I have had worse. One day last year, for instance, I breakfasted on stale pancakes and dried egg. But there was a reason for that: I was in northern Norway, way up in the Arctic Circle, hiking from hut to hut with nary a fence, gate, highway or food store within a hundred miles. We had to carry eight days’ supplies on our backs. Even our emergency supper of canned sardines and couscous brought a satisfied ‘aah’ to my parched lips, a groan of something like satisfaction to my neglected belly. So, when it comes to plain fare and making the best of a bad job, I know what I’m talking about.
Thankfully, we are now in
where our hostess, an American, cooks proper food and plenty of it. Proper? Let
me correct myself: it’s superb. There is hope for this country yet. Charleston
Yesterday, on the late-running Amtrak service between
and Chicago ,
we walked down to the dining-car to get some breakfast. I’d already worked out
what to do about breakfast – namely, stick to the oatmeal option. It’s really
quite hard to get oatmeal wrong. A. had already tried the French toast on the
Denver-Chicago leg. It came smothered with icing sugar. The patties I’d
experienced years ago, and the memory – unlike the product itself - remains fresh. Today, however, they were
already out of oatmeal – despite it being as early as 0625h, Central. ‘Okay,’ I
said, ‘I’ll try the three-egg omelette (I beg your pardon, omelet) with the
croissant, fruit and yoghurt.’ Charleston, West Virginia
Bear with me while I get the sundries out of the way. The fruit consisted of four strawberries, chilled to within an inch of their life – i.e., all but frozen. I managed one, which hurt my teeth. The croissant was in fact a
masquerading as its French cousin. No way was it the real thing, being way too
solid and not at all the right shape. I nibbled, then abandoned it. Now it was
time to man up and tackle the omelet(te). Chelsea
My suspicions were first aroused by its shape, which formed a perfect semi-circle, far too regular to have been hand-made; and by its colour, which was altogether too uniform. Eggs, you’ll recall, are made of a white part and a yolk, and an omelet(te) is comprised of both – although not on Amtrak, where they contrive an undifferentiated cream colour. So this was clearly a convenience version. It was also solid, at least at the extremities; you might say rubbery. It did, however, contain a surprise: a centre that was cool and moist. No, make that water-logged. Water? In an omelette? I can only conclude that Amtrak’s catering division, having completed its grisly business with dried eggs, die-stamped the individual portions and froze them.
I mentioned Dairy Queen (above), and I’ll mention them again. Why should their sins go un-pardoned? We were in northern
making our way from the Canyon de Chelly to Arizona .
We needed sustenance, and we needed wifi. On a whim, and having spotted a Dairy
Queen, I suggested we pull in. ‘Pie and coffee,’ I said. ‘It’s a guaranteed
reviver.’ And so it is. The trouble here was that ‘pie’ has been redefined by
Dairy Queen. Yes, my pumpkin pie tasted of pumpkin; yes, it contained pastry.
And there the resemblance ended. It came in a cup; it was pale brown; but it
was enriched with about four and a half pounds of sugar, a quart or so of
cream, and lumps of broken pastry so rich in sugar as to resemble candy. And,
having first revealed that the joint’s wifi was down, I’ll tell you something
else about it their re-invented pie. It made me look like a crazed psycho
Thankfully, we are now in