Monday, March 13, 2006

Why the Florida Avenue Grill Is My Weekend Home

You’ve got to be pretty fanatical about your diet and exercise if you’re a person who spends most of his life attached to a glowing, rectangular teat.

If something doesn’t happen soon, I’m going to turn out like this guy I always see in the cafeteria in the mornings: so big my knees have chins, work ID hanging around the neck, holding a plateful of sausage and wearing a t-shirt that says “Bacon is a Vegetable.” I’m fine as it is, but over all this synthetic gym-created muscle is a thick sweater of solid fat that seems baggier and baggier as my 30th birthday approaches.

If a career spent behind a screen is the pin that pops my dream of fitness, the hand that jabs the balloon is my deep, abiding love of soul food. It flicks the drug switches deep in the brain, giving one this glazed, mellow smile after a meal. You get all fucked up and happy as hell. After a good load of fried chicken and collards with ham hocks and sweet tea, all you can do is lay around, and you even have a hangover later.

The problem with healthy food is that there’s no love that goes with it. Nobody in their right mind has ever sat in the middle of a foreign desert and pined for their mother’s wheatgrass smoothies. Green tea and spinach salad are great for the abs and heart, but I swear that diet turns you into one of those annoying people that gets way too into "spinning" if it’s not ballasted with cornbread at least.

Florida Avenue Grill
Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion.
My friend Janey had walked five steps into the Grill to take this first photo. While she was lining the shot up, a waitress was so curious to see what was on the screen that she bumped into Jane, making everyone around them laugh. The guy behind the counter said “Here, give me the camera,” and took a picture of the two of them together, the waitress hugging Jane tight and grinning so wide her ears got wet.

Janey, Waitress

Does that ever happen to you at Whole Foods’ smoothie bar?
I meant to photograph my food for this post, but I was really, really hung over and my body was screaming for eggs, sausage, cheese grits and biscuits with a side of fried apples. Halfway through I thought about photographing my half-eaten plate, but I was really hitting my stride and watching the grill cook do a complex pancake dance, cracking eggs, flipping flapjacks and ladling pure liquid butter onto each serving of grits. Then somebody else served up this massive plateful of chitlins’ and I had to get the rest of my breakfast down before everything came back up.

I love me some soul food, but chitlins’ are fucking revolting. Lots of people love them, but they’ve been marinating in (and processing) pig shit for the pig’s entire lifespan – you can’t clean that flavor out.

So here’s Janey’s plate:

Diner Leavings

I first tasted chitlins’ at the Florida Avenue Grill. I made it through the smell okay, but I couldn’t bring myself to swallow them, racing to the bathroom to spit them out. When I returned, our waitress and my friend were holding hands over the counter and screaming with laughter. Now she elbows someone, points at me and says “that’s my baby right there” every time I come back, even if she’s up to her neck in orders.

Here she is:

Best Waitress on Earth

Let’s have a close-up on those nails:

Elegant Talons

Janey was admiring her nails. She heard Jane’s accent and said “you gonna be around for awhile? Hang on, then, baby,” and rummaged in her purse. She produced a copy of the nail salon’s business card. Is that service or what?

So yeah, I know that you can eat healthier, live longer and look better. And five or six days a week, I practice what I preach. I can make grits and fried eggs at home and I’d like to think that I love myself, so technically the food would be made with love.

But really, how can you make up for someone calling you baby a couple dozen times and serving you narcotic coma-inducing comfort food when your feelings hurt as bad as your liver? You can’t. And that, my dozen readers, is why they say that food has soul.

James Brown and the J.B.s have written most of the funkiest songs on earth, including this gem about the joys of eating soul food with family:
'Breakin' Bread', by the J.B.'s


At 8:02 PM, Blogger Nics said...

Right, if you are ever in Northern Ireland you have to have an Ulster Fry. It's our version of a heart attack on a plate. Also extremely good while hungover. Maybe they're something similar?

At 2:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see that your table manners are nearly there......your knife and fork are almost together in that picture.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Lonnie Bruner said...

You're a good writer.

You just gained a subscriber ...

At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing nails notwithstanding, that place nasty. We went in there once and my friend and I sniffed the air and looked at each other and said almost in unison: "Dirty aquarium?". The odor brought me back to the time when I had pet turtles, which are filthy creatures, not meant to live in captivity, and I had to clean out the aquarium every few months.


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