Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On Food & The Art of the Up Sell | Morgan City, Louisiana



April  2012
We spend the night at a truck stop with an adjoining hamburger joint. It is a cavernous space bathed in pink neon lighting illuminating black & white booths. It has the prerequisite 1950’s nostalgia hanging from the walls and an enormous soda fountain counter wrapped around the kitchen like a fist. I have to remind myself I’m in Cajun country and not in California. My server is a robust African American woman with tenacious training in the art of the up-sell. She walks me through the menu of burger choices with such enthusiasm and detail that I am led to upgrading my burger’s ounces, mushrooms, bacon, upscaling my cheese, my fries are curled and made from sweet potatoes to bring the meal to San Francisco prices. I don’t mind a bit, that’s how good she is. The burger comes and it isn’t overdone and of reasonable size. This is the mainstream American measure of a burger outside of San Francisco. It isn’t some amazing Frisco-foraged-find like a kobe beef slider with fried dandelion leaves and French tarragon goat cheese. (I just made that up, call it the Asian Frogman.)
The food scene in San Francisco believes in the basic gospel of the trinity: Organic, Local, and Sustainable. But like any religion it’s the fundamentalists that get the attention. These folks specialize in urban grown, raw, slow cooked, vibrational, foraged, small batch, entrepreneur bred, and a host of other micro attentive endeavors.  Restaurants race to invent the new mashup of ethnic cuisines with reinvented foraged delectables that have been infused with something of pedigree. Here there are no refugees from the Dinner Wars with San Francisco becoming the Vatican of Food and Alice Waters as Pope.  I’m a former foodie practitioner who would rather be served than serve these days. I enjoy documenting how far the SF food fever has flung across the country and am amazed even more to land somewhere it hasn’t yet grazed.
Before I’m even halfway through my burger, I meet my server’s questioning but optimistic smile with an approving nod and she laughs and says “Well we ain’t world famous, fer nothing!  You should try our chocolate milkshake, its outta of this world, you want M&M’s on that?”

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