April 14, 2009

Road trips: just another excuse to eat

I've heard that Jack Kerouac's On the Road has some pretty juicy accounts of good meals eaten, well, on the road. But before Jack, there was John. Steinbeck documents Doc's road trip down the coast of California, during which Doc consumes hamburgers, ham sandwiches, string bean salads, pot roast, coffee....your usual diner fare. But twice during the trip he orders pineapple pie with blue cheese. Though I'm not exactly a fan of blue cheese, it sounds like an intriguing combination.

Some samples of what Doc eats during the course of his trip:
"He drove on through and stopped at a big Chicken-in-the-Rough place he knew about. And there he had fried chicken, julienne potatoes, hot biscuits and honey, and a piece of pineapple pie and blue cheese. And here he filled his thermos bottle with hot coffee, had them make up six ham sandwiches and bought two quarts of beer for breakfast."
"In Santa Barbara he had soup, lettuce and string bean salad, pot roast and mashed potatoes, pineapple pie and blue cheese and coffee, and after that he filled the gas tank and went to the toilet."
And throughout the whole trip, he contemplates the concept of a beer milkshake, which simultaneously fascinates and repulses him to the point where he can't bear to wonder anymore:
The waitress, a blonde beauty with just the hint of a goiter, smiled at him. "What'll it be?"
"Beer milkshake," said Doc.
"What?"
Well here it was and what the hell. Might just as well get it over with now as some time later.
The blonde asked, "Are you kidding?"
Doc knew wearily that he couldn't explain, couldn't tell the truth. "I've got a bladder complaint," he said. "Bipalychaetorsonectomy the doctors call it. I'm supposed to drink a beer milkshake. Doctor's orders."
The blonde smiled reassuringly. "Oh! I thought you was kidding," she said archly. "you tell me how to make it. I didn't know you was sick."
"Very sick," said Doc," and due to be sicker. Put in some milk, and add half a bottle of beer. Give me the other half in a glass--no sugar in the milkshake." When she served it, he tasted it wryly. And it wasn't so bad--it just tasted like stale beer and milk.
"It sounds awful," said the blonde.
"It's not so bad when you get used to it," said Doc. "I've been drinking it for seventeen years."
--Cannery Row
I guess it must be easier to lie than to admit that you're ordering a beer milkshake just to satisfy your curiosity.

2 comments:

Christine said...

you know, these descriptions remind me of the food mccarthy describes in his border trilogy, the same kind of downhome feel. it doesn't exactly sound delicious, and not nearly as much variety as what steinbeck seems to write about, but there are some similarities (even though I just made it sound as if there were none). give it a try! I don't remember if you read it when you were here last time. :) I miss you!

thefattyreader said...

you're right...i'm reading all the pretty horses, and he even makes overcooked jackrabbit meat sound good!