This is going to sound ironic, considering I’m sitting at Whole Foods as I write this, but I don’t like Whole Foods. (That’s not the point of this column, so you can all relax. This won’t turn into some kind of anti-corporate screed. At least, I hope it won’t.)
I don’t care one way or the other about Whole Foods as a corporation, and, though I obviously don’t care for their prices, they can acharge whatever they want to, as far as I’m concerned. The only reason I go is for the occasional slice of pizza and a mint iced tea that I can’t get anywhere else.
No, what raises my ire is the fact that at so many points in the past, I’ve found something I enjoyed at Whole Foods, only to see it disappear days later. The worst instance of this was the roast beef sandwich they used to have, which was really good. It had portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, melted havarti cheese, pickles, horseradish sauce and a good little pile of meat on a wedge.*
OK. Think of Whole Foods. Think how much they’d probably charge for something like that. Got a number in mind? Well, you’re wrong. It was like $8.50 or thereabouts.
Naturally, as Frost reminded us, “nothing gold can stay.” A week after they figured out I was eating one every day, Whole Foods took my sandwich off the menu and replaced it with an inferior roast beef so-called sandwich that was something like $11.99.
Ptui! I spit on your arugula-draped, pinch of meat, onion roll abomination. I’ve never been so offended in my life. I couldn’t believe they expected me to swallow that, metaphorically or literally. I haven’t gotten a sandwich of any kind from Whole Foods ever since, a protest that I’m sure is being felt economically all the way to corporate headquarters in Austin.
The loss of the roast beef sandwich paled in comparison, however, to the news last week that I was losing perhaps my favorite food item in the Roaring Fork Valley with the closing of the Red Rock Diner in Carbondale. I was devastated, as I’m sure many of you were too, to learn that my longtime friend had passed.
RIP, chicken fried steak breakfast. It’s been great knowing you. I’ll think of you every time I drive Downvalley.
Those of you who eat vegetarian, healthy or, let’s face it, sensibly and never tried the chicken fried steak at the diner should know that you missed out on a classic American meal (part of Oklahoma’s official state meal, BTW) that was so good my nephew, who’d never seen a chicken fried steak before, called it the best meal he’s ever had.**
It started with a good-sized breaded steak that was deep fried to perfection, smothered in sausage gravy and served with hash browns (the real kind, not lame-ass home fries), two eggs any style (always poached, unless you’re some kind of communist) and a couple of slices of toast (usually sourdough).
That I would devour thusly: steak first, sprinkled with salt, pepper and either Cholula or green Tabasco, followed by a mash-up of leftover gravy, hash browns and eggs, a concoction I would then spread on my toast to consume with my bare hands. The entire process usually took about 5-10 minutes, depending on whether or not I was doing a crossword as I ate.
Now, I know a bunch of you are grossed out by the previous two paragraphs, and, to be honest, I could actually feel my arteries clogging just from writing the words, but that’s not the point. The point is: We all grieve in our own way. This was mine.
On a semi-serious note, it did trouble me to see that the owners of the Red Rock Diner cited the cost of rising minimum wages for wait staff as part of their reason for closing. It’s a factor that was also mentioned by Jamie Theriot when I spoke with him about Smoke closing its Willits location. (I won’t even get into how disappointed I was to lose my fatty brisket sandwiches. I still weep openly sometimes.)
Having been a waiter, I fully agree that wait people deserve more money, but it’d be a damn shame if the economics of a rising minimum wage stamp out any other food favorites of mine.
I think what I’m trying to say is this: You take care of yourself, Santiago Skillet. It’s dangerous out there.
* A wedge is what a small subset of people in Fairfield (Conn.) and Westchester (N.Y.) counties call a hoagie, hero, sub, grinder, blimpie, poorboy or torpedo, depending on where you grew up.
** This might be an exaggeration, but it might actually be true.
Todd Hartley hates to admit this, but he’s also concerned for the sriracha chicken skewers at 7-11. He writes this column whenever calendar vagaries and editorial largesse converge harmonically.