It's not about the house.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Welcome To Americaville! Elks Initiation: Part 2

The menu at the Elks club was printed on an 8 ½” x 11” sheet of copy paper. It said exactly this:

Welcome to
Americaville Elks Club
Friday Night Supper

Rack of Ribs $11.00
Baked half-chicken $6.50
Rib-and-chicken combo $13.00
Fish & Chips $7.50
Baked Haddock $8.00
Sirloin Steak (this is the only price I don’t remember)
Steak Tips $11.00

All of the above come with choice of baked, mashed, fries or rice.

Quahogs $1.50

Tonight: Some Guy!

It being a Lenten Friday in New Englandville and all, I thought it would be fitting to get fish & chips. My Catholic husband was shocked to hear that Ash Wednesday had passed. He went ashen himself a moment, then gathered up his guilt.

“Well,” he said, “I guess it’s good I didn’t shave, then.” I don't know quite what that meant, but he ordered the steak tips. He said when he grew up and realized the Parish Priest was having his pork chops on Friday nights and didn’t give a feck about anybody else, he figured it was all right to eat what-all he liked. Except on Good Friday. Eat meat on Good Friday and you’ll take the Acela to hell.

I don’t know what implications all this holds for you beard-bettors out there, but me, I got rid of my last vestige of Catholic guilt ages ago. Fish & Chips just felt like the thing to do – like a hot dog at a baseball game. I may have planned on ordering the fish, but when I went up to the salad bar, I did not skimp on the Bac-o-bits.

Hm, now that I think about it, Bac-o-bits are probably okay for Lent and Passover, seeing as how they’re practically meat-free and all. But anyway…

Ooh, the salad bar! It was America-rific! There was absolutely nothing on there that my eight-year-old self would not have recognized: iceberg lettuce, half-ripe tomato wedges, sliced cucumbers and green peppers, slivered onions (red: fancy!), an array of pickles that included both beets and pepperoncini, plus feta cheese, croutons, and of course those little crumbs of Bac-o-y preservation.

I decided to go all-out and have a salad like I used to have when I was little. When we still believed this sort of thing was good for us. Forget mesclun mix, forget low-fat dressing (there wasn’t any, anyway), just take a few pieces of each kind of vegetable (except for pickles, yuck), smother it in cheese and bread and bacon, then drown the whole mess in good old Ken’s Italian. Yeah!

I’d just about finished eating it when somebody’s high-school-aged daughter came by to take our order. Having downed a faux-wood bowl of chemicals and fat, I was feeling a little less nostalgic-festive and a little more like having something that my grown-up molecules might recognize. So, instead of fish & chips, I went with haddock. A nice piece of baked fish to soak up all of that salad-bar health.

With the haddock, in addition to the choice of potato mentioned on the menu, I also got my choice of veg. Corn or squash.

“Yellow squash?” I asked her, hopefully.

“Um, orange?” she answered.

Ah, of course. Butternut. Meat with your choice of potato and backup starch. This really is Lent in New Englandville, circa 1978. I went with corn. Johnny’s steak tips came with pilaf, and he chose the squash. Andy ordered the combo platter, with baked and butternut.

Now, ribs are ribs and chicken is chicken and steak tips are steak tips, no matter in which decade you place your order. But you know what I forgot? In 1978, baked haddock looks like this:

A giant steaming aluminum pan of bread and butter, served with a wedge of lemon on the side.

It was dee-licious. Or I would have thought so thirty years ago. I took one bite and felt a sudden urge to go searching for lost time. Thirty years ago, I would have told everyone that they had to go to the Elks Club and order the baked haddock. All my fellow eight-year-old connoisseurs would have agreed.

But last night, I couldn’t eat it. It really is just a big old tub of butter. Even if I hadn’t eaten “salad,” I don’t think I could have choked it down, but thankfully I had the salad to fall back on. I said I’d stuffed myself, I ate my corn, I had a few more bites of butter, and I wrapped the haddock up in Styrofoam to take it home. Because oh, yeah, they had the Styrofoam containers set out on the salad bar for do-it-yourself doggy-bagging.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with the poor thing now. I hate to just throw it away. Andy was kind enough to treat us to the meal and all.

Maybe Johnny can turn it into chowder?
Next: The Mayor of New Englandville!


su said...

I'm hungry, I'm starving... Appetizers wow more than that.. dinner argh it is gross and I am full. Good to know some things never change... Mean Mom

Sparkle Plenty said...

Lob the haddock back into the sea while you gently hum "Born Free."

theotherbear said...

Leave it in the fridge till it goes bad then throw it out. That is what I would do.

Khurston said...

CHOWDER! YAR! that would make an foing awesome chowda.