Saturday, October 22, 2005


This post was originally going to be about the frustrations of finding enjoyable essays to read, but before I move on to that topic I want to put in a good word about local restaurant critic Rob Walsh.

Rob writes for the weekly Houston Press, and is always a fun read. Now, on the face of it, reading restaurant reviews may not strike you as particularly entertaining reading; I don't seek them out. And because I almost never eat out, the information they impart is hardly useful to me. Dining out is more the habit of the childless upper-middle class who want to see and be seen in the city's socialite circles and those not inclined to cook.

But Walsh's style and content is such a pleasure to read that with his first-hand experience and turn-of-phrase, he renders words into something like h'orderves, bite-size morsels of witty and tasty consumption. And even though he writes about restaurant food, he reminds me that no matter what I'm eating it should taste good--not simply be momentary filler to stave off a base biological impulse.

I'm reminded here of a roommate I had the displeasure of living with some years ago in Austin. I'll call him Fry Boy, to avoid any hint of libel. Now Fry Boy was a rich kid who rarely held gainful employment, preferring to live off his mother's fortune, play his electric guitar loudly in his bedroom, and stay high as a kite all day. When it came time to eat, he usually opted for the colon cork of burger and fries. But often, when the trust fund check was yet to arrive and he had already spent the month's monies on beer, burgers and pot, he was forced to improvise in the kitchen. He was a tall, big-boned lad who required above-average caloric intake.

Spaghetti was one of his 'specialties', the preparation of which goes like this: boil water in a medium-sized sauce pan, preferrably an old, not-so-clean piece of Revereware missing the Bakelite handle and coated on the inside with water-spotted lime residue. In the boiling water drop a bundle of the cheapest spaghetti, snapped in half so as to fit completely in the pan. While the pasta boils down to a sticky mass, place an empty frying pan--yet another piece of weathered Revereware--on a high-flaming burner. When the frying pan's copper bottom begins to glow faintly orange, pour in half a bottle of Hunt's Ketchup. For a slightly thinner 'sauce' add water as needed. You'll want this pasty concoction to sizzle and spit all over the stove, evidently a sign that the necessary fission of tomato molecules is taking place. Now drain off the excess water from the pasta, then dump it into the frying pan with the special sauce. Stir the molten mass around for about one minute. Remove from stove and plop it on a cold plate. Best served while standing and shoveled into the mouth in four to five large bites. Bon appetite.

It's only fitting that Fry Boy had and proudly displayed a plastic 12-inch replica of Kip's Big Boy, complete with pompidou hair and that recognizable tray hoisted overhead, reaching not for the stars but...what else, a greasy cheeseburger. Icon of days-gone-by.