Ostrich burgers and animal fries, junebug lust and brome seed in my socks
What a fucking week. I got a sunburn that may warrant a trip to the dermatologist’s office, leaving me with cracking and peeling on my ears and shoulders that feel like I spent a fortnight moving refrigerators. I needed a full recovery day of napping and Nintendo before I could muster the energy to write about it.
Monday was mostly a travel day, but offered a couple of charming joints. Johnson’s Drive-In in Acampo sported a somewhat limited menu (that albeit included an ostrich burger that’s to die for).
Delicious, juicy ostrich – the “other red meat.” Burgers always taste better when lovingly slung by a butch dyke in a do-rag. The drippy ketchup and melty American cheese dumbed it down to the pedestrian levels expected by local folks and the road-weary. Unfortunately, the French fries tasted of days-old oil, but thank god fish isn’t on the menu.
A some-hour drive south brought us to our hotel and a dearth of culinaria. The only store within 15 miles was a Mobil Food-Mart. Fortunately, every little shit town has a joint called “(Some Dude’s Name)’s Roadhouse”. In Kettleman City, it’s Mike.
Tragically, they did NOT have salisbury steak (I was crestfallen), but they did have liver and onions. Topped with bacon! How could I say no? I channeled my inner geriatric and ordered without a shred of irony, with my potato mashed and my salad dressed in thousand island. I don’t take this shit lightly.
Other selections included the California-style chicken burger, but since you had to request avocado I wondered what made it California-style. My compatriats had said California burger, steak and eggs, and Heineken. One, a fellow foodie, tried my liver (but failed to share my enthusiasm).
The following day I was trying to ramp down the grease and red meat scene in my intestines, and opted to eat some chips and salsa with some store-bought guac. It’s kinda nice – since they grow so much produce in California, these simple things taste really good. Even the ubiquitous free oranges from the hotel lobby were succulent and chin-dripping sweet orbs of sunshine.
Wednesday I went for the In-N-Out Burger experience. I’m a huge fan of Can Only Find it Here specialties, fast food meibutsu being no exception. Travelling with natives offered a peek into the secret menu, and I ordered a Double-Double with Animal-Style fries. “Animal-style” means coated with gooey cheese, grilled onions, and “spread” (a mélange of ketchup, mayonnaise and pickle relish). “Spread” and “animal-style” are not evocative of fast food, but of something else.
Day 4 was another long one – by then we had covered more than 30 miles of spiny grassland overlaying gypsum and ancient sea floor on foot. Some of the guys wanted to drive a few miles out of the way for a steak at Harris Ranch, and even though I really just wanted to shower and get drunk, I tagged along. Since we looked like we’d been in the sun and dust all day, we were seated in the Ranch Kitchen instead of the nicer side of the restaurant. I took a quick paper towel bath at the restroom sink like a common hobo.
I didn’t take any photos in there, and now I can’t think of any reason why. Shrug.
I had the prime rib sandwich au jus (medium rare) with fries and a green salad, the rest of the crew had tri-tip in either sandwich or steak form, with various sides. The sandwich was delicious, the meat of excellent quality, but the service was gastropodan. It took at least 15 minutes before anyone even acknowledged our presence after being seated, another 15 or 20 before our order was taken, another 15 to see our drinks, you get the picture. This, at 5:00 on a Thursday.
I guess that’s it. I’m home for the week, yay for home-cooking.