The hardest part about traveling and teaching classes, which I’m doing this week in Texas, is that I’m not on vacation and hence there’s almost no time to do all the things in the various cities where I am that people tell me I should do. Or I should rephrase that and say that I don’t have the time to eat all the things that people tell me I should eat.
It’s exquisite torture to be in a town famous for, say, barbecued ribs or fried oysters po’ boys and not be able to get me some.
People kill me by recommending coffee roasters, bakeries, breakfast spots, and Tex-Mex diners and I want to be taking fastidious notes to hightail it to those places, but my schedule is tighter than Nancy Grace’s bob and the few minutes of free time I have per day barely gives me enough time to shower and shave. For example, this is my typical day during this week while I’m in Texas:
7:02am: Abruptly wake up as thin sliver of sunlight comes streaming through beige hotel curtains, which is exactly pointed at my eyes.
7:55am: After debating if I can justify paying the price for hotel breakfast, I head down to beige (or mauve) dining room for $19 bowl of granola and $5.50 cup of coffee.
8:30am: Head back to beige room to pack and get ready for 10am flight.
8:57am: Distribute dollar bills to hotel employees wishing me a nice day, then get in cab. Lie to driver that I’m a mortgage broker from Nebraska to ensure no further conversation will take place. Realize that coffee is kicking in and that I need a restroom. Immediately.
9:45am: Arrive at airport. Strip down at TSA and let men in uniforms fondle my genitalia to protect my fellow passengers. Listen to bellowing businessmen talking about sales projections for the upcoming year, wonder who “Bill, in Des Moines” is and why the other hundred and fifteen people in waiting area need to know about what a “dynamite” guy he is. Fortunately they head to airport bar which will medicate them for flight and perhaps lower their voices a few decibels.
11:10am: Flight lands, find baggage claim and a cab to head to another beige (and mauve) hotel.
12:15pm: Arrive at hotel. Distribute dollars to eager bellhops for getting me and my suitcase inside their door safely.
12:18pm: Emergency bathroom trip foiled by housekeeping asking if I need ice, and front desk calling a few seconds later to make sure room is okay.
12:21pm: Urge to use bathroom rescinded. Vow to try again tomorrow.
12:30pm: Lunch—half bag of peanut M&M’s or Clif bar because I’m too cheap to pay $28 for a turkey sandwich at the hotel restaurant.
12:33pm: Since I can’t figure out how to get connected to hotel’s Wi-Fi network, crawl under covers and cry, eyeing mini-bar.
12:35-2:30pm: Grab remote control and watch back-to-back episodes of Swift Justice with Nancy Grace. Finally realize that answer to give guests at classes who ask why I moved to France.
2:30pm: Head to cooking school to prepare for class.
3:00pm: Meet and talk to everyone. Insist on two double espressos. Then another one.
6:01pm-6:29pm: Hide in bathroom stall while you pull yourself together. Ignore pounding on door to see if I’m okay.
6:30pm-8:45pm: Teach class.
8:46pm-9pm: Gulp down two glasses of wine.
9:01pm-9:05pm: Thanks assistants profusely for preparing everything to make me look like I know what I’m doing.
9:06pm-9:32pm: Sign books, eat three desserts.
9:57pm: Back to hotel, eat salad in shower. Decide that even though half-bottle of wine in mini-bar costs the equivalent of feeding a family of four for one day, weigh the benefits, and open it. Kick myself for not taking the complimentary bottle of tequila from hotel room in Mexico.
10:15pm: On the verge of passing out, rinse socks and unmentionables, drape them over heater, get into bed.
10:17pm: Get out of bed to push towels under and around door to block out light coming in from hallway.
10:23pm: Get out of bed to use hotel hangers with clips to close beige (or mauve) curtains and block light from floodlights which illuminate the hotel façade, and my room.
10:44pm: Get out of bed because urge to use restroom at long last kicks in.
10:45pm: Realize it’s a false alarm.
10:46pm-Midnight: Watch tv thinking it’ll help me sleep.
Midnight-6:12am: Stare at hotel room ceiling wondering why I had all those espressos. Growing concern about this Nancy Grace person.
6:13am: Fall asleep.
7:01am: Wake up, pack, mentally prepare for Southwest scrum, head to airport. Check wallet to make sure I have plenty of singles to distribute upon arrival.
As you can see, there isn’t that much time to do anything but take care of my basic needs. The only brief sliver of time is just after midday. And as fascinating as Nancy Grace and her hair are, a gift is when someone says they will pick you up at the front door of your hotel, take you to lunch, then drop you back off at your front door an hour later.
I was able to make a break in Dallas and when someone asked if I wanted Tex-Mex, Thai, bbq, or fried chicken, I had to pick the fried chicken because out of all the foods in the entire world, if I had to choose the one food I like more than anything else, that would be crisp fried chicken.
So how happy was I when I parted the beige hotel curtains of my room and saw my friend pull up in her car. I ran down and hopped in, and we blitzed over to Bubba’s.
(One a side note, what’s funny about Texas is that no matter what barbeque or fried chicken joint you go to, someone will later on tell you afterward that there is another place—one that’s much, much better, in another part of town.)
At Bubba’s, there’s not a lot of choice; it’s either dark or white meat. You pick a few sides, grab your plate, pour your own soda, iced tea, or lemonade (they had no idea what an Arnold Palmer was, so the help yourself drink bar was a good idea), then head to a table.
To say I was in crispy-skinned heaven is an understatement and I was trying to be prudent after a week of stuffing my face with Mexican food in Mexico. But if faced with an entire chicken, fried, I could without question eat the entire platter. Or yes, the whole extra-crispy bucket.
Fried okra? Never had it before, but I’m in. (And I’m sure someone will tell me that in Dallas, there’s a much better place to get that.) But it’s tough to pass up corn on the cob and cole slaw. A nice round of cornbread with some butter and honey, a cold Arnold Palmer, and I’m ready for another class…in just a few hours.
Bubba’s Cooks Country
6617 Hillcrest Avenue