Bellahaus, or the glory of messy potatoes
2015年05月29日 09:43

(Tguide)  When I lived in The Netherlands, I used to revel in eating frites. Both the Dutch and the Belgians had French fries down to an art and a science unequaled anywhere in the world. Potatoes were usually fried twice, giving them a crispy, crunchy exterior and a soft, white inside. In Holland, you could usually order two different varieties: patatje met (potatoes with…) and patatje droog (potatoes dry). "Dry" meant plain with lots of salt. The word "met" or "with" implied a sauce. In Belgium, that sauce would usually be huge white globs of mayonnaise, and the Dutch had the same, but I also remember more choices – like pindasaus. That was a brown, spicy peanut sauce that originated in Indonesia and the heyday of Dutch colonialism / imperialism. Pindasaus never really looked appetizing, though. In fact, it was slightly horrific. Imagine if an angry and incontinent gorilla had epic bouts of food poisoning on top of your salty, deep-fried potatoes. Never mind the lack of visual appeal; it was always delicious – just trust me on that point.

It's been more than 20 years since I left Holland, but a love of "wet" French fries has followed me around the world. Back when I attended college at West Virginia University, I was a little notorious for walking into bars that served food and ordering weird things. It came with being a vegetarian in a decade where that lifestyle choice was still countercultural. The most common was this: "Uh, yeah, I'll have nachos grande, but can you substitute fries for the corn chips? Oh, and no ground beef, please?" That usually elicited a befuddled look in response – until the person tried some the glory that was cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole on potatoes. They usually tried it off my plate, too—after just serving me, mind you. One bar owner liked it so much, he began featuring it as a standard special. This always surprised me, because after all, putting Texan chili on fries never seemed outlandish and controversial to them.

Even more, there was always Waffle House in the southern and Appalachian states. This chain typically was a greasy spoon diner. The evening food is usually not very good, but Waffle House was always nice for a cheap breakfast of eggs and bacon while on the road, travelling. Sometimes, the place can live up to the silliest of southern clichés. By this, I mean waitresses with buns, beehives, and ridiculous up-do hairstyles. The cooks, to my memory, wore blue or white shirts, and you could tell how well the diner was managed by how clean those shirts were or were not. Waffle houses always had open kitchens too, behind a bar with stools. So, you could watch your food being prepared. The most surreal aspect in Waffle House came when you ordered your food. The waitress would walk over to the cook, stand perversely close, and the yell the entire order into his ear. I heard this every time I ordered my "usual" there: something called hash browns that were "scattered, smothered, covered, and chunked." In retrospect, I forget most of what that entailed, but it had at least American cheese and bits of diced ham. Sometimes, I asked for a fried egg to be thrown on top for good measure. Those skillet potatoes are one of the few things I actually miss about North Carolina and West Virginia.

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