Friday, June 06, 2008

The Pig Lady Cooks!

The Pork Barrel: Not-So-Fine Franch Dining

As young college students with a limited budget, Jeff and I were always on the lookout for a cheap meal. Really, we were both well fed by my Grandma who insisted on cooking countless wonderful meals for us. I think she single-handedly put 25 pounds on Jeff while we were dating. But when we were going back and forth between school, work and wherever, we still had the need to eat. I think back then I ate my weight in 39 cent bean burritos at Taco Bell. Oh, the injustice when they went up to 69 cents. It was a tragedy. We also ate our fair share of 99 cent Whoppers, which I will never touch again. Then, we made a discovery: The Pork Barrel Café. My friend Meg tipped us off. This fine dining establishment was out in the middle of what y’all on the East Coast would probably consider NOWHERE. Located in the town of Mack, this establishment was close to nothing but the Last Chance Gas Station. Mack is/was a town of only a couple hundred people, with a lot of stange ones in the bunch. There were the nudists who collected pop cans and mowed their lawn in the buff, the meth-heads and alcoholics hiding out from society and an odd assortment of other misfits with some normal people thrown in the mix. Sounds like your kinda’ place, huh? So, this was the location of the Pork Barrel Café. We also made the discovery that the café is located inside a double wide trailer and run by the Pig Lady herself. Sweet! Already, you can see this is going to be a five star place. When you step inside, the walls are covered, every square inch of them, with bumper stickers, newspaper articles, T-shirts and other memorablia all related to pigs. From floor to ceiling, every nook and cranny was plastered with pig stuff. There were a few tables and a couple booths. We sat down and got our menus. The menus were school folders with ‘Pork Barrel’ scrawled on the front with a marker. Inside was a menu a page or two long. One of the items on the menu was the ‘Prairie Dog Burrito.’ We never quite figured out what was in it, or why it was called the Prairie Dog Burrito. The rest of the menu was pretty standard home-cooking type stuff: hamburgers, biscuits and gravy, stuff like that. The lady told us ‘We’re outta fries, and we used up all the gravy, so you can’t get any of that.’ Sometimes when we would order our food, it would take so long that we were sure they were actually out killing the cow. Once or twice, they brought out our food in stages. One person would get their meal, while the other person had to wait another half an hour to get theirs. We were kind of grossed out by the fact that after another couple left, they took the remainder of the ice tea in their pitcher and poured it right back in to the pot. I don’t exactly thing that would pass muster with the health inspector. Another time while we were dining at this fine establishment, the Pig Lady herself, dressed unfortunately in a black tube top (picture about 27 pounds of saggy potatoes stuffed into a 5 pound bag), proceeded to spray down the outside windows with a house while we munched away at our food. It any case, it was kind of entertaining eating there, and the food wasn’t bad. Most importantly, it was cheap! On one of our trips to the Pork Barrel, before our fear of food poisoning outweighed our need of a cheap meal, we encountered a hilarious scene. There were two unsuspecting travelers who had stopped in to grab a bite to eat. These women needed the use of a restroom. Surprisingly, despite the small size of the place, there were separate bathrooms for men and women. The doors were labeled ‘Boars’ and ‘Sows.’ Those poor women were thrown for a loop! There were conversing back and forth in hushed tones, ‘Which one do we go in? Boars or Sows?’ We got quite a chuckle out of that. Despite the strange ambiance and cheap food, we decided after a while that it was in our best intestinal interest to stop frequenting the Pork Barrel. After all, don’t prairie dogs carry the plague? Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten that burrito. I’ve had a strange twitch ever since.

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