I really try not do “guilty pleasures.” I’ve spent most of my life trying to recover from a quasi-catholic upbringing, and I’ve decided that pleasure is not a thing to be guilty about. On the other hand I’m well aware that many of my foodie friends wouldn’t be seen dead in an Applebee’s. Well, that’s there problem not mine.
When I find myself in Yucca Valley, as I do once in a while, chances are I’ll also find myself enjoying happy hour Applebee’s. It’s an unsophisticated pleasure for sure, but not a guilty one. And this time as I sat enjoying my 4 o’clock beer I read my cocktail napkin:
“We see you’re taking off a load and enjoying a nice cold beverage. Hey, you earned it. Probably. Just lke you do every day. So drink up, friend. The workday will be back soon. And hopefully, so will you.” Man, it was like they knew me better than I know myself.
And to go with the nice cold beverage we had “brew pub pretzels and beer cheese dip.” I liked all the words in that sentence and I also liked the description: “White cheddar mixed with craft beer and roasted garlic creates a savory dip served alongside warm pretzel sticks seasoned with sesame seeds, coarse salt and crushed red pepper. Comes with Honey Dijon mustard sauce.” Anyway they came and they looked like this.
The real oddity was that they didn’t in any way resemble a pretzel. They were more like a long stick of savory donut, which is OK if you like that kind of thing, and I could have used more dip, but I wasn’t complaining.
And I did like this message on the menu, “To our guests with food sensitivities or allergies: Applebee's cannot ensure that menu items do not contain ingredients that might cause an allergic reaction. Please consider this when ordering.” I considered it and I approved. Hey kid, you’re on your own when you eat at Appleby’s - it’s the American way.
Next day down the road in Palm Springs I went to the King’s Highway, a faux retro diner, part of the Ace Hotel and Swim Club (yep, that’s what they call it), a place so painfully hip that I’m surprised they let me within a hundred yards. But damn, they do a good breakfast. Green Eggs and Ham in this case:
Very Dr, Seuss, though in this case the green is caused by mixing avocado into the Hollandaise, and the ham is Spanish lomo. It made me vey happy – rather happier than the happy hour at Applebee’s did, but as Pete Seeger would have said, to everything there is a season.
I just read a1982 interview with the late, great Mr. Seeger, talking about his Clearwater Festival that used to go on in upstate New York, “We have a huge iron cauldron, and we make what we call stone soup. You likely know the story about this dish: In the tale, a soldier comes into a small village and—after being refused food offers his dinner of boiled stones to all the townsfolk. Gradually, each of those formerly stingy people contributes carrots, potatoes, meat, seasonings, or whatever to the broth . . . producing a truly delectable stew. Well, we printed the tale in our local newspaper's an old, old folk story-and the symbolism of it came home to my town. Clearwater comes to Beacon once a year, and every year my wife and volunteers serve stone soup to over 1,000 people, free of charge. We also serve strawberry shortcake ..” I can’t find a picture of Pete Seeger eating, but here he is instead, facing the House Un-American Activities Commission.