I've recently returned from Kentucky after visiting my sweetie's traitorous sister (she was lured by a sweet-talking southerner into leaving the Great White North forever). We had a wonderful time, even though the heat was extremely oppressive and uncomfortable. I've been to hot places before, such as Mexico (that was on my honeymoon though and I didn't leave the room much seeing as I was fond of the guy at the time), Florida (always in February or March to escape the worst of the Canadian winter, so it wasn't the "hot" season), and Greece (when I was young and could loll around on the rocks covered in oil, basking in the sun in a skimpy swimsuit without having the tops of my thighs rub together and chafe!). Other than the heat though, I thoroughly loved the place.
Two things in particular struck me about Kentucky; first - the cicadas (you know, those big insects that stay dormant underground for 16 years and in the 17th year come to the surface and make a huge racket?) I've never heard anything like that in my life, and I read later that this noise is made during mating (after which they die). Well, all I can say is Kentucky has a particularly amorous strain of cicadas, as the noise was earth shattering and the ground was littered with sexually satisfied insect corpses. I was shocked to see that these creatures are considered a delicacy (deep-fried cicadas were being sold at the county fair!) The other thing that struck me was the people – so friendly, helpful and good natured (even when ignorant Canucks got stuck in the middle of intersections and held up traffic.)
All in all it was a wonderful holiday, well...save for my near death experience during a 4th of July firework celebration. Our host had purchased an impressive array of pyrotechnics and his excitement mounted as it got closer to setting off the "grand finale", which was a firework the size of an oil drum. I sensed a feeling of dread as he lit it with the barbeque starter. Needless to say, it went awry - coloured rockets were whizzing and shooting helter skelter, but mostly towards the deck we were standing on. Nobody was killed, although a rose garden was decimated and the gunpowder residue hasn't yet faded from my leg. Oh yeah, and my b/f hasn't quite forgiven me for instinctively using his youngest child as a shield. Anyway, I digress.
We had left my sweetie's place at 4am while his 3 kids were groggy, hoping they'd sleep at least until we reached the U.S. border. I know what you're thinking - a 10 hour car ride to Kentucky with her b/f's three youngsters? Is she insane? But I thought we had plenty to keep them occupied and content during the journey, after all, the eldest had her laptop, the middle child had her walkman, the "baby" firmly gripped her gameboy and there was a case of CDs (I've now determined that listening to Hilary Duff "sing" is my punishment for a misspent youth). Gee, when my siblings and I were kids we played "I spy" during long trips and counted the different license plates of passing cars. We certainly didn't travel in an air-conditioned car or have a radio with a reception of more than 10 miles! Anyway, as we gently backed down the driveway, the youngest child murmured sleepily "Are we there yet?" - it was a hint of things to come. Not that they were terribly bad, but they were restless, cranky and obnoxious enough that the U.S. immigration officer unquestionably believed me when, upon asking if we had a letter of consent from the mother to take the children out of the country, I chimed up with "Heck, we've got a letter from her BEGGING us to take them out of the country!"
Oh, before I get to the crux of this story (and I promise to, eventually) you should know that I get along extremely well with my b/f's ex, so I don't want you to think I'm slamming her, but I think she took some perverse pleasure in offering to pack a cooler of "snacks" for the journey so the kids wouldn't be whining for shakes and fries at interstate drive-thrus. I was expecting juice, fruit, sandwiches, etc., but to my horror found items such as cherry liquorice and "Chubby" bottles (mini bottles of sugary, fizzy pop). Let's just say there was enough sugar in those items alone to hype these kids to the hilt. Oh yes, there were "granola bars", and I'm sure there was a smidgen of granola mixed in these chocolate coated confections of marshmallows, chocolate chips and graham wafers. Mind you, these kids are not overweight, in fact two of them are distinctly underweight, and I know for a fact that they normally consume good, healthy foods, so I presume this was just a matter of taking vacation "treats" to the limit. I was able to exact my revenge though. At the county fair I ensured that each child received a grotesque tattoo (albeit temporary) that unfortunately didn't fade until after they were presented at their mother's church social. Okay, now I'll proceed with the subject of this thread.
