Sometimes it's the simplest truths that are the hardest to remember...
Case in point: today's post title, spoken to me by the Cat Daddy at lunch. We were eating at a typical truckstop restaurant somewhere in the middle of Nebraska. He ordered the chicken strip basket; I the fish & fries, complete with one visit to the salad bar.
I wasn't all that surprised by the sorry state of the salad bar...to an extent it's to be expected in the middle of nowhere, NE. A modest pile of sleepy iceberg and a bit of ranch dressing was sufficient, with some canned peaches and some mandarin orange, whipped fluffy goo on the side. I do love canned peaches, and who doesn't like the entire family of whipped mandarin orange concoctions?
As for the fish, I'm not sure what I was expecting. I guess something on the order of the Gorton's fillets we buy from the freezer section at the grocery store. Which are pretty good as far as frozen fish goes. Unfortunately, what arrived on my plate made the frozen Gorton's fillets look like the finest seafood from a coastal town.
To begin with, they were square. Which isn't a problem in itself, but is definitely an indicator of the true problem--that various fish parts had been smushed together into a square shape. Smushed fish parts don't taste like proper fish. They had the consistency of the Chicken McNuggets of the 80's. Which is to say that they were spongy. As spongy as any sort of meat can be.
So, spongy fish squares, fair enough. The clincher, however, was the cheese. Within the top of one of the fillets there was a square slightly more yellow than its surrounding fried crust. My first thought was, "That can't possibly be what it looks like. They wouldn't actually integrate cheese into a frozen, spongy fish fillet, would they?" I finally convinced myself that it was an irregularity in the breading, and started on my other fillet instead. Which looked normal from the top, but as soon as I cut into it, it began oozing from the bottom. Cheese sauce, that is. Yes, within each of the fish fillets there was embedded a cheese sauce square that, once heated, had the consistency of nothing very appetizing.
The Cat Daddy watched my discovery process with equal parts disgust and amusement. He then uttered the very helpful phrase above. In retrospect it seems so simple. In the Midwest they have lots of chickens, and eggs, and beef & pork, so when in the Midwest any of those would be a good thing to order. Hence the Cat Daddy's reasonable-looking chicken strips. In Nebraska specifically, however, I don't believe there are any waterways in which to find fish. If only I'd remembered that before I ordered the cheesy square fish sponges.
Mmmmmm....I lasted about 3/4 of the way thru the first fillet; that's all I could possibly manage. I was able to make up the balance with the "& fries"--you'd have to make a spectacular effort to mess up Ore-Ida's. And the mandarin orange goo--that helped too. And come to think of it, what's more midwestern than whipped mandarin orange salad?
Anyway, lesson learned. Remember where you are (and choose accordingly).
Write that down, kids...