Meredith Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Unless they’ve paid upwards of 5K a week to be pulled, poked and panicked into a more wholesome lifestyle at an über fancy fat farm like Pritikin, or north of 6K a week for a shi-shi spa like Golden Door where the food is low-cal but no one notices because they’re otherwise occupied with customized beauty treatments, massages and bath tubs filled with Evian, 24 karat gold flakes and rose petals, most people probably don’t take vacations with the intent to shave a few inches from their waistlines.
Then again, most people probably don’t think there’s a chance their cholesterol levels might soar higher than the value of Rick Wagoner’s retirement package while they’re away, either.
The Kashi GoLean Roll Bar I ate the morning my family left to visit my husband’s mom, brother and sister-in-law in Louisiana earlier this month should have ensured an auspicious beginning to the eating part of the vacation. However, when we landed in Dallas to make our connecting flight to Baton Rouge, a Popeyes was immediately spotted right across from our gate as we deplaned. Since I met my husband more than five years ago, he has regularly lamented the distinct lack of a Popeyes where we live. Every time he sees an advertisement for it his eyes widen, his mouth waters and the stories of Popeyes meals past inevitably commence.
So barely three hours into the trip, any pretense of health was shattered as we laid claim to an order of catfish, popcorn shrimp, chicken tenders, red beans and rice, biscuits and fries (and a Diet Pepsi, you know, so as to not be gluttonous). Never mind that it was 10:30 in the morning. It was fried o’clock somewhere.
The next morning we went to the Acme Oyster House to watch LSU play in the opening round of the NCAA basketball tournament. The excursion started off innocently enough with a half dozen raw oysters. It then devolved into a half dozen chargrilled oysters, which certainly sounded healthy. And they tasted even better. (Although adding butter, garlic and pecorino cheese to a dirty sneaker would probably make it taste better, too.) The Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager just before noon complimented the oysters ” the bonus being, of course, that after the beer I only needed one more fruit to satisfy that day’s portion of the food pyramid.
Then it was on to the po-boys. Deciding to order light, I just got half of one with a salad. In hindsight though, I should have just gotten the full sandwich since the remoulade dressing on the salad probably had more calories than the fried shrimp on the po-boy.
On the way to Avery Island a few days later, we bypassed several Popeyes in favor of several firsts at the Tabasco General Store. It was my first-ever experience with jalapeno ice cream. It was also the first I’d ever heard of boudin (ground meat and rice in a sausage casing). And it was the first time I’d ever seen meat with a built-in holder that wasn’t wrapped in deep fried corn bread. As I tasted the boudin and then took a bite of the spicy sausage planted firmly on the sharp wooden stick, I feared a Richard Simmons intervention might be just around the corner.
Other culinary highlights while we were in the Deep South included fried oysters the size of my fist, pasta jambalaya with Gulf shrimp, andouille sausage, oven-roasted duck and chicken morsels, soft shell crabs smothered in crawfish etouffee, and Zapp’s Cajun Potato Chips. (I’m not sure why they’re better than non-Cajun chips, but they just are.)
And then there was breakfast. My mother-in-law, bless her heart, cooked breakfast every morning as if she knew there was a cardiologist somewhere in need of work. Liberally buttered toast, waffles, fried eggs, Canadian bacon, fried ham, sausage in a blanket (the breakfast cousin of the pig in a blanket) were among the offerings. Somewhere a Denny’s was put to shame and out of business.
We spent our last evening in Baton Rouge at the new Alex Box stadium on the LSU campus watching the baseball team play Harvard. The home team was victorious, but we felt like the winners with our Tiger burgers, nachos, a slice of cookie pizza, an ice cream cone and cotton candy (and a bottle of water, because water is an essential part of any healthy diet).
As we journeyed home after a lovely visit, we planned on eating at the same Popeyes in the Dallas airport. But we saw a McDonald’s after deplaning and dined there instead, deciding that at more than a dozen gates away, the Popeyes was too far a walk. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared Mississippi the fattest state in the U.S., they must have thought we were visiting at the time.
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