She had a slightly Cajun accent, “What’ll it be honey?”
Adorned in a blue apron, order pad in hand, poised to take my order, she was patient; but the restaurant was hopping, so I dare not send her away. Everyone knows the prime rule when it comes to waiters: Tell them you need another minute to make up your mind and they disappear for an hour. I had to decide immediately or starve.
The problem was, when one’s traveling in the deep south, as we were, everything — and I do mean EVERYTHING — is fried. Just reading the menu was causing a weight gain.
I stalled, “Take their orders first. I’ll be ready when you get back to me.”
She turned to Rich. “What’ll it be honey?” she repeated.
Rich, familiar with southern food, knew instantly what he wanted. “We’ll start with an appetizer of fried alligator.”
My head snapped, “Fried alligator? Really?” I’m not a fan of alligators, but my raised-in-California-with-lots-of-salads mentality had trouble imagining me devouring something that, not too long ago, would have reversed roles.
Ignoring me, he continued, “Then, a side of fried sardines, oh — and a few fried collard green wontons.” He turned to the two of us, “Sound OK?”
Margie, nodding, chimed in, “What about some hush-puppies?”
“What are hush puppies?” I asked. It was difficult enough imagining fried alligator. To me, hush puppies were soft, comfortable shoes. Although I was confident we wouldn’t be eating suede; after learning of fried sardines and alligator, I had a wee doubt.
“They’re great,” she said. “They’re sweet, doughy, bread balls. You’ll love them.”
“How are they prepared?”
I could feel cholesterol plugging my arteries even as I sat.
The waitress replied, “Do you want to order the entree now too?”
“Sure,” said Rich. “I’d like the deep fried lasagna.”
“Wonderful, sweetie,” the waitress said, scribbling in her pad. “You know darlin’, our deep fried ravioli is mighty fine too.”
Margie picked it up from there, “Which is better? That or the fried mac and cheese?”
Considering the options, she responded, “They’re both good, but if you really want something that sticks to your ribs — and tastes great — order the coconut fried shrimp. People come from all over Louisiana just for that, never had anyone complain.”
“Great. I’ll take that. And toss in a few of fried butter balls. For dessert, give me a fried Snickers bar.”
“You’re joking!” I blurted out; I couldn’t help it. Being a life-long calorie-counter, the thought of frying a chocolate candy bar was mind-boggling. There would be enough calories in that one item to set back a stadium full of dieters. “That’s a real food?”
“You don’t visit New Orleans much, do you?” asked the waitress.
“No, I don’t,” I confessed. “I’m trying to watch my weight. Do you have a vegetable platter, something with fewer calories?”
“You’re from California, huh?”
I nodded, embarrassed at how transparent I was, as if I was sitting at the table naked.
“Thought so. We have a ‘light eaters’ platter — just for folks like you, sugar,” she used her pen to point to the appetizer section, “Fried okra, fried pickles, and fried green tomatoes. Comes with a diet cola”