After our safe arrival in Michigan, we decided to stop for breakfast, choosing a chain restaurant which shall remain nameless for the time being (at least until I receive a response to my letter of complaint). One thing I always notice about American restaurants is the low cost and the immense size of the portions! For $4.99 you are served food that fills a platter the size of a garbage can lid and a tub-sized drink with enough ice in it to sink the Titanic. Upon perusing the menu and spying the food on the tables around me, I determined that I would be perfectly satisfied with either a Kid's or Senior's meal, since the "Light" menu didn't really offer anything that seemed very light to me (HUGE muffins, most likely containing 20g of fat, and bagels the size of Fred Flintstone's car tires).
I ordered a Senior's meal which consisted of one egg, a slice of ham and a piece of whole wheat toast. The waitress said "That's for persons over the age of 55". At least she acknowledged I hadn't reached that age. I then ordered a Kid's meal of one egg, an English muffin and one strip of bacon. The waitress then informed me that I'd already ordered Kid's meals for the 3 children at the table. At this point I was biting the inside of my cheek (so much for "the customer is always right"). I insisted "I WANT a kid's meal" (and considered holding my breath until I turned blue). She said "You don't look like you're under 12". I replied "You don't look like you want a tip". I then realized there was no point taking it out on the poor waitress who was just following protocol. I asked to speak to the manager.
I explained my position and he suggested that I could order health conscious "sides", such as a poached egg, cottage cheese, and a box of cereal. I pointed out that ordering a number of sides would cost far more than my b/f's single order of 2 eggs, 3 strips of bacon, 2 sausage links, 3 silver-dollar pancakes, hash browns and toast (yes, he's quite a piglet). I suppose I could have ordered a regular sized breakfast and then not eaten all of it, but why should I pay for more than I want, and anyway, I'm not at that stage where I can push a sausage link or strip of bacon away from me, and why should I have to?? As far as I could see, there was discrimination at work. They cater to children and seniors, yet punish those in-between who want either smaller portions or healthier food by denying them their choice or charging a premium!!
Of course, by this time my b/f and the kids had almost finished their meals and my tummy was grumbling. I arched one eyebrow and succinctly informed him that I had every intention of sending a strongly worded letter to head office as it was and might take it even further unless I immediately got my damn egg, sliver of ham and piece of toast!! He returned my steely glare, then, without his eyes leaving mine, said to the waitress "I believe this woman is 55 - bring her what she wants". Ah, victory (even if it came in the form of a thinly veiled insult).
By no means am I condemning all chain restaurants in the States - in fact, upon leaving Kentucky for home in the early hours, we stopped at a Perkins for breakfast and they catered to our every need. The children's menu was chock full of healthy choices that centred more around fruit options than the usual chocolate chip pancake in the shape of a Disney character topped with whipped cream. I was able to satisfy my need to absolve myself from guilt for having succumbed to the charms of a county fair funnel cake the previous day by ordering from the light menu (cottage cheese, fresh fruit and whole wheat toast) without resorting to aging - although, after more than a week with those kids, I'm sure I could have passed for 55.
My b/f, being the culinary adventurer he is, ordered a homestyle southern breakfast and offered me a taste of his grits. I don't mean to offend, but grits, in my humble opinion, are not fit for human consumption. Also on his plate was a meat called goetta (described as similar to breakfast sausage or scrapple), which I'm sorry to say resembled the premium canned dog food I used to serve up to my pup. I'm sure I'd lose weight in no time if restricted to a diet of grits, goetta and deep fried chicadas!
Well this has dragged on for far longer than intended, so I'll take leave now and will let you know if I hear back from the chain (I expect a missive from no less than the CEO).
Oh, and for my fellow Canucks, I'm still waiting for a response from Tim Horton's to my request for a fat-free, sugar-free Iced Cappuccino, but I expect they'll be playing hockey in **** before that's available.