Looking for Meals in All the Wrong Place



The author and satirist Fran Lebowitz once said “I would eat at home more often but there’s no food there.”

In recent years, I’ve adopted Fran’s motto. I’ve been single perhaps way too long, and usually start preparation for the next meal only when my stomach begins to growl. In other words, I hardly ever plan ahead for more than one meal at a time.

I bring this up because when I opened my refrigerator yesterday at mealtime to see what I might find, I discovered only the remnants of a large pepperoni-mushroom pizza that seemed rather embedded in the cardboard box it arrived in. I couldn’t remember whether this one was the leftover from Thanksgiving weekend or from the Labor Day party.

The whole pizza seemed to have turned a darker color than I had remembered upon delivery. Nevertheless, I placed it back on the shelf.

I know single guys have a reputation for exhibiting this particular style of sloppy eating habits. We probably deserve the label. During one summer barbecue in my backyard, I asked one of my guests to grab the ketchup from the fridge, but when he returned, he announced (to my chagrin) that the expiration date was January 2001.

After the guests left, I took a quick inventory of the contents of my refrigerator and found an otherwise good quart of congealed milk, and either soy sauce or A-1 Steak sauce, although it was hard to tell because the label had faded and had begun to peel. The mustard dated to the George W. Bush administration.

This wasn’t always the way it was. I remember growing up in a home where there was always food on the table at mealtime. We’d all be outside playing in the yard and our mother would call us in, and we’d find a veritable banquet awaiting us when we took our places around the dining table.

Those never-ending bowls of food just simply appeared out of nowhere and we never had to worry about where it all came from or how it got there. I had not even remotely considered the fact that this gravy train might end one day when reaching adulthood.

But I found out soon enough. I was married during the 1970s, and my wife and I had full-time jobs, so it didn’t take long for me to realize that the “gravy train” I had remembered from boyhood had long since pulled into the station and had been permanently decommissioned.

After arriving home from work, we began our nightly dinner-time ritual to see who would make the first move toward the kitchen. After several moments of palpable tension, one of us would often end the standoff by grabbing the car keys and flipping a coin to decide which restaurant staff would be cooking for us that evening.

Our evening scenario soon became an overnight national phenomenon and signaled the time when American workers simultaneously hung up their aprons and stopped cooking dinner forever. We went out to eat. We bought TV trays, and we ordered take-out. And suddenly our kitchens turned into nothing more than a space that you walked through to get to another room.

I’m glad to report there is a new food market in my neighborhood called Erewhon that has a hot food bar that serves delicious (and healthy) dishes. It has become my last-minute go-to option in recent months. The only problem is that the store caters to a younger crowd and the lighting inside is extremely dim, as management seems to be trying to create a nightclub atmosphere. (And judging by my hefty checkout tabs, there must be a cover charge added—though fortunately, no two-drink minimum.)

In fact, I expect Erewhon to soon install a rotating disco light on the ceiling with accompanying ABBA music piped in. I’m always anticipating that my young server will jump out from behind his food station, rip off his apron, and slide across the black tile floor while busting his best John Travolta “Saturday Night Fever” moves.

But about tonight’s dinner: I’m confident that I could still cook some simple meals, save money, and also feel more self-sufficient in the process. I know how to prepare a few easy pasta recipes a friend taught me years ago, and I’m betting I could get some of the rhythm back in the kitchen again if I put my mind to it.

And just thinking about all this makes me realize that I’m starving, and my stomach is beginning to make that rumbling noise again. I spot my penne arrabbiata recipe on the fridge, but suddenly think better of the idea.

As the rumble gets louder, I grab the local pizza emporium phone number from the kitchen counter. “Hi there, this is Bob. No, I’m not calling in an order tonight. I was just wondering if you could tell me what color an edible pepperoni-mushroom pizza should be?”

Bob Vickrey is a longtime Palisadian whose columns appear in several Southwestern newspapers including the Houston Chronicle. He is a member of the Board of Contributors for the Waco Tribune-Herald. His long-running “Lunch Club” series was published by the Palisades News. You can find more columns on his website:  bobvickrey.net


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2 Responses to Looking for Meals in All the Wrong Place

  1. John says:

    Pure gold as usual from Bob. Erewhon’ s hot bar is the greatest secret in town. Maria and I grab $20-$23 of food there 3-4 nights a week. Feeds 2 easily. Walk across the street for a delicious hot meal. Fish, various meats, vegetables all prepared delicious and reasonable! Just don’t look at anything else, pay and run lol!! No $15 bags of Kale chips here.

  2. barry herzog says:

    Very cool (and honest) piece.
    FYI, even us married, retired foodies find dreaming up dinner menus a challenge. I like pasta and load up on Trader Joe’s frozen turkey marinara sauce and some different pastas so I feel set that I am a ten to twelve minute entree away, and for a lot less money than what Erewon entrees run. My wife, sadly, eschews carbs and delves heavily into entree salads, which I loathe. Her idea of a dinner splurge is one of Gelson’s salads in a bag or some times their deli tuna or chicken salads in their Number 1 size container.

    For the essential dessert course? Fruit for her, See’s chocolate covered cherries (dark chocolate only) fits the bill.

    Chow time!!!

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