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Smothered Covered and Scattered

August 6, 2013

On the road, sometimes you just have to let it all go. Maybe one day I’ll turn into one of those ideologues who will pack their sectional stainless steel food storage containers full of seasonal and sustainable fruits and vegetables. 

Really, I don’t think that day is too far away at the rate I’m going. But still, I’m not there now dammit.

Now I still see adventure at the possibilities of pulling off the turnpike at a major junction, and hoping against hope that between the big fast food chains and the service station convenience stores is some independent restaurant making delicious food from scratch. Surely with the internet and plenty of planning, you could make these roadside dreams a reality. Me? I like to fly by the seat of my pants and rely on providence, serendipity, luck and Yelp.

Yesterday, all of those things failed me. So instead I took the kids to Waffle House. Maybe it’s just me, but I have to admit that there is something about this restaurant chain that I find almost impossible to resist.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. It’s not the food.

Industrially produced eggs, breakfast syrup, fake butter, high fructose corn syrup jelly, and whatever that soy-canola blend oil substance they cook with, are not the ingredients of my dreams. It’s an ethical food nightmare. It’s all corn and lies.

But there is no getting around how much fun it is to order hash browns there. I take mine covered, smothered, and scattered. Which is to say with onions and cheese spread out to maximize the crispy surface area of fried shredded potato. 

It’s taken many years to hone this order. Because in the careless and reckless days of youth one tends to be like a toddler with a box of crayons, wanting to use every color on the page. The secret to getting good art out of young kids is in knowing when to take away their paper. The same is true for hash browns. Less is more.
A little sweetness from the onion and some creaminess from the “cheese”. And then when the two over easy eggs come, they are slid atop the potatoes, so every last bit of yolk gets caught within the nooks and crannies of the hash browns.
Toast need not apply. It had been such a long time since my last Waffle House expedition, I neglected to opt for a biscuit instead of toast. It may not be made from any better ingredients, but at least it’s a tastier option.
But I digress. Because ultimately, I don’t think my Waffle House compulsion is about a fanciful way of ordering potatoes.

I think it is more about the desire to have what you can’t get.

For years Waffle House was just beyond my reach. Wherever I was, the Waffle House was always in the next state over. I imagined a section of the country that was rich in those happy yellow signs, those beacons in the night. But I always tended to live on the peripheries. Occasionally, as I was doing a long drive, I’d go just long enough to see one in the distance. And even the Waffle House sighting was enough to make me happy.

The siren song somehow etched itself into my psyche. So now, even knowing what I know about food and its origins, I cannot refuse a Waffle House on those very rare occasions when I happen to drive past an outpost at meal time.

It’s better than McDonald’s. Especially now that they’ve discontinued their premium chicken selects. Seriously, they were the closest thing to food on their menu. And now they are gone. What’s a dad on the road to do? 

Now I’ve got to hit the Hamptons. Ciao.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2013 12:08 pm

    I saw your Waffle House was in Carlisle, PA. My kid was attending a summer program at Dickinson so you may well have been there at the same time. He would have been the one ordering all the bacon. Do they still allow you to order a single piece, by the way? (That is a question.)

  2. Debra permalink
    August 6, 2013 12:27 pm

    This brought back a lot of memories for me. When my friend & I hitchhiked from NY to Jacksonville, Fl back in ’75 my first job there was at a WaffleHouse – worked the 10 pm to 6 am shift. Got all kinds, from drunks to cops. It was fun though most of the time. Always loved the hash browns even though I knew what of and how they were made. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane Daniel. Safe travels back to NY.

  3. August 6, 2013 2:02 pm

    I’ve never been to a Waffle House — think I’ve only driven by one maybe once or twice ever.

    I’ve mostly whittled my McDonald’s ordering down to McNuggets and the occasional fries. The nuggets are tasty and somewhat healthy (calorie/protein-wise), and the fries, well, c’mon, they’re delicious.

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