that grinding noise you hear
snot, snot, everywhere

friday five

Me this week:

Lately, I've been thinking about food. It's something I think about a lot, granted, but this is more about food and place. For me, these conenctions are intense and evocative. The question: if you could travel back to any place you've lived (or, in a pinch, visited) and have just one meal in each location that reminded you of the time you spent there, what would your top five stops and dishes be?

1) Chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and green beans with a dozen of the red-pepper yeast rolls at Threadgill's in Austin, Texas (y'all). As a rule, I avoid cube steak and cream gravy but Eddie Wilson does amazing things with it. For me, Threadgill's (the one on Lamar) is Austin -- a heady mix of southern-fried and Western and music. I dream of this dish and some of my favorite Austinites to eat it with.

2) The Vegetarian (no tomatoes) at Tomato Head in Knoxville. Didn't know I like tofu before I met this sandwich. Mahasti's restaurant is the soul of downtown. And, again, love to have some of my fave Knoxvillians to eat it with.

3) A slice at DiPietros in West View, Pittsburgh. Every other Friday at my elementary school, Papa DiPietro, whose son was also in my grade, would bring in a couple of pies and divvy them up among all of us. Even as an adult, I still love this pizza, but no longer drink orange drink with it.

4) A roast beef sandwich at McKracken's, which is no longer among the living, in Meadville, PA. Many weird and wonderful (mostly weird, truth be told) college events were capped with this cheap meal. No, it wasn't gourmet and generally made with the strangest pressed meat product but the memories can't be topped.

5) Thanksgiving dinner at Shannon and Tori's place in Georgetown. First time I'd ever had a smoked turkey and cornbread dressing. Mmmmmmm. We had a heck of a time--and it was the perfect balm for one of the more unsettled periods of my life.

Honorable mention: Migas at Trudy's. If someone could send me a plate, that'd be great. I can't seem to a) find them anywhere and b) replicate them in my kitchen. Thanks. I'll pay ya back.

Other F5 participants are: Melissa, Adam, Merideth, Will, Chris, Gina, Dave, Craig, Gord, Nanette, Marvin, Rob, Laura, Jon, and Ritu.


A hamburger at Chances R, in the Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park.
Chances R was a funky and strange (to me, anyway) place with a subtly adult overtone that my friend Susan and I ate many a meal in during our childhood on the south side of the Second City while our parents, both single mothers younger then than we are now, sat and ate and drank and talked about the things that needed talking about. There was always a bowl of peanuts on the table and you threw the shells on the floor.

Quarter-pounder with cheese, large fry, no drink; McDonald's, on a road in Athens, GA whose name I couldn't tell you at gunpoint.
That's where the school bus, driven by a woman with a four-year-old daughter named Diamond, dropped me off every weekday. By virtue of being a fifteen-year-old boy, I burned more calories by simply existing than most people do in a Jazzercise session, so I kept body & soul together by consuming the aforementioned items as a pre-dinner snack three or four a week, establishing a relationship with the staff that I would later come to revisit with the bartenders of downtown Knoxville - upon walking in, my usual order would be waiting on the counter without my having to specify it. There was a sign in the window that advertised free tours of the location; it was intended, I guess, for school groups or whatever, but I took them up on the offer, and was squired about the premises by an assistant manager for the better part of an hour one afternoon.

Bowl of Food, Gryphons (no apostrophe), Knoxville.

Mussels with linguine, Florence's, Boston.
My dad and I would go here when he was teaching at Boston University. Mussels weren't on the menu. You had to ask for them. When you did, the waiter said, "Ahhh! Mussels!" like you were in on some sort of secret mussel cabal or something. I loved that.

Potato skins, 1982 World's Fair, Knoxville.
I've lived in Knoxville twice. There's the current stay, which encompasses most of my adult life, and there was also those two years in the early eighties when my mom was cranking out a doctorate at UT (University of Tennessee, for those Austin readers). That coincided with the '82 World's Fair, which was a godsend for a bored teen with a bicycle and a season pass. I spent a lot of time at the Fair. And, once in a while, I'd indulge on the wildly overpriced potato skins that I liked because, in addition to being awfully tasty, the vendor had absolutely no pretense about potato skins being some sort of internationally-culturally-relevant dish (they weren't "Authentic Chilean Quingallumbos" or any other silly shit).

Still bummed that I never got to sample to bowl of food at Gryphons. Also bummed that I never got to do my laundry at the bar/laundromat.

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