back for any more visits. The Putterer

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