duck-shaped pain

 
 

2000-10-19
Where I Lay Down The Biscuit Guidelines

I rarely get to the point where I make solemn promises, but I am making one of them right here, in print, where everyone can read it: No more writing about work for me (unless something outstanding, such as hunting woodpeckers, happens). The reason? Work is boring. Especially my work. There's just no way I can make it sound interesting. I have failed. So – no more. I can hear the glad sighs of relief all around…


I've been holing up at home too much lately, for various reasons. Too broke, too tired, uninterested in the world around me (or, to be more specific, completely uninterested in my town) to really go out and interact with it. And I think my self-imposed mini-exile has started to show, both here and in the paper journal. I just feel really boring.

So I decided to actually go out this morning, instead of hanging out at the house drinking coffee and perusing the Internet. I went to my all-time-favorite breakfast place in town, since I hadn't been there in eons. It's right down the street from the bagel place, but the two might as well be on opposite sides of the Earth, considering their vastly different decor and clienteles.

Like, if I go into the bagel shop wearing my Birks, I know that there will be at least 5 or 6 other people wearing them and at least one of them will come over and ask me where I found black ones. [1] If I go into the other place, people will wonder why anyone would want to wear sandals in October, even if accompanied by thick green socks. I love both places equally – the vibe is just different.

This restaurant has been around as long as I remember. I thought for a long time that it had been there for decades and decades – it has that old-time coffee shop feel, and I'm sure there are decades of untouched grime laying around, but I was surprised to finally learn a few months ago that it opened around the same time I turned 4 or 5. Oh well – that's close enough to forever for me.

The decor used to be better, before they "improved" it a few years back. It used to just be one big room, decorated with really bad Indian art (velvet paintings of nubile maidens brushing their hair in the woods, and my favorite, an oil rendering of a buffalo sniffing an old, weathered skeleton somewhere out on the prairie) and old glossy photos of 1950s-era wrestlers. That's all still there, but they added a new room which is pretty basic and boring, even with its bright orange booths. The good old room is the smoking section now, so I can't get anyone I go with to sit there anymore.

The main feature at this restaurant, the one thing which distinguishes it from all other breakfast places in town (or the world) is its biscuits and gravy. They have, bar none, the finest biscuits and gravy on the face of the earth, ones that have spoiled me from eating them anywhere else forever. It's pretty standard for the biscuits in biscuits and gravy to be buttermilk biscuits – soft and fluffy, sure, but without any real body or taste. These biscuits, though, are sourdough. They're dense, substantial and suck up gravy like a vaccum. And what gravy – creamy, thick and peppery. I love sourdough anything – it's the only bread I feel right buying – so sourdough biscuits are almost too good to be true.

I've had biscuits and gravy with every single meal I've had there. I used to eat nothing but when I went in, but I branched out a few years back to getting eggs and potatoes with my biscuits and gravy. Still, they're the centerpiece of the meal.

There are very specific biscuits and gravy rituals that have to be followed. The finest biscuit possible is the "center biscuit." They bake their biscuits in small round pans, so every batch has one biscuit that is cooked in the center. It has no crust, only soft middle. This is the most desirable biscuit, and whoever gets one with their meal has the obligation to smugly point this out to their fellow diners.

There is also specific eating procedure. Pouring the gravy on top of the biscuits is wrong and will not be tolerated. This just makes the biscuits soggy. Instead, the biscuits are to be torn up into little pieces and dunked in the gravy, like breakfast fondue. This is the only acceptable way.

The only thing to be careful about is to not eat too much biscuits and gravy. This will send you into a biscuit-and-gravy coma – you will not be able to move or think or work. All you will be able to do is move enough to unbuckle the belt and top button of your pants and sit there, groaning. Not a pretty sight. They expand inside you, you know.

Their other food is good, just not as good. They have pretty good home fries (whose existence alone negates the Home Fry Thesis [2] ), enormous breakfast burritos, and some other food which I'm sure is good. I've never really explored the full possibilities of their menu – I am so predictable when it comes to breakfast.

So, this morning, I had a good breakfast. Two biscuits, tureen of gravy, home fries and…poached eggs. It was the first time I've ever had a poached egg there. It might be the last. I hate it when the poached eggs come in a separate dish. I hate it when said dish also includes too much of the poaching water. I hate it even more when the eggs come hard poached – the best part of having poached eggs is breaking the yolk bubble and watching the yolk spread over the plate, mingling with the home fries. I was denied of my pleasure. Still, I ate it all.

Not much of a crowd was there. Some girl I went to high school with was there. She didn't acknowledge my presence, and neither did I acknowledge hers. An old guy sat near me and kept staring at me for unknown reasons. It wasn't a general stare – it was very particular and concentrated on specific parts of me. First the hair, then the head, then the arms, then the legs – an entire blazon of nosiness. I have no idea what was so interesting.


[1] This being the town that refuses to special order, you know.

[2] The Home Fry Thesis was something I read a discussion about somewhere else on the Internet (sorry, can't remember where – it was some newsgroup or discussion board). It postulates that home fries are only served in restaurants on either the East or West coasts. The Midwest, South and Southwest are essentially home-fry-free zones. I have no idea who thought this up, because whoever it was didn't do much thinking. There are home fries a-plenty here in the intermontane West, and most other places I've been. ("Intermontane" being one of those other words I love to use but rarely do…)

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