Red meat for rednecks
BRAINFOOD: Dress code at the nearly all-male bar consisted of garments sufficiently loose to contain huge shoulders, bear-butts, beer- bellies and ham-hands: the general effect was chequered, woollen and unbuttoned
Saturday 30 September 1995
No, I have not gone bonkers; I merely want to bring into focus that at times the business of food-writing partakes of the anthropological expedition. As Trollope in America noted the extreme toughness of the steaks, and Dickens the character of the beer-hall free lunch, so we had a field-trip to redneck eating.
Rednecks, for those of you who do not know the term, is US for "peasants", for uncouth rural folk: the sort who nurture strange religions, indulge in occasional incest, breed lantern-jaws, tote guns, and generally offend against political correctness - in a word, the heart of America.
Well, Christopher's - one of the three restaurants in town, all owned by the same man - was full of them. Nay, custom-designed for them.That is to say that the attached "lodge", in faux-Adirondack style, is an oversized log-cabin with all the Victorian fretwork, plush, fringed lampshades and dark colouring of a bordello. Dress code at the nearly all-male bar consisted of garments sufficiently loose to contain huge shoulders, bear-butts, beer-bellies and ham-hands: the general effect was chequered, woollen and unbuttoned. We sent one of our sons to collect drinks at the bar. My request for a Bloody Mary iced but with no ice in it resulted in a quart jam-jar full of tomato juice and an unspecified amount of alcohol, plus a whole root of celery; his Martini came, complete with olive, in a glass the size of a flying saucer.
Despite the warmth and good feeling generated by our intake, the sound system proved too much for us and we made our way to the restaurant. This, as such places are, was tended by fresh young things reduced to waitpersoning by the need to pay college tuition fees and fix the muffler on their cars. The boys wore jeans and sodden hair, the girls were dirndled and checker- shirted. They exuded the kind of bumptious friendliness which I associate with American restauration: as though they couldn't do enough for you, if only you really existed. Oddly enough, the wine list was plentiful, well chosen, and cheap. As we had finished one bottle before our waitress returned to take our orders, we were reckless in our selection.
Naturally, we all ate steaks; descending from the hungry cook's 20-ounce (his restaurant had just eliminated staff meals), down through my 12-ounce and my wife's ten-ounce filet mignon. Another bottle down, one could barely see the table for fries, baked potatoes, platefuls of sour-cream and butter, sauce, great wedges of bread, ashtrays, gingham napkins, super-sized toothpicks with frills, and other such impedimenta that the lonely redneck might yearn for on his occasional visits into town.
The whole thing, of course, from the char of the steaks to the obsessive antlerisation of the room, the bare wooden walls, the coarseness of the flavours, the ingenuous mix of potent ingredients, the excess, was an extension, to eating, of the theme park. Redneckery is about an earlier, cruder, America; about plenty, or even surfeit; about the manners of times gone by.
European tourists, who seldom stray from the beaten path, and who certainly will not seek out Oneonta - or Schenectady, Binghampton, Elmira, Cairo, Nineveh and other choice spots in that part of New York State that lies between its capital, Albany, and Buffalo - do not know what they are missing. The perfect time-warp. Small-town America as seen in the Saturday Evening Post. On the main street of Oneonta, the windows of the local department store held a living-room ensemble just as seen on I Love Lucy. Yes, Lucy, whom rednecks loved and love
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 Stephen Hawking endorses Labour in the General Election
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show film
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'