Holiday Food

If you eat big meals for a week, you will get fatter. This is a phenomenal fact that the majority of us witness during the holidays, much to our chagrin. Although the traditional period for adding fodder to the larder lies in and after Christmas, my journey to Ruben's folly began on the first night of our perennial family trip to Florida, more than a week before Christmas. Here are the details of my four day expedition into exceptional fare along Interstate 75 and parts south:

The first night on the road we had a chance to eat at the Waffle house - a southern American tradition that our family never really took part in, though it's never too late to start. Unfortunately my parents have been dead-set against diner-style dining since the mid 80s (when a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast cost $1.99 and there was no reason to eat anywhere else. We made an effort to get to know our breakfast buffets somewhere in '88 or '89 but the two flavours of whipped cream at Shoney's didn't agree with carte blanche dining authority and our parents vetoed the whole lot of discount American family restaurants - Friendly's, Kelsey's and even Bob Evans), so our table was set for two. There were some special people serving us at this particular Appalachian location, people you might not find anywhere outside this perticular battered hotspot except in a hollywood movie impecably cast to rightfully depict those people, and though the cook covered my browns with cheese as opposed to smothering them in gravy, onions and mushrooms, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. My brother and I enjoyed our meal of grilled chicken (grilled to satisfaction on the griddle), eggs, browns and double pancakes, and we especially enjoyed having a cigarette afterwards, as this is a rare treat these days, primarily because I'm not an avid smoker but also because restaurants outside of Appalachia have unanimously decided against seasoning their ambiance with the sultry scent of tobacco. This Griddled spithouse could still empathize with the life-affirming conduct of the stick and filter crowd, to the point where there was no discernable smoking section throughout the diner's box (please note that on Sunday, Kentucky pays homage to our lord and savior by challenging the devout and refraining from serving alcohol. The lord rewards those locals who think ahead, those travelers who possess prescient knowledge of the policies of their destinations, and those lucky few that are addicted to vices other than the consumption of poisoned libations).

The second great meal I ate was a beautiful plate of biscuits and Hillbilly gravy along with a helping of browns covered in cheese, which I tacked on to the order cause I liked em so dern much last night. My mother insisted that putting flower and water into my system by the small shovel-full would do me no good, however I kept from her heeding call and cleaned my country fare lickity straight off its plate. The dessert for this meal was an extravagantly realistic Appalachian Rabbit doll made in modern-day China - we didn't eat her though, we bought her, as she looked uncannily typical of something someone might've pulled from yonder mountain crib a hundred or more years ago; and although she was not food, I would not have traded her for the lascivious decadence of Chocolate apricot layer cake or the sweet comfort of Georgia pecan pie.

The third great meal I ate can be experienced nightly at JL's, on the outskirts of Macon, Georgia. It consisted of an all-you-can eat Rib fest and salad bar, along with the most salubrious sweet potato and southern beans I've yet to taste. Brown sugar seemed the telling answer to bland food at this particular Rib house, and by my right foot I'd be wary to doubt the catch-all soluble properties of brown sugar ever again. I would have been plenty content with the contents on my plate minus the salad bar and as many extra ribs (I started with three whopper pork ribs that wouldn't’ve embarrassed a cow's carriage) as I cared to take to the toilet with me. But the salad bar required a visit, and my brother insisted on more ribs which I was then obliged to devour alongside him, and thus I became the fullest I'd been since our Town and Country Christmas buffet eating contest a fortnight ago. That sordid night at the Town and Country led four of our party to throw up at least some portion of their dinner, but not until everyone could make it home and find a right private place to do the deed.

The fourth large feast on the road was not as large by any means as JL's Ribs, but was still substantial (and it was held responsible for some very heavy bloating, as this meal fell only hours before another meal of stature). My aunt Gaja had put together the first of two smorgasbords (the other would be breakfast brunch the following morning) upon our arrival at her house in Gainesville, Florida. It successfully married a bowl of corn, guacamole and black bean salsa to a bowl of corn tortilla chips (the bowls were about the same size, which meant a lot of topping for every chip). Also attending was a hearty chicken noodle soup with vegetables, various spreadables for two distinct types of grained breads, and also an assortment of meats and cheeses with which we could further substantiate our slices of bread. This meal was a real sneaker, as we hadn't yet eaten that day and it was into the afternoon. As a result we filled ourselves to a comfortable brim, knowing full well tonight's fare would be served long and thick.

That night's meal, a proper European home-cooked treat (with a bit of American flare of course) was prepared by my cousin Ron and his wife Amy at their glade-green Gainesville ranch house. It consisted of barbequed pork chop served with apple sauces, Potato Latkes served with sour cream, Corn on the cob, and a house-style salad. Any home-cooked holiday meal exploits economies of scale and thus consists of more than one portion-per person-per item, and this meal was no exception. Add wine, cookies and He-brew beer (strong ale), and that's another heavy shipment of foodstuffs perched at the GI's doorstep. (A fantastic new invention came to my attention during this meal - a small pat of butter placed on a large square of bread was used to butter the corn on the cob. This pragmatic arrangement allowed for even distribution and a butter-soaked piece of bread to eat after the corn had been fully flavoured. No messy butter tray, no clumsy knife work to embarrass those of us less adept with cutlery. Simple Genius. If this method seems elementary to you, that's a real treat. To me it's something new and utterly remarkable in its efficiency).

The following morning saw us back at our Aunt's table, under the watchful eyes of a pair of hungry dogs, eating once again to our heart's content, uninhibited by our previous days' indulgences. What a big heart I've got, for despite my lack of needing more kilojoules, I ate once again like it was my solitary duty on this here Earth to put as much of what's on any given table into my very able belly. I took to the spread of scrambled eggs, sausage links, French toast with syrupy strawberries and bananas, and also tomatoes, cucumber, bread and cheese as any proud young buck should, and my reservoir was once again gilled to its upper gates.

This was the last great meal I ate on my flavourful passage from Toronto to South Florida. I refrained from mentioning the lesser victuals and snacks eaten during the trip, of which there were enough to supply me with my requisite number of daily calories. The majority of foodstuffs aforementioned went above and beyond the call of nutritive duty, and this is the reason why I am now fatter than I was before the holidays.

The photographs in this missive were taken during our real Christmas dinner, which I didn't talk about (because everyone eats a big Christmas dinner), but they fit